The pairing of dark chocolate and caramel is one of my favorites – it instantly elevates even the humblest of desserts, such as this simple pudding. The pudding has a caramel base, to which cream is added, and is thickened with cornstarch and then enriched with cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate. The caramel flavor is subtle, but will come through as a slightly sweet and somewhat complex endnote. Serve this with a good dollop of sweetened whipped cream.
Makes 4 servings
- 3 tablespoons (19 grams) natural (not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup (242 grams) whole milk, divided
- 2/3 cup (133 grams) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (59 grams) water
- 1 cup (232 grams) heavy cream
- ¼ cup (42 grams) bittersweet chocolate morsels (I use 60%)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- Whipped cream, for serving
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt until blended. Gradually whisk in ½ cup of the milk until well blended. Set aside.
- Fill a cup with water and place a pastry brush in it (this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization). In a clean, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan to wash away any sugar crystals, until the mixture starts to color around the edges. Gently swirl the pan to ensure that the sugar caramelizes evenly. Continue to cook until the sugar turns deep amber. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and very slowly and carefully add the cream (the mixture will bubble up furiously), stirring with a silicone spatula or spoon until smooth. If there are any hardened bits of caramel sticking to the bottom of the pan, place the pan over medium-low heat and stir until they are dissolved.
- Slowly pour the caramel mixture into the cocoa powder mixture, whisking constantly. Pour this mixture into the saucepan and whisk in the remaining ½ cup milk. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil. While continuing to whisk, allow the mixture to boil for exactly 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate morsels, and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the vanilla and the butter, whisking until the butter is completely melted. Pour the pudding through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl (this step is optional, but will result in a silky-smooth texture). Divide the pudding among 4 serving glasses and allow to cool until tepid.
- Refrigerate the pudding for at least 3 hours before serving with whipped cream. (To prevent a skin from forming, place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of each pudding. Unless, of course, you like the skin – for some, it’s their favorite part!)