Recipe Grid: The Ultimate Chocolate Pudding
What, you might ask, is a recipe grid? It’s a tool and a process I developed for students at the Northwest Culinary Academy (which I owned and ran for many years in Bellevue, Washington) to help them get beyond dependence on specific recipes and to the point where they understood the underlying proportions and techniques of any given food category, such as chocolate chip cookies, pastry crust, ice cream, or chocolate pudding. Once you understand the underlying proportions and techniques of a given dish, real creativity in the kitchen and a personal food style can begin.
The purpose of the recipe grid is to compare ingredients and methods across a number of credible recipes (from credible sources) in the same category, in this case, a basic chocolate pudding.
The grid lists sources, authors, and recipe names across the top row and ingredients down the left column. In the cells, you list the measurements for all ingredients for each recipe. After some recalibration is done to ensure that you are comparing like quantities across the group (setting one key ingredient amount as the standard), you can then quickly scan a row to see the range for a particular ingredient. (In the case of chocolate pudding, I was especially interested in the ranges for cornstarch, egg yolks, and bar chocolate in proportion to the liquid ingredients.) At the bottom of the grid, there is space for method, cook time, yield, results, and so forth.
A basic recipe grid for chocolate pudding might look like this:
nonfat dry milk
1% low-fat milk
unsweetened cocoa powder
Although it would require too much space to show you the completed chocolate pudding recipe grid here, I have extrapolated the high points for your perusal and further investigation.
Here are the 16 sources, authors, and recipes I compared, along with highlights of the comparison and testing. If I consider an ingredient to be potentially problematic or in low or high proportion to the baseline ingredient (in this case 1 cup of milk), it is noted with orange highlighting.
Remember, these are my initial observations only; my conclusions may change after I have spent more time exploring these formulas and methods. I will update this page as my exploration continues. See what you think.
And of course check out LunaCafe’s Ultimate Chocolate Pudding, which resulted from this extensive research.
1.Baking for All Occasions | Flo Braker | Chocolate Pudding Filling
- 9 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method over direct heat with eggs added before thickening occurs.
- Proportions per 1 cup of milk:4 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 2/3 ounces chocolate.
- Notes:Pudding is built on top of the remainder of a caramel produced in the same pan (nice idea). Brown sugar is used along with regular sugar (another nice idea). Total sugar proportion is high however. Egg yolks are cooked with the pudding for 6-8 minutes. This can lead to scrambling. Egg yolks do not require this lengthy cooking time.
2.Baking: From My Home To Yours | Dorie Greenspan | Chocolate Pudding
- 9 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method over direct heat with multiple food processing steps, including processing after pudding has thickened.
- Proportions per 1¼ cups of milk: 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 egg yolk, ½ whole egg, 2½ ounces bittersweet chocolate.
- Notes: Whisking or whipping egg yolks and cornstarch after custard has set can break the set.Also, egg white can lend a fine but perceptible “sandy” texture to pudding and pastry cream.
3.Barefoot Contessa | Ina Garten | Chocolate Pudding
- 10 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method over direct heat with egg yolks added before thickening occurs.
- Proportions per 1 cup milk plus 2 tablespoons cream: 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1½ tablespoons cocoa powder, ¼ cup sugar, 3 extra-large egg yolks, ½ ounce semisweet chocolate.
- Notes:High proportion of egg yolks, low proportion of chocolate. Egg yolks are cooked with the pudding until pudding thickens. Cornstarch needs to come to a rolling boil to be fully activated, but egg yolks do not require this high temperature to thicken fully. This can lead to scrambling.
4.Chocolate Epiphany | Francois Payard | Chocolate Pastry Cream
- 7 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method over direct heat with egg yolks whisked until light and then added to the custard before it thickens. Also calls for whisking after custard is cool, which can break the set.
- Proportions per 1 cup milk:2½ tablespoons cornstarch, ¼ cup cocoa powder, ¼ cup sugar, 2 egg yolks, 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate.
- Notes:High proportion of cocoa, which accounts for the high proportion of sugar. Also high on the cornstarch, but this is a pastry cream rather than a pudding, so density may be desired. With this method, you must bring the egg yolks to a boil, which can be problematic.
5.Chocolate Obsession |Michael Recchiuti & Fran Gage | Burnt Caramel Pot de Crème
- 5 Ingredients.
- Method: Caramel is made first, and then milk and eggs are added. This is then baked in a water bath, but it could be completed on the stovetop as for a for stirred custard.
- Proportions per 1 cup cream + 6 tablespoons milk: 6 tablespoons sugar, 1½ ounces milk chocolate, 2½ extra-large egg yolks.
- Notes: This is a pot de crème rather than a pudding, thus no cornstarch. Also no cocoa or dark chocolate (features milk chocolate instead). Sugar proportion is too high. Love the addition of caramel.
6.CookWise | Shirley Corriher | Pastry Cream
- 7 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method over direct heat with hot liquid added to mixture of sugar and cornstarch.
- Proportions per 2/3 cup milk plus 1/3 cup cream: 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 4 tablespoons sugar, 3 large egg yolks.
- Notes: Would not typically add hot liquid to cornstarch as this causes it to lump. However, perhaps the addition of sugar with the cornstarch keeps this from occurring. This is a pastry cream rather than a true pudding, so proportion of egg yolks is justifiably high. Heat kills enzymes in raw egg yolks, which will otherwise break down the starch bonds and thin the custard. Pudding must be brought almost to a boil after adding egg yolks.
7.FabulousFoods.com | Carrie Brown | Jimtown Chocolate Pudding
- 10 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method with tempered eggs.Method unnecessarily complicated.
