The Best Chocolate Pudding

November 07, 2011
By Holly Jennings

The mission at Cook’s Illustrated is “to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods.” Who can’t recall creamy chocolate pudding as a favorite food, if from a distant childhood past? The problem with those childhood versions, however, is that they lack the amount of dark chocolate oomph needed to appeal to our more sophisticated, adult palates.

After sourcing recipes spanning four decades, Andrea Geary, with critical feedback from tasters, perfected a recipe for chocolate pudding that she claims is the best. After making her surprisingly easy-to-make recipe I agree with her boast, making this blog post one of the shortest I’ve written yet—why monkey with something when it’s already good as is?—and the reason why no one should ever make instant chocolate pudding.

This recipe gets its big hit of chocolate flavor from a combination of Dutch-processed cocoa and chocolate (a combination I’m a big fan of; see “My Favorite Drinking Chocolate”) and its complexity from small amounts of espresso powder and salt. And though the use of egg yolks, heavy cream, and butter make the pudding luxurious, suitable to conclude any meal, it is relatively light, making it easy, and appropriate, to eat a heaping, happy, childlike portion. (Use the serving sizes as seen in Bill Crosby’s Jell-O pudding commercials as suggested serving guidelines, not the more diminutive serving size typical of a rich custard preparation such as pot de crème.)

Serves 6

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon espresso powder
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
½ cup heavy cream
2½ cups whole milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, plus more for greasing parchment
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), chopped fine

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the vanilla and espresso powder; set aside.
  2. In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in the yolks and cream until fully incorporated, making sure to scrape the corners of the saucepan. Whisk in the milk until incorporated.
  3. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened and bubbling over the entire surface, 8 to 15 minutes (see Note). Cook 30 seconds longer, remove from the heat, add the butter and chocolate, and whisk until melted and fully incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla and espresso powder mixture.
  4. Pour the pudding through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Press a lightly greased piece of parchment paper against the surface of the pudding, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Whisk the pudding briefly before serving.

Note: The only glitch I encountered when making the recipe as written in Cook’s Illustrated is the amount of time it takes the pudding to thicken and begin to bubble over the entire surface. Their timing is 5 to 8 minutes, but I found it took about 15 minutes. Of course the timing will depend on how hot medium heat is on your stove as well as how thin or heavy bottomed your pan is.

4 Comments to “The Best Chocolate Pudding”

  1. Very nice photo…esp the textured base surface with the yellow glass!

  2. looks yummy, almost as good as the drinking chocolate

  3. Oh goodie. If the food looks good enough to make, then I’m happy. Thanks for saying so.

  4. Thank you dear Sandra. I love those colored glass dishes. They make everything much more fun to eat. There’s a third that’s white; you can see just a bit of it in the background of the photo. They came from a landlady in Toledo, Ohio, years ago, who said I could have them after I went on and on about how wonderful I thought they were.


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