Proof is in the Pudding

Todd Coleman

A silky, soul-satisfying mainstay in the pantheon of American desserts, chocolate pudding is as at home in our school lunches as it is at a dinner party. Tough packaged versions abound, nothing beats a homemade bowl of the stuff. Among the best recipes we've tried is from pastry icon Alice Medrich. But as we gathered our ingredients to make her recipe in our kitchen recently, we realized we didn't have the bittersweet chocolate she calls for. So we decided to wing it, using the bar of Hershey's Special Dark we did have. To our surprise, it turned out wonderfully—so wonderfully, in fact, that we later decided to try out other grocery store brands, both dark and bittersweet, in the same recipe. Each selection altered the texture and flavor of the pudding considerably. Green & Black's Organic 70% Dark Chocolate added flavor notes both bitter and citrusy, and imparted the pudding with a dense texture. Ghirardelli's 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate created a smooth pudding, with bold mocha and rum flavors. Godiva's 85% Cacao Extra Dark Santo Domingo Chocolate generated a beautifully balanced mousse-like consistency, while Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Smooth Dark was assertive with a tannic astringency. But the pudding we made with the Hershey's bar was possibly our favorite: sweet and, despite its modest pedigree, luxurious. It reminded us that sometimes the most elegant dishes can be made from the most common of ingredients.