One of my favorite comfort foods is chocolate pudding. Not the kind from a box, but the rich and creamy home-made goodness that can only be made by starting from scratch. If I’m going to indulge in chocolate pudding, I want the good stuff!
While there are many great recipes for chocolate pudding, my favorite is a simple one that even my 8-year-old son can make without help! Before I share the recipe, here’s the agricultural story behind it’s simple ingredients.
Cocoa Powder is made from beans of the cacao tree grown in tropical climates. After harvesting the beans are fermented, dried, and roasted. The beans are then ground into a paste to separate the cocoa solids from the fat, or cocoa butter. Once the butter is removed the cocoa solids are ground into a fine powder. The bitter powder can be packaged and sold for as unsweetened coca powder for baking cooking, or mixed with cocoa butter, milk and sugar to create the chocolate bars and chips.
Sugar for home cooking and baking can come from two agricultural crops, sugar cane and sugar beets. Sugar beets are a root crop grown in the upper Midwest. Sugar cane is a tall perennial grass grown in more tropical environments like Florida, Latin America, and South America. Although the plants are very different, the process of turning juice from sugar beets and sugar cane into granulated sugar is very similar. After the juice is extracted, it is purified, and the crystals form as the water is removed through several stages of evaporation.
Corn Starch is a fine white powder made from the starchy center, or endosperm, of corn kernels. In the kitchen, corn starch is used as a thickening agent for sauce, gravy, pudding, and more. Corn starch is comprised of long chains of starch molecules that will unravel and swell when heated in a liquid. This swelling causes the liquid to thicken.
Milk: Long gone are the days that cows are milked by hand. Today’s dairy farms are high-tech and efficient, using mechanical milking parlors and even robots to improve the efficiency of the milking process. Once milk is collected from the cow it is quickly cooled and trucked to a processing plant where it is homogenized and pasteurized before bottling. Once bottled it is sent off to grocery stores or other consumer outlets. The whole process takes less than 48 hours and the milk is never touched by human hands.
Vanilla extract is made from the seed pod, or bean, of the flat leaved vanilla orchid. They are picked unripe, submerged into hot water and then laid out to dry. Vanilla extract is made by macerating the vanilla beans and mixing them with water and alcohol.
Butter: Fresh whole milk from dairy farms is collected and brought to the creamery. The cream is separated from the milk and rapidly heated to a high temperature. Pasteurization removes any disease-causing bacteria and helps the butter stay fresh longer. The cream is then churned by shaking or beating it vigorously until it thickens. The remaining liquid, appropriately called buttermilk, is removed. The clumps of butter are then washed and formed into sticks or blocks. Check out this video to see exactly how butter is made.
½ cups white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup corn starch
2¾ cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoons vanilla
Mix the sugar, cocoa powder, corn starch and salt together in a saucepan.
Whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer. Continue to whisk and cook until it is thick. It will not take long after it comes to a boil.
Take it off the burner and mix in the vanilla and butter. Pour into a bowl or serving dishes to cool.