Food & Drink

Rich and creamy pudding is a spoonful of heaven

Who doesn't love the soft, creamy texture of old-fashioned puddings? For many, this nostalgic ultimate comfort food brings back fond childhood memories.

Bon Appetit magazine identifies pudding as one of the top 10 trends -- the dessert of this year.

"It's the most luscious and satisfying way to end a meal," writes Alice Medrich, a former chocolate-shop owner and author of the recently released "Pure Dessert."

"Puddings never went away," says Chris Kimball, founder and editor of Cook's Illustrated magazine.

But over the years, the real pleasure and quality of this dessert has been lost as people turned to buying packaged mixes and ready-to-eat refrigerated cups and containers. Unfortunately, those familiar with only packaged and pre-made varieties are missing out on a good thing.

Pudding from scratch takes a little bit more work, but it is easy and tastes far superior.

"Pudding, to me, means chocolate pudding," Kimball says, adding that the English use puddings to describe desserts in general. "The thing about a pudding is that the texture of pudding coats the tongue so you get a much more intense flavor experience than (with) other desserts like a chocolate cake." Nowadays, you'll find an array of puddings on restaurant menus. Or you can whip up some terrific versions at home.

Just be sure to use a heavy-bottom stainless steel pan, advises pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez, a Los Angeles native who grew up eating pudding in a cloud from a mix.

While testers in the Cook's Illustrated test kitchens have tried puddings with milk, cream and half-and-half, the latter was preferred as it made a rich, not-over-the-top pudding. Egg yolks yielded a smoother texture than whole eggs. "Cornstarch proved to be a better thickener than flour, which made for a gummy-textured pudding," adds Kimball.

Once Medrich cooks her chocolate pudding, she blends it in the food processor for 10 seconds, a step that "adds a silken dimension and lightness to the texture." Vary the intensity of the chocolate by choosing a bittersweet chocolate ranging from 50 percent to 70 percent cacao, she suggests, and adjust the sugar to your taste.

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