- Proportions per 1 cup half-and-half: 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1½ tablespoons cocoa powder, 3½ tablespoons sugar, 1 egg yolk, ½ whole egg, 6 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips.
- Notes: No weight specified for the chocolate chips: 6 tablespoons chips equals about 3 ounces. 3 ounces of chocolate per 1 cup of milk is really extreme. I imagine this will be ganache-like. Considering that mostly semisweet chocolate is used here and at such high proportion, the sugar proportion is thus too high. Method can be simplified.
8.Food Network.com | Alton Brown | Instant Chocolate Pudding
- 8 ingredients.
- Method: Straight-forward stirred pudding method with no eggs or bar chocolate.
- Proportions per ½ cup milk + ½ cup cream: 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk.
- Notes: No eggs or bar chocolate. Adding cream makes sense when there is little fat elsewhere. A good example of a very lean, American-style pudding. I tested it with all milk and cut back to 2 tablespoons regular sugar per 1 cup of milk. The result was surprisingly good while the pudding was warm, especially using Scharffen Berger cocoa powder. The chilled pudding was unpalatable, however.
9.I Love Chocolate | Stephanie Zonis | Elegant Chocolate Pudding
- 11 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method with egg yolks added before thickening occurs. Strained at completion. Method unnecessarily complicated: multiple bowls, saucepans, and strainer.
- Proportions per ½ cup milk + 6 tablespoons cream: ½ tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder, 1 egg yolk, 1 ounce semisweet chocolate.
- Notes:Too little cornstarch. Method can be simplified.
10.La Maison du Chocolat | Robert Linxe | Chocolate Cream
- 7 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred custard method with mousse finish.
- Proportions per 1 cup milk: 4 tablespoons sugar, 4 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1½ egg yolks, 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, ¼ cup whipped cream.
- Notes: High sugar, cocoa, and chocolate proportions. Low egg yolk considering there is no cornstarch but that is being compensated for by the extremely high proportion of bar chocolate. This is going to be more like a ganache.
11.MarthaStewart.com | Martha Stewart | Double Chocolate Pudding
- 9 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method with egg yolks added at the beginning.
- Proportions per 1¼ cup milk: 4 tablespoons cornstarch, 2½ tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate.
- Notes:2-4 times more cornstarch than other formulas. Two tablespoons cornstarch thickens 1 cup of milk perfectly (without added egg yolk), so this will be too thick in my estimation. Also, sugar proportion is far too high. Eggs are not tempered, just added to the milk at the beginning. This can cause scrambling, even with cornstarch in the mix (maybe not with this much cornstarch though).
12.Pure Chocolate | Fran Bigelow | Princess Pudding
- 5 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred custard method.
- Proportions per 1¼ cups cream: 8 tablespoons sugar, 5 egg yolks, 7 ounces semisweet chocolate.
- Notes: Cream instead of milk, no cornstarch (consequently more egg yolk), no cocoa, extreme amounts of sugar and chocolate. I think the mouth feel will be too dense here and much too sweet. Haven’t tested it yet though.
13.Pure Dessert | Alice Medrich | My Chocolate Pudding
- 8 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method.
- Proportions per 1 cup milk: 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, 2½ tablespoons sugar, 1 whole egg, 1½ ounces bittersweet chocolate.
- Notes: Well-balanced proportions of ingredients. Egg white can lend a fine but perceptible “sandy” texture to pudding and pastry cream.
14.Tartine | Elizabeth Prueitt | Chocolate Pudding
- 8 ingredients.
- Method: Hot milk/cream mixture is added to dry ingredients plus eggs and heated to 208º. Chocolate is added off the heat and immersion blender is used for 5 minutes until all lumps are gone.
- Proportions per 7/8 cup milk + 5 tablespoons cream: 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1½ tablespoons cocoa powder, 6 tablespoons sugar, 1½ whole eggs, 1¼ ounces bittersweet chocolate.
- Notes:Sugar proportion is very high. Egg white can lend a fine but perceptible “sandy” texture to pudding and pastry cream. Pudding should be completely smooth without the immersion blender step. This has the potential to break the egg and cornstarch bonds. This method goes against food chemistry explanations elsewhere. How does the bond hold after chilling for a day or two?
15.The Essence of Chocolate | John Scharffenberger | Silky Chocolate Pudding
- 6 ingredients
- Method: Stirred pudding method in a double boiler.
- Proportions per 1 cup milk: 1 1/3 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 ounces semisweet chocolate.
- Notes: No cocoa, no egg. There is no reason to use a double boiler when the pudding or custard contains cornstarch. Cooking time unnecessarily long due to the use of the double boiler. On test, pudding was beautifully flavored and silky smooth but far too dense and heavy after chilling. It was not “spoonable” and did not dissolve readily in the mouth. (One taster actually spit it out.) Also, it was too thick to push through a triple-mesh strainer as indicated in the recipe. I’m going to test this again, to make sure my initial conclusions are correct. Others on the Web rave about this recipe.
16.The Great Book of Chocolate | David Lebovitz | Chocolate Pudding
- 6 ingredients.
- Method: Stirred pudding method; eggs added before thickening.
- Proportions per 1 cup of milk: ½ tablespoon cornstarch, 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 1 large egg yolk.
- Notes: Cornstarch proportion is low. Chocolate proportion is high (similar to #15). No cocoa powder. I would change the method: Add tempered egg yolk after pudding has come to a full boil and then bring back to 208º only. Then, off the heat, stir in the chocolate. Also, the addition of some cocoa powder will amplify the chocolate flavor.