Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Pudding

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Pudding

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 feltΒ 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!

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Pudding

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Pudding

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 8

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Pudding

Adapted from Scharffenberger, via Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup turbinado or granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1 3/4 cups 1% or nonfat milk
2 tbsp. whipping cream
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. espresso powder (optional)
To serve:
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp. powdered sugar
thinly sliced almonds
dark chocolate shavings

In a medium saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt. Place over medium-low heat and whisk in the milk, 2 tbsp. whipping cream and almond milk. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture is able to coat the back of a spoon - this should happen when the pudding is about to reach a simmer. At this point, whisk in the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate, and continue cooking until mostly thickened (the pudding will become thicker when it cools), about 3-5 minutes longer.

Remove the pot from the heat, and whisk in the almond extract and espresso powder, if using. The pudding can be transferred into single-serving bowls to set, if desired. Refrigerate until cool and thickened, preferably at least two hours.

Before serving, whip the cream in an electric mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip to desired texture. Serve the pudding chilled, topped with whipped cream, almonds, and dark chocolate shavings.

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