I think I may have mentioned that when I was a kid, I wasn’t much into cooking.
Eating, yes. Cooking? Not so much. Only what was necessary to make the eating part possible.
I WAS, however, inquisitive, inventive, resourceful, and as a result of ALL of this being applied to food, quite chubby.
My go-to snacks were Jiffy Pop® popcorn, Hostess® cupcakes and Jello® pudding. I wasn’t too particular about whether it was instant or the cooked kind. I was an equal-opportunity pudding connoisseur. Whatever my mom had the opportunity to buy, I gladly made and enjoyed.
Occasionally, when forced, I actually sat down and ate a real meal with my parents. I felt like I owed it to them.
This, of course, was WAY before I took an interest in cooking and a decade before I attended the Culinary Institute of America. Thankfully, I mostly got over my junk food cravings, because if I’d known then what I know now, it would have been dangerous.
I wouldn’t have been so dependent on packaged snack foods. I would have made something better, richer, tastier, and probably even MORE addictive–from scratch.
Goodbye, chubby. Hello, obese.
I still enjoy my puddin’. And when I do make it, it’s usually chocolate and I never use a recipe. It’s not even important if it doesn’t come out exactly the same each time (although it usually does), because sometimes I make it with cocoa and sometimes with semi-sweet chocolate chips (or both). Likewise, I may find that I have 2% milk, half & half, coffee cream or even heavy cream in the fridge when the craving strikes. All will work.
One ingredient that is essential in my non-recipe puddin’ recipe (besides a dairy product, of course) is cornstarch. Having said this, you CAN actually use eggs (or both), but you have to be VERY careful not to overcook the puddin’, as you can imagine what will happen.
Cornstarch is the safest way to go and almost guarantees success every time.
Here is how I make my puddin’.
- Take any quantity of dairy product (milk, etc.) and pour it into a saucepan on medium-low heat.
- While the (milk, etc.) is heating, add whatever amount of granulated sugar you like to make it as sweet as you want. Obviously, you’ll have to taste as you go along. If you want to use a sugar substitute, go for it.
- When you have the (milk, etc.) as sweet as you like, add your flavor. If chocolate, I use cocoa or semi-sweet morsels. Add as much as you like to make it as chocolaty as you like. Again, taste as you go.
- Prepare a slurry or mixture of cornstarch dissolved in either (milk, etc.) or COLD water. A general rule is about 1 TBSP cornstarch mixed with about 2 TBSP water per cup of puddin’ mixture to be thickened, but a cornstarch slurry mixture is cheap, so it’s always better to mix up a little more than you might need. In the end, you’ll only be adding enough of this slurry to thicken the mixture into a thick pancake-batter-like consistency.
- When your liquid is just about to simmer, thicken it by slowly pouring this cornstarch slurry while whisking. Go easy. You won’t know how much thickening your slurry will do until it bubbles. Better to add a little less than too much in the beginning. You can add more as you go.
- When the puddin’ has the consistency of that thick, batter-like mix, remove it from the heat.
- At this point, a small splash of vanilla extract is always nice, and I usually add a tablespoon of salted butter per cup of puddin’ if I’ve used milk. It helps to make it a bit richer. Lastly, I add a pinch of salt, but that isn’t super important.
- From here, you can pour your puddin’ into individual serving cups or whatever service container suits you.
- *NOTE: I mentioned that sometimes I will also use eggs to thicken my puddin’. If you want to try this, I recommend using 1 whole beaten egg per 2 TBSP of cornstarch slurry. You will now need to be sure you do not overcook the mixture. It can only bubble a few times between additions of slurry as you thicken.
Now, I’m not much of a puddin’ skin fan. You know, that rubbery film that forms on top of cooked pudding as it cools? If you’re like me and don’t care for that, tear small sheets of plastic film and rest them down on top of the hot puddin’ before it cools and forms that skin. Leave it on and then peel it off when you serve it. Don’t worry, the plastic film won’t melt.
Now, if you’d like to make some other flavors, here are some suggestions. Add these ingredients to taste after sweetening your (milk, etc.) and before thickening.
COFFEE Use instant espresso powder.
BANANA Use pureed RIPE banana puree.
VANILLA Add extra vanilla or vanilla bean seeds.
PUMPKIN Cooked canned pumpkin & pumpkin spice.