It’s not polite to lick the spoon. Which is why I will do it secretly, in the quiet of my dark kitchen at night, hours before any guests arrive. This is the South, or one part of it. We know how to host, how to lay our fancy linens and heirloom china, how to cook up a storm and pass it off as “nothing special,” how to make any ordinary occasion something remarkable. But, more importantly, we also know how to make people feel at home. Sometimes that looks like serving a simple, comfort food dessert, such as chocolate pudding.
It’s no slight to classic chocolate pudding to point out that it’s not usually considered “company dessert.” The quick, stove-top custard is a sweet treat to be sure, but it’s more likely one enjoyed at grandma’s Sunday supper or after school. Chocolate pudding’s history, laden with nostalgia and tradition, is precisely what makes it such a good candidate for your next dinner party. This version builds on the Southern classic, but takes cues from its more sophisticated French cousin, pots de crème. The result is a rich chocolate custard that delivers an elegant depth of flavor with the silkiness of traditional pudding. Best of all, it can be made the night before and poured into individual ramekins (or vintage Champagne coupes if you’re feeling fancy) to set—so you can lick the spoon and none will be the wiser.
Chocolate Pudding with Whipped Crème Fraîche
1 large egg, plus 2 yolks
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (66%–74% cacao), chopped
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbs. cornstarch
¼ tsp. fine sea salt, plus extra
1/3 cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
- In a small, heatproof bowl, whisk together egg and yolks.
2. Place chocolate, butter, and vanilla extract in a food processor or blender, but don’t turn on.
3. In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, cream, brown sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt until smooth. Bring to a full boil, whisking, and let bubble for 1 to 2 minutes to activate cornstarch. When it starts to thicken, pull the saucepan off the heat immediately.
4. Pour a little of the hot cornstarch mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly to temper, then pour eggs back into the pan. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture just returns to a bare simmer. Immediately pour into the food processor or blender. Run the machine until the pudding is very smooth. Pour into individual ramekins (or teacups or coupe glasses) and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm and cold, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
5. Meanwhile, whip heavy cream, crème fraîche, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Serve pudding with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and a pinch of sea salt.
Recipe slightly adapted from Melissa Clark and Merrill Stubbs.