Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chocolate Chai Pudding

Chocolate Chai Pudding

Confession: I hadn't even heard of cornstarch pudding until a few weeks ago. And now I'm obsessed with it. It's easy and versatile, adaptable to dietary needs and whims: Make it with cream, whole milk, or skim milk, or dairy-free substitutes including soy and rice milk. You don't need much sugar, and butter and eggs are strictly optional. Where has this been all my life?!

I have my friend Heather to thank. She pointed me to an online recipe from The Joy of Cooking (I may be the only food blogger in the world who doesn't have that cookbook), and mentioned she likes to prepare it with chai mix.


I couldn't decide if I wanted to make chocolate or chai pudding, so I tinkered with both. My kids don't like the chai infusion, so it's more of a treat for me. And I'm OK with that: From the run-up to Halloween through the end of the year, much of our family life seems to revolve around kid-oriented seasonal delights, edible and otherwise, and so I savored this simple pudding for myself. They'll get their vanilla and chocolate versions for now, but someday I suspect a warm dish of subtly spiced chocolate pudding will taste like home.

If a child hasn't sneakily devoured all the sweets in your baking pantry, as seems to have happened in my house, you could swap semisweet or dark chocolate for the cocoa powder (be sure to cut back the sugar a bit to compensate). Anna suggested the perfect topping: the Best Spiced Nuts. These also would be delicious with a dollop of whipped cream or a sprinkling of chopped toffee.

Chocolate Chai Pudding

Chocolate Chai Pudding

Use whatever kind of milk you like. (Soy goes especially well with chai and yields the rich-looking pudding pictured at the top, but dairy versions are creamier.) You may want to adjust the amount of sugar to suit your taste. If you're feeling really indulgent, stir in a bit of softened butter at the end.

This makes 6 servings — dish them out in tea cups for maximum cuteness.

3 cups milk, divided
2 chai tea bags
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a saucepan, warm 2 1/2 cups milk over medium heat until steaming. Remove from heat, add tea bags, cover, and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags.

Add sugar, salt, and cocoa to chai milk and reheat over medium heat. In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and remaining 1/2 cup milk until smooth. When the chai milk mixture begins to steam, stir in cornstarch mixture. Continue stirring about 5 to 7 minutes until mixture just comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir until pudding is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Spoon pudding into serving dishes. Serve warm or chill for up to a day.

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