In the far corner of my kitchen is a top drawer that somehow ended up as “the snack drawer,” or what my family calls more accurately, “the candy drawer.” Every few weeks I cull it, discarding the bits and pieces of teeth-wrecking, extra-sugary treats that have made their way into the drawer and replacing them with healthier snacks. Inevitably, I’ll hear a groan as someone shuffles through the updated stash: protein bars, dried fruit and whole-grain crackers. One sweet constant that I will allow: good dark chocolate, in all shapes and sizes, sometimes with a hint of sea salt or burnt caramel.
For a truly decadent bite, I like to whip up this creamy pudding using bittersweet chocolate. If you prefer yours a bit sweeter and less intense, you can reduce the amount in half and sub in semisweet or milk chocolate. Try to use the best quality you can find as this will be the star of the show. For testing purposes, I used Scharffen Berger bittersweet and semisweet. Top with flake salt such as Alaska Sitka flakes or Maldon sea salt flakes and a soft peak of freshly whipped cream.
Dark chocolate pudding with sea salt
(Serves 4 to 6)
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup whole or 2 percent milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
9 ounces (about 2 cups) chopped bittersweet chocolate (not chocolate chips) or combo bittersweet and semisweet
1 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
Garnish: sea salt flakes
Method: Whisk together egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt together in a medium heatproof bowl. Combine milk and 1 cup cream (reserve remaining 1/2 cup for topping) in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat until hot, but not boiling. Whisk in 2 to 3 tablespoons of hot milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly; whisk in remaining hot milk mixture until smooth. Return egg/hot milk mixture to saucepan, reduce heat to medium-low and, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula (or wooden spoon), cook 5 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly and coats spatula.
Remove saucepan from heat. Add chocolate and let stand 5 seconds. Whisk until smooth and glossy. Pour chocolate into individual serving bowls or in one large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and chill to set in refrigerator at least 3 hours. If chilling overnight, remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving.
To serve, whip remaining 1/2 cup cream, 1 teaspoon sugar, if using, and vanilla bean paste or extract just until soft peaks form. Garnish, if desired, with sea salt flakes and soft whipped cream.