Chris is still in recovery from dental surgery, so I’ve been making tons of puddings. But I’m also dealing with a flu/virus mess, so errors have been occurring. Tasty errors.
It started with my wanting to clear the fridge. I defrosted and baked some puff pastry I made ages ago and decided that I needed fillings. Vanilla custard and chocolate pudding made the most sense – some could go in the pastry and then I’d layer the rest in huge terrines for Chris. Well, more like mugs, but you get the point. The custard, from Smitten Kitchen, came out wonderfully. It’s fragrant with vanilla thanks to two sources, a full bean and vanilla sugar made from the last batch of custard. Chris wants me to add four whole beans next time and see if it’s too powerful. (I’m just hoping there’s a law of absolute vanilla flavor so it tastes only slightly more vanilla as opposed to artificially so.)
The chocolate pudding, from The Dessert Bible, is also one I’ve made before. It’s a fairly simple recipe – heat half and half with sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt, add vanilla and chocolate. Somehow I forgot to include the cornstarch, even though I had pulled the jar out for mise en place, and it never solidified. With heavy cream, vanilla sugar, and 66% dark chocolate, it became one lovely dessert sauce.
I decided I would turn the pair into a soup. I wish I had made meringue disks for crunch, but I was pretty tired when I finished. (That and Chris burned my last set of meringue by not checking the oven before preheating it to 400 degrees.)
Still, this is a fairly versatile soup. I used two quenelles of the custard and dusted it with cocoa powder, but I’d love to try it with fresh berries and whipped cream, or cacao nibs. Maybe some fresh ginger and cinnamon next time as well, or even peaches. It would also be killer for dunking chocolate chip cookies into.
Since the soup is basically hot chocolate mix, I heated it up after taking these photos, and it is mighty tasty on its own. I’d add a chunk of chocolate or more cocoa powder before warming it next time; it’s thick, but not as intense as what you can get at Fran’s. It’s for trying to teach your friends who think there’s nothing wrong with Swiss Miss that better things are out there for minimal effort. (This could work great for hot chocolate mix, especially with a few chunks of chocolate at the bottom of a cup.)
If you want to make the custard, go to Smitten Kitchen. To make the sauce, read on.
Hot Chocolate/Dessert Sauce
Heavily adapted from The Dessert Bible
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, natural (The original recipe specifies Dutch-process; I’d avoid it)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vanilla sugar (see note)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 ounce 66% chocolate, finely chopped (I think it could handle 70% or darker, but be cautious)
2 cups half and half
Sift the first three ingredients into a medium saucepan. Whisk to blend. Chop the chocolate and have ready before you begin the next steps.
Whisk half and half into pan, place onto range, and turn the heat to medium. Whisk for two minutes, then switch to a silicone or wooden spoon and continue stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes or until the sauce starts to bubble.
Add vanilla and chocolate, then stir gently for another minute or until the chocolate has melted. Take the sauce off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. At this point you can serve immediately as hot chocolate, or allow to cool, covered, in the fridge. In theory it’ll last a few days, but it only survived a few hours here. There will be a thin skin, but it can be blended back into the sauce.
Note: I make my own vanilla sugar by taking leftover vanilla beans and massaging them into some sugar, then shaking the jar every so often to break up clumps. I like it heavy on the vanilla (1 bean per 1-2 cups), but it’s definitely to taste and way cheaper than buying it at a store.