I can understand the argument that Valentine’s Day is arbitrary and consumerized… but seriously, if anything is worthy of celebration, it’s love. We tend to take a pretty low-maintenance approach around here; he plants me flowers, I make him an extra-nice dinner, and then we eat chocolate pudding. It’s silly, but it’s our go-to Valentine’s dessert. It’s super simple, but still feels special enough for a celebration. It’s rich, but not overly heavy after the preceding indulgent meal. And as a bonus, its prepared ahead of time and chilled until you’re ready for it, so it’s accommodating to whatever spontaneity your night offers.
This year, I felt compelled to try something new, maybe add a little sophistication to my old standby recipe. I experimented with an addition of almond flavor and espresso, and I have to say, it felt pretty fancy. It morphed chocolate pudding’s childhood charm into a deeper, more complex, grown-up indulgence. Of course I couldn’t just stop there, and had to further gild the lily by topping the bowl with lightly sweetened whipped cream, dark chocolate and crunchy almonds… I regret nothing.
Pudding recipes tend to call for whole milk, which yields the proper thick/creamy texture, but I never have the stuff on hand – I’m a 1% kind of girl. To avoid buying a carton just for the pudding, I use a trick that I came up with during the dairy lectures of my Food Science curriculum in grad school. See, for the pudding’s topping I’m already buying whipping cream, which is ~35% fat. Since whole milk is 4% fat, I can calculate how much whipping cream to substitute into a cup of 1% milk to create a solution with 4% fat, just like whole milk. Using my science lab nerd skills, [C3=(C1V1+C2V2)/(V1+V2) for the win!] I can tell you that about 1.5 tablespoons of whipping cream in a cup of 1% or skim milk will give you a perfect substitute for whole milk.
Of course, after establishing this guideline, I take liberty with it in my recipe development. In this case, to substitute two cups of whole milk, I used 1.75 cups of milk and only 2 tablespoons of cream – for my tastes, it was totally rich enough and didn’t need the extra fat. I also replaced one cup of milk from my baseline recipe with a cup of almond milk, to push for a fuller almond flavor. I’d like to experiment with using all almond milk in place of dairy, but this time I didn’t want to risk screwing it up and having no dessert for the big night.
This pudding is some potent stuff; it’s the kind of intensely flavored dessert that will satisfy with just a small portion. The recipe makes quite a bit, 8 servings, so you can cut in half if you wish. Or just do like us and extend your Valentine’s celebration for the rest of the week. Love takes some time to properly celebrate!