I will shamelessly admit that, on occasion, I’ll eat the store-bought six-pack pudding cups to satisfy a sweet craving. It happens maybe once a year, well, times six I suppose, unless my husband “helps” me by eating a couple of cups as he admonishes me for buying the stuff to begin with. I’m just being honest with you. I generally provide a well-balanced diet at home but it’s inevitable that I’ll throw some less-than-healthy things into the cart if I do my grocery shopping when I’m hungry. Still, the pudding cups are convenient and taste somewhat like chocolate, right? I won’t apologize for this, no, I won’t.
Don’t be upset; I’ll give you something better in order to redeem myself.
I’ve been watching Lidia Bastianich on public television a lot lately. I seem to have a love for all things Italian and her show always brings back fond memories of past visits but more importantly, she always has me wanting to run to the kitchen to recreate her dishes. Her recipes are simple, humble and seem to represent well the local flavors of the regions she features. I’ve bought three of her cookbooks just so I can easily follow her instructions as I watch her.
This chocolate pudding is one recipe that appealed to me from the beginning. It’s chocolate pudding like I’ve never seen it prepared before and trying the recipe proved to be a good decision. With crushed biscotti and toasted nuts, it gained texture and substance. The pudding itself remains silky, smooth and wonderfully decadent with the cocoa powder and chopped bittersweet chocolate lending genuine chocolate flavor. I used almond biscotti to complement the chopped almonds I added and both infused the pudding with a welcome almond flavor. No extracts necessary.
I called this pudding Italian style but I’m not certain whether this is a traditional Italian preparation or if it is specific to Valle d’Aosta, a mountainous region in the northwest corner of Italy. What Ms. Bastianich did mention is that this pudding is a good way to present a new dish by using leftovers. Sponge cake, pound cake, cookies or old biscotti are often the likely recycle candidates. My store-bought biscotti worked very well in this recipe.
The custard was very easy to prepare and set properly. I admit the finished product isn’t the most party-worthy in terms of looks; I could have sprinkled additional crushed biscotti on top or even sliced strawberries, but I didn’t. What matters is that the pudding’s flavor had my friends requesting to take some home. Ms. Bastianich served hers with whipped cream and fresh fruit and while I did the same, I also skipped the former for my photo session since I did it before my guests arrived. I’ve never sliced my desserts before serving them to company but I thought you deserved to see that the plated slice could look very pretty and appetizing. My friends didn’t mind and you won’t either when you taste this.
Chocolate Pudding, Italian Style
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely hand-crumbled plain biscotti (I used almond biscotti)
- 3 1/2 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup toasted, skinned, finely chopped hazelnuts (I used almonds)
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
Line a pie plate with plastic wrap, leaving some overhang around the edges. I used the recommended 9-inch pie plate and it worked well.
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl followed by the cornstarch until the mixture is lump-free.
Over low heat, simmer the cream and milk in a saucepan. Turn off the heat and temper the egg mixture by slowly pouring about 1 cup of the hot milk and cream into the egg bowl, whisking constantly. When blended, pour the tempered eggs back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk-cream and continue to whisk constantly.
Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking steadily until the custard thickens. Make sure not to allow the custard to come to a boil although you should see some bubbling on the surface occasionally. It will take 7 to 8 minutes for the custard to get quite thick.
Remove the custard from the heat, stir in the crumbled biscotti, chopped chocoalate, nuts and cocoa powder. Stir well to blend all the ingredients and until the chocolate has melted. Pour the mixture into the pie plate and cover in plastic wrap. Make sure that the plastic wrap lays directly on top of the pudding. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight to set.
To serve, remove the plastic wrap, invert the pudding onto a serving plate, cut into wedges and serve with fresh fruit and/or whipped cream.