Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rich Chocolate Pudding

During Snowmageddon, I made a homemade chocolate pudding that I had been wanting to make ever since getting the cookbook several years ago. However, I don't always have the best luck with puddings or other egg-based custards. For whatever reason (perhaps just needing more practice), once I add eggs to a saucepan, everything separates and gets really unpleasant and lumpy.

So, I went back to the drawing board and looked for another recipe. There are several methods to homemade pudding. In either, you need a thickening agent. For some, that would be eggs, but an easier way, for me, is cornstarch.

This recipe is good warm or cold, and would even be delicious poured into a pie crust (regular, Oreo, or graham cracker) and topped with whipped cream. (Or check out this one.) Yes, it uses whole milk. Just go for a run before eating it like I did. :) I might use a little less brown sugar next time since the point of bittersweet chocolate is its darkness, but otherwise, this is a good recipe—and you won't have to worry about what to do with a bunch of leftover egg whites.

Rich Chocolate Pudding
makes 4–5 servings
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 T. sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
2 c. whole milk
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 t. vanilla extract

In a bowl, stir together the brown sugar, sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt with a fork until the brown sugar is broken up and the mixture is well combined. Pour into a heavy saucepan (I love my good nonstick one), and add in one cup of the milk and all of the chopped chocolate. Whisk over medium heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Whisk in the remaining one cup of milk and cook, stirring frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes, until large bubbles break on the surface and the pudding is thick and smooth. Keep in mind: once the lumps form, it's hard to break them—so keep stirring/whisking!

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Pour the pudding into a glass measuring cup with a spout (you'll have about 24 ounces), then immediately and evenly transfer the pudding to four or five serving glasses—I think martini or cosmo glasses make it extra special.

Now, there are two schools of thought on homemade pudding. I, personally, hate the skin on the top of pudding (it's a rubbery texture thing), but if that sort of thing doesn't bother you, more power to you! If you don't want skin, immediately press plastic wrap directly onto the top of the pudding itself to prevent a skin from forming. Otherwise, just cover the top of the dish with plastic wrap.

This pudding can be served hot, warm, at room temperature, or cool. Store leftovers in the fridge—if there are any.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Survival Chocolate Pots de Crème

I had a whole post written out about the Snowpocalypse and SNOMG! and Snowverkill and every other cutesy term coined this February as a result of more than two feet of snow here in the metro DC area that descended upon us the week before Valentine's Day, and I hunkered down for a weekend of great baking. On my list: Fran Bigelow's Chocolate Pots de Crème.

Unfortunately, I didn't have as much time to blog and bake as expected since my employer didn't consider metro closures, week-long school closures, an unprecedented four-day closure of the federal government, and absolutely treacherous roads to be reason enough to close the office.

But the title of this post isn't extremely bitter chocolate pots de crème. :) Fortunately, I looked forward to making these beauties all week. Even a 3.5-hour one-way commute on Friday couldn't stop me from the excitement of this dessert. Score another perfect 10 for Fran!

Any time I make a dessert that is time-sensitive or that requires a lot of equipment or care, I make sure everything is ready well before I turn on the burner. For this, I recommend you have the eggs separated and ready to go, a teapot on the boil (it can simmer until you're ready for it), the ingredients measured, chocolate chopped, and the strainer, baking dish, and ramekins ready. It is not, however, a difficult recipe. Promise.

Trust me when I say that you'll want to save this one for a special occasion—but sometimes just surviving the week is reason enough.

Survival Chocolate Pots de Crème
1 whole egg
5 egg yolks
2 T. plus 1 t. sugar
pinch of salt
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
8 oz. semisweet chocolate (60% preferred), finely chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Set a tea kettle filled with water on the stovetop to boil. Have ready six 5-ounce pot de crème cups or ramekins.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and egg yolks with 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth and the sugar begins to dissolve. Set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the cream, milk, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until it comes to just a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Gently stir until the chocolate is completely melted (be patient!) and smooth (you'll thank me later).

Pour about a third (just eyeball it) of the chocolate mixture into the eggs and immediately stir to combine. Then add the remaining chocolate mixture, gently stirring until smooth without incorporating too much air or too many bubbles. (This will help the texture later.)

Using a rubber spatula to help, strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup. You should have about 24 fluid ounces.

Pour about 4 ounces into each pot de crème cup or ramekin until 1/2 inch from the top. Tap the base of each cup on the counter to remove any bubbles.

If using pot de crème cups, place their hats (lids... whatever) on them—or individually and tightly cover each ramekin with plastic wrap to prevent a skin. With the tip of a sharp knife, punch a small slit in the surface of the plastic wrap so that steam can escape during cooking.

When your tea kettle comes to a boil, arrange the custard cups in a rimmed baking dish or roasting pan and place in the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan around the custard cups to a depth of about an inch to create a bain-marie (a fancy term for a water bath, which ensures even, gentle cooking). If using ramekins, loosely cover the pan with foil.

Bake for 35 minutes (perfect amount of time for my oven), or until the custard is set. If the center moves independently when gently shaken, continue baking.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any portion not devoured.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Other inkpadchocolate V-day recommendations:
Chocolate Soufflés
Aunt Louise's Famous Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate Pavé
Flourless Chocolate Torte

Monday, February 8, 2010

Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies

I made these fun cookies a few months back when I still had some leftover matchstick carrots from Scout's birthday—and I'm not really much of a carrot person unless it's in cake. :) I bookmarked this recipe a long time ago and it's simple, has nice presentation, and is super tasty! These cookies are soft, chewy, and just slightly salty—my favorite.

Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies
Makes about 11 sandwiches or 22 individual cookies
1 1/8 c. flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. plus 2 T. packed light brown sugar
1/3 c. plus 2 T. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. coarsely grated carrots (or matchstick carrots, roughly chopped)
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. raisins (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets or line with a Silpat.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla at medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Mix in carrots, nuts, and raisins at low speed, then add flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Drop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough per cookie onto prepared baking sheets (I recommend using an ice cream or cookie scoop for even baking and even cookie size), about 2 inches apart, and bake until cookies are lightly browned, 12 to 16 minutes. Cool cookies on cookie sheet about 1 minute then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting (half recipe of what I use for red velvet):
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 c. confectioners' sugar, or to taste

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Once the cookies are completely cool, make sandwiches with a dollop of cream cheese frosting in the middle.

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