I sometimes feel like I lead two different lives. There’s my (sort of) tidy life here on the blog, where I pop up every week or two (or three) with a new recipe, an anecdote, an update.
Then there’s the other life, the one in which I’ve been more or less chained to my stovetop and my computer these last few months testing and writing recipes at breakneck speed for two projects, while also trying to promote a new book. The one in which one kid will be heading off to college in the fall and the other is beginning the search and application process. The one in which my elderly parents grow more frail with each passing day. The one in which I haven’t worked out in weeks and the fridge is in desperate need of cleaning.
Insomma, the typical life of a middle-aged working woman, harried, squeezed, with much to worry about and much to be thankful for. I’m not alone; everyone around me seems to be moving through life at full-tilt ~ no doubt you are, too. I should make us all a giant sandwich, right? For obvious metaphorical reasons.
Instead I’m making pudding, because pudding makes everything better.
No, it doesn’t. Pudding makes nothing better, but it sometimes feels like it makes things better. This pudding does, anyway. It’s classic budino al cioccolato, something my mom used to make for my sister and me, and something I wish I had made more for my kids when they were little. I recently worked up a variation for one of my projects, a new edition of Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, and I was reminded how easy it is. I can’t share that recipe just yet, but I can share this classic version, based on my mom’s.
Just milk, chocolate, sugar, flour, butter. No eggs. Rigorosamente senza uova, as they say, in keeping with Italian tradition. Even a harried person like me can put this together in no time. And it’s good ~ creamy and smooth, almost like a mousse but without all the bother. It tastes like relaxation.
I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t make it when my kids were little ~ they’ve always loved chocolate. The years just passed while we were doing (and eating) other things.
But I made a big batch the other day and we’ve all been enjoying it. You can make it with milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate. But in my opinion it’s best with bittersweet chocolate (spiked with a little Cognac, now that the kids are older). Bittersweet because, well, forget the metaphors. Just make the budino. And slow down enough to savor it.
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Ciao Biscotti: Here’s a fun little biscotti how-to video I did with the Washington Post. Stay tuned for updates on book signings, cooking demos, and other events.
Abruzzo Culinary Tour: There are four spots left for our September 2015 tour. What are you waiting for? Join us!
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This traditional Italian chocolate pudding requires no eggs and is a snap to make. Use the best-quality chocolate you can find and add a little Cognac to further punch up the flavor. Serve it from a large, decorative bowl or in individual cups.
- 2 cups whole milk or 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 to 4 tablespoons Cognac (optional)
- Whipped cream for serving
Bring the milk (or milk and cream) to a boil in a high-sided saucepan set over medium heat. As soon as the milk begins to boil, remove it from the heat.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the sugar (1/3 to 1/2 cup depending on how sweet you like your pudding) and salt; then whisk in the flour. The mixture will be thick. Whisk in a ladleful of the hot milk to loosen the mixture. Add the chocolate and whisk until melted. Gradually pour in the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and 1 to 2 tablespoons Cognac. Cook, stirring continuously, for a few minutes, until the pudding is smooth and quite thick. Remove from the heat.
Brush a serving bowl or soufflé dish with the remaining Cognac, or film the inside of individual serving cups with a little Cognac. (This step is optional). Pour the hot pudding into the bowl or cups and let cool briefly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight, until completely chilled. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
NOTE Don't worry if you have leftovers; this pudding keeps beautifully, covered in the fridge, for at least a week.