We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vanilla and Chocolate Pudding with Berries and Whipped Cream

by Michelle

"Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not." Author Unknown

   Once upon a time, a friend confided in me that in her younger years she had made a big bowl of chocolate pudding with the intention of getting crazy in bed with the luscious dessert and her husband. Henceforth, I have not been able to remove the image I conjured in my mind of the intertwined couple, messily covered in smears of chocolate, doing whatever people do, when they decide to do that kind of thing. No judgment here, but I would certainly prefer to consume my serving of pudding with a dish and spoon—thank you very much. Just as I cannot unsee this image in my mind, now you can't unread it. It's the gift that keeps giving. I found out later, my friend who shall remain unnamed (and is assuredly not me), was determinedly trying to fortify her rocky marriage by being The Total Woman protégé, but alas, this marriage could not be saved. Maybe she should have tried Saran wrap and The Total Woman Creamy Rice Pudding.
  Thankfully, my pudding memories don't begin and end with my friend's sexcapades. When I look back upon my childhood to consider my favorite desserts, two immediately jump to mind—silky smooth pudding and our family's Lemon Ice Cream. While Lemon Ice Cream was always made from scratch and churned in an electric mixer with rock salt and ice, the puddings were made from boxes and patiently stirred in an enameled iron pot over medium heat on the stove top until thick and bubbly. I can't recall making just vanilla or chocolate. We always made both flavors and served the two together. So, in my mind, you can't have one without the other. Chocolate and vanilla are "besties". Where you find one, you can often find the other.
   Lately, I've been working on making my life less complicated. It's a noble goal that sounds as if it should be easy, but in reality it is not. It takes concerted effort to stay focused and stay on task because life seemingly wants to pull me in a hundred different directions. My sister has a saying that she repeats often: "Juliette plans and the universe laughs." I can relate.
   One of my pet projects in recent months is to make meals ahead of time. To me it seems like a gargantuan undertaking because it takes more advance preparation than just flying by the seat of my pants, and it is a lot more difficult than just succumbing to going out for a fast-casual restaurant meal. Sometimes I'm planning ahead in support of a busy work week, when I'm calling on accounts across a large swath of Arizona territory and spending hours upon hours behind the windshield of my car. At other times, I am simplifying entertaining which affords me more time to relax with my family and friends. I was able to accomplish my "simple" entertaining goal for Mother's day, when I made Chicken Cacciatore for the main course and chocolate and vanilla puddings for dessert. The core of the meal was prepared on a Saturday and all that was left for me to do on Sunday was to reheat the sauce, boil the pasta, assemble a salad and make whipped cream, which was easy to do with my sister, two nieces and my daughter with me in the kitchen. We had a wonderful time. And so can you.

Hot pudding is transferred from the saucepan to a bowl to cool.
   When I decided upon making vanilla and chocolate puddings for a family dinner, I new I wasn't going to rely on pouring the ingredients out of a box, like we used to do when I was a kid. I wanted to make really superior puddings from scratch. Fortunately for me during my research, I quickly stumbled upon Susan Bradley's blog The Luna Cafe. Susan was adamant in both her posts, for the chocolate pudding and the vanilla pudding, that the recipes presented were hands down "the best". With her enthusiasm for the subject and numerous tips, I felt that I had found the right place to lead me to pudding heaven. My instincts were right. I took her recipe and observations and moved forward with confidence, which yielded excellent results. Everyone at the table oohed and aahed over the exquisite flavor and texture. Following is a composite of Susan's two recipes. I highly recommend you read both her pudding posts to gain additional knowledge from her compilation of tips and tricks.
   We just have one tip to add, our sister Maria thought it would be a-okay to use sour milk in pudding (the milk in our fridge had gone bad). In fact she stubbornly insisted that the pudding would be delicious in spite of our many protestations. The final pudding was, as you might expect, disgusting. Maria ate a bowl of it anyway just to prove us wrong.

Vanilla and Chocolate Pudding with Berries and Whipped Cream

   Over at The Luna Cafe, blogger Susan Bradley, hit upon a formula that can be scaled, as need, for both chocolate and vanilla puddings. While Susan does not find the addition of butter necessary for the chocolate pudding, I went ahead and added in anyway, which yielded delicious results. She also likes to exchange a portion of cream for the milk, which I tried and liked very much.

The Chocolate Formula: For every cup of milk, use 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 egg yolk , 1 ounce bittersweet bar chocolate, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste, and 1/4 tsp sea salt.

The Vanilla Formula: For every cup of milk, use 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste, and 1/4 tsp sea salt.

Ingredients:                                            Vanilla                           Chocolate
large or extra-large egg yolks                 4                                    4
cornstarch                                               1/4 cup (32g)*              1/4 cup (32g)
granulated sugar                                    3/4 cup (144g)              1/2 cup (96g)
whole milk                                              3 cups                            3 cups
heavy cream                                           1 cup                              1 cup
unsalted butter                                        4                                    4
sea salt                                                     1 tsp                               1-/12 tsp                                            
vanilla extract or vanilla paste               2 tsps                             1 tsp
unsweetened cocoa powder                                                          1/4 cup
65%-72% bittersweet chocolate                                                    4 ounces

*If your goal is to have the pudding be firm inside a pie crust, double the cornstarch.

My daughter decided dessert was Instagram-worthy.
lightly sweetened whipped cream
mixed fresh berries

Special Equipment:
silicon heatproof spatula
plastic wrap

1. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks with 1/4 cup of milk until well combined. Set the bowl and whisk next to the stovetop.

May I make a suggestion? Make Triple Chocolate Meringue Cookies with the reserved egg whites.
2. In a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, whisk the cornstarch, sugar and salt until all lumps are removed. If you are making chocolate, add cocoa powder to the mix and stir until all lumps have dissipated. Slowly whisk in remaining milk, a little at a time to ensure no lumps form. Scrape the bottom and sides of the saucepan with a silicon heatproof spatula.

I always weigh dry ingredients for both ease and accuracy.
3. Over medium-low heat, continue stirring the pudding until it thickens to the pint that it lightly coats the back of the spatula, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking and stirring constantly as the pudding comes to a gentle simmer, about 2 minutes more. Reduce the heat to low.
4. Ladle a 1/2 cup of the hot pudding into the egg yolks and whisk rapidly. Repeat two times. Now add the egg yolk mixture back in the saucepan. This step tempers the egg yolks and helps to prevent curdling.
5. Return the heat to medium-low and stir constantly, until the mixture almost reaches a simmer (about 208°F).

6. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla until the butter is melted. If you are making chocolate pudding, add the chopped chocolate along with the butter and vanilla and stir for about 1 minute, until the chocolate is melted and well combined with the other ingredients.

7. Immediately pour the the pudding into a medium mixing bowl. (If you think you may have lumps, pour the pudding through a single mesh strainer, using a plastic spatula to push the pudding through.)
8. Quickly press a small piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.
9. Let cool, and then refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours, or overnight. The puddings keep exceptionally well for days in the refrigerator.
10. Spoon pudding into ramekins. Top each serving with a generous mound of whipped cream and berries, if desired. Serve immediately. Each recipe serves approximately 8 people.

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