Friday, April 20, 2012

Chocolate Pudding for One

One of the challenges of cooking for one is dealing with my favorite meal of the day: dessert.

I only really bake brownies or cookies when I've got someone to give them to (students and housemates are great for this, most of the time). Muffins and other baked goods only get made when I can claim some space and stash a few in the freezer.

That means that the solo dessert-eater is a bit limited in choices, especially if you don't live with other people who are willing to eat the rest of that two-tiered chocolate cake for you.

The mug cake/mug brownie craze is one option, and I'd have to say it's a pretty good one. Some other choices are ice cream and hot chocolate, also good. But sometimes I get sick of them, and sometimes I just want something different. When that happens, I turn to this recipe: chocolate pudding.

Mmmmm.. warm, homemade pudding.

I know what you're thinking: isn't that what they make pudding cups for? Yes, probably, but I never seem to think that far ahead when I grocery shop, plus who knows if I'll feel like pudding that week or not. Personally, I find it easier to just keep a lot of basic ingredients on hand, so that I can make whatever appeals to me when I want it.

This recipe actually derives from a hot cocoa recipe on the Eating Well site. I found it when I was in a hot chocolate mood, and the short list of ingredients appealed to me. As I read through the comments, I was intrigued by one reviewer's observation that simply adding more cornstarch to the recipe resulted in something more pudding-like. I took the idea and ran with it.

The recipe you see below makes enough pudding for one chocoholic, or probably two regular people. The full serving is about 170 calories if you use skim milk. (I haven't tried it with nondairy or any other type of milk.) If you want to make hot cocoa instead, reduce the amount of cornstarch to about 1 1/2 teaspoons. Or, if you get tired of waiting for your pudding to thicken I suppose you could just drink it instead.

Chocolate Pudding
Serves one, but is enough to share!

Only four basic ingredients! And you probably have them!

Ingredients

1 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Dash of vanilla, optional
Dash of salt, optional

Steps

1.  Heat milk in a saucepan over the lowest heat setting.

I've found that this funny looking flat spoon is the best
stirring utensil for this. You can use a whisk in the beginning,
but switch to a spoon for the best pan-scraping ability.

2.  Stir in sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa. Add a dash of vanilla and/or a pinch of salt, if desired. Whisk or stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined.

It looks messy at first.

But it will come together!

3.  Heat, stirring frequently. Scrap the sides and bottom of the pan with the spoon often.

If you're bored at this point, you could probably just stop
and have hot chocolate.

4.  The mixture will eventually begin to thicken. When it comes to a simmer (slow bubbles every few seconds), stir constantly.

Look for the slow bubbles.

5.  Cook and stir until the mixture reaches a thin pudding consistency. (It will thicken some as it stands.) Pour into a bowl or container.

At this point, if you've planned ahead, you can refrigerate your pudding to eat later. Press a piece of plastic wrap into the pudding surface if you want to avoid the pudding skin, or just cover it loosely if you happen to like the skin.

I, however, seldom realize that I want pudding until I really want it right then. So I just pour it into a bowl and let it cool a bit while I wash the dishes, and then eat it while it's still warm.

Top it with strawberries or banana slices!

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