Friday, January 29, 2010

Chocolate Childhood: Pudding, Part II

Forget Ben Bernanke's reappointment to the Fed, the death of JD Salinger, Nicole Richie's anorexia, the health care bill, Amazon vs. Apple, Conan vs. Jay and the Saints vs. the Colts: The subject that really gets people going is pudding.

I received more emails about the chocolate pudding blog than I've ever received before (and that includes the time the New York Times blogged about my blog.) My mother-in-law wrote," Wow! And I thought I made my own chocolate pudding when I bought a box of powdered chocolate (Jello brand), mixed it with milk and stirred until it bubbled." My friend N. wrote, "I've always been partial to Mighty Fine Chocolate pudding...just add milk and stir constantly until it bubbles." My friend S. weighed in : "My Mom made some kind of Jello pudding that wasn’t ‘instant’ but wasn’t from scratch. It cooked on the stove, had to cool in the fridge, and developed a skin on the top. We’d slice the skin and add milk in the crevice before eating I think (everyone got a little Pyrex bowl of their own.)" My friend A. wrote: "I'm of course making pudding tomorrow for Shabbat." My friend J. (who once edited stories I wrote about eating all the frosting for a cake and scarfing down too many sucking candies) noted the toll that sugar addiction has taken on my teeth. I even heard from a former student who doesn't cook.

Finally, my friend R., who I have known since ninth grade, reminded me of our sinful past: "Remember baking for bake sales and eating all the brownie batter before we baked them?"

Uh, yes. Anyway, the bottom line is that pudding pulls people together, or at a minimum, makes them want to talk about their childhoods and all the Proustian food memories they've got stored back there. Despite all the pudding discussion, I had no plans to make it again any time soon. But then T. called to confirm that A. really had made the pudding. And it was good.

That got me going (not that I'm competitive or anything.) Maybe I should make chocolate pudding for Shabbat? But hadn't my family overloaded on chocolate this week already? What if I screwed up again---that meant two pudding disasters in one week! Plus, we were already going to be eating cake with chocolate pudding filling on Saturday afternoon. My in-laws were coming for the weekend, we were celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday and tradition has it that on birthdays, we eat a store-bought white layer cake covered with chocolate fudge frosting, and chocolate pudding in the middle, after lunch.

We were nearing a chocolate overdose. On top of the pudding, I had made two batches of brownies this week---for my older son's half birthday celebration at school. (Yes, he is 13 1/2 and they are still celebrating half-birthdays at school. Either that, or he's completely conned me, is selling brownies on the bus and isn't giving me a cut.) And our frog had died in his/her aquarium the morning after the first pudding disaster. It seemed a bit unseemly to be making more dessert in the wake of his/her death, especially since I'd carelessly tossed the aquarium in the garbage and declared our house frog-free.

Then I remembered that I had told my husband that we were eating pizza for dinner tonight---my younger son was having a friend over for dinner and whenever we have nine-year olds for dinner, I get pizza so that the friend will actually eat something. And I remembered that the pizza place, which used to not deliver, had new owners and was now delivering, which meant I didn't have to go anywhere with two nine-year olds to get dinner! Finally, my older son called to say he was going to a friend's house for dinner, which meant I wouldn't have to spend time breaking up fights between my kids over who got the X-box on a Friday afternoon.

Suddenly, I had extra time at the end of this long winter afternoon. I also had several papers to mark, and as much as I love my students and their work, marking papers is a grind and I usually need several handfuls of chocolate kisses to propel me through them. If I made T.'s chocolate pudding recipe, which promised to only take 15 minutes, I could have a home-made sugar high, instead of a store-bought one. And maybe I could redeem myself in pudding land.

Readers, I made the pudding. I had to stir constantly for about five minutes and during that time I shared a bag of carrots with my dog. Other than separating the yolks from the whites, making the pudding was as easy as pie, just as T. promised. After I was done stirring the mixture on the stovetop, the pudding looked like chocolate soup, which meant it looked like pudding should---a big bowl of chocolate love. I poured it into one of my mother's old glass Pyrex bowls, covered the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to thicken overnight. I licked the pot and didn't offer to share any of it with my younger son or his friend. There wasn't really enough for three people, there was only one clean spatula and you know, I didn't want them to get my germs and stuff.

Even several hours ahead of prime time, T.'s pudding was awesome. Thanks, T. And thanks to everyone who reads this blog and has something to say.

Basic Brownies

Yield: 16 brownies
(Use Ghirardelli chocolate for best results)

1/2 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 4-ounce Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Chop the 4 ounces of semi sweet chocolate bars into i-inch pieces. In a sauce pan, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir the brown sugar and vanlla into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and mix well. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture, mixing well until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 26 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 2-inch squares

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