3/4 cups sugar
3 TBSP cornstarch
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups milk (whole milk works best)
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBSP butter, cut into pieces
Note: You can use unsweetened baking chocolate – the kind that comes in one ounce squares. Just chop it finely before using. I almost never have the right amount for a recipe, so I do this most often with plain old chocolate chips. Using better chocolate most certainly changes this desert. I personally like the homey, old fashioned taste from just Hershey’s cocoa and chocolate chips – it’s hard to beat. But if you wish, you can use much higher end products – and you’ll be surprised at how it takes this to another level.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, stir together 2 cups of the milk and the cream. Bring this mixture barely to a boil and remove from heat.
Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients – sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt. Add 1/2 cup of the milk and stir until you have a smooth thick paste. Make sure there are no lumps from the cornstarch or cocoa at this stage, and it will help insure a silky final result.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Gradually whisk the hot milk into the cocoa mixture, whisking constantly until fully combined and smooth. Transfer the mixture back into a clean saucepan.
Place over medium low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat, and pour through a strainer to remove any lumps.
Add the chocolate, vanilla and butter. Stir vigorously until butter and chocolate is melted and fully combined. Transfer to 6-8 ramekins, glasses or small cups.
To make pudding pops - you can use store bought molds and freeze them like that. Or you can use paper cups and Popsicle sticks, and simply peel the paper away once the pops are frozen. If you do this, a quick hit with cooking spray makes it a bit easier for them to come out.
Notes: I think the initial recipe I adapted this from called for using clean bowls/saucepans at each transfer. Frankly that takes this recipe from a very simple and pretty quick one to one that creates far too many dirty dishes. I do however take a moment to rinse the saucepan after heating the milk, and give it a quick wipe with a paper towel.
I can’t think of more than a couple of times when I bothered straining the pudding – even though I listed that step above. If you make sure the cocoa paste is very smooth, and you stir constantly during the cooking, you’ll have no (or almost no!) lumps anyway. Straining the pudding makes a mess – it’s thick and doesn’t want to flow. However, if you want to serve this to company, or are very concerned with texture – go ahead and strain it.
You can serve this warm (my sister’s favorite) or cold. Either way if you add a bit of whipped cream it’s amazing. If you want to avoid a ‘skin’ forming on top, cover the pudding with plastic wrap and press the wrap gently down on the surface of the pudding. I don’t bother – the kids don’t stop (usually) to critique the custard. If I were serving it to others however, I’d take a minute for this little extra step – it also keeps the surface glossy and beautiful.