Pudding – specifically, homemade pudding – is really one of those somewhat humble desserts that has rightfully earned its place in the dessert canon. It’s right up there with roast chicken and mashed potatoes as true comfort food. Aside from canned (shudder) pudding from school cafeterias or the powdery mixture put out by Jello and dumped into warm milk to thicken, I don’t think too many people go to any kind of trouble to attempt it. Perhaps it is a texture thing for some people. I love the silky smooth feel of pudding on my palate (I really tried to phrase that without sounding faintly dirty, but it still reads rather funny, I must say), but it may turn others off. Regardless, if you are a pudding fan, the enlightening news is that it isn’t all that difficult to make. With some practice, you too can master the art of homemade pudding – though you may have to suffer some over-cooked, grainy textures and/or burnt saucepan bottoms along the way! Have patience. The pay-off is worth it.
Baked’s S’More’s-Style Chocolate Whiskey Pudding takes the traditional campfire treat to all new heights altogether. It’s sexy, ultra-sophisticated, and very adult. While some kids may not turn their noses up at it, this is definitely one for Mom and Dad to savor first and foremost (it contains booze, after all).
There are several different assembly components to this luxe, chocolately dessert, but surprisingly, I didn’t find this recipe as bowl- and utensil-intensive as some pudding recipes can be. A lot of pudding recipes require passing the cooked pudding through a sieve after cooking for an ultra-silky texture, removing any bits of cooked egg yolk or lumpy cornstarch. This is sage advice when making a pudding, but with this recipe, this step wasn’t really necessary and isn’t advised in the instructions. I’ve personally gotten into the *somewhat perfectionist, I know* habit of pinching the stringy white chalazae strands from my egg yolks prior to adding them to desserts such as brownies, cheesecakes, or puddings where a smooth texture is really key. It’s picky, I know, but it’s one little step that further ensures a decent final result.
For the first s’more flavor component – the graham – you’ll grind up a few whole graham crackers in the food processor to coarse crumbs, along with some room temperature butter, cinnamon, and sugar. This mixture is baked off to lightly-browned, crunchy crumb clusters on a small sheet pan in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. I enjoyed the touch of cinnamon, as it pairs rather nicely with the whiskey in the finished pudding.
The chocolate pudding mixture combines sugar, cornstarch, a couple tablespoons dark cocoa powder (you can go for regular cocoa here, I’m sure, but the dark cocoa really provides that wonderful bittersweet flavor), instant espresso powder (to bump up the chocolate even more), salt, and 3 large egg yolks in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisked together, these ingredients form a slightly dry, grainy texture akin to wet sand, but once you gently whisk in whole milk and heavy whipping cream, no worries – it all starts to incorporate and smooth out. A fellow BSM blogger mentioned in her blog that it resembles dark hot chocolate to begin with, and it does. Cook this over medium heat until it starts to bubble and thicken up – and believe me, you will want to, and need to, keep whisking to keep the pudding from developing hot spots and scorching to the bottom. Be diligent, keeping a watchful eye, and don’t walk away from the pot. I usually use a combination of whisk and silicone spatula to scrape up the pudding from the bottom as it cooks.
Once the cooked pudding is removed from the heat, even more delicious bittersweet chocolate – 8 ounces, to be exact – is melted in to make the mixture even more decadent. As this recipe is truly focused on chocolate, use the best chocolate you can reasonably afford. Don’t break the bank, but do what you can, as it makes all the difference. I recently started investing in pound-sized chunks of Callebaut bittersweet chocolate from Whole Foods. While the extra money shelled out was a tough thing for me to swallow initially, the results truly are worth it. I tossed some Ghirardelli bittersweet baking chips into this pudding and they were terrific, but I can only imagine how fantastic the Callebaut might have tasted in this. Typically, I would argue that anything “s’mores” really only deserves milk chocolate – and not dark or bittersweet. (Did you ever try s’mores with Hershey’s Special Dark bars? Yuck.) When it comes to chocolate, I go dark/bittersweet most all the time. With s’mores, I make an exception: only Hershey’s milk chocolate will really do. It’s a nostalgic taste that seems only essential. I had to stash these thoughts to the side with this pudding, however, and I’m glad I did. This pudding screams for sultry, smoky dark chocolate (though I wouldn’t be averse to experimenting with milk chocolate in this recipe sometime).
I should mention that – oh yes – butter and whiskey are also folded into the warm pudding at this point for an extra hit of fabulous flavor. Chocolate and whiskey are truly a seductive pairing – as I discovered with the luxurious Simple Chocolate Whiskey Tart a while back. I’ve developed more of a taste for whiskey in recent years, and – at Baked’s recommendation – I usually bake with (and yes, make cocktails with) Knob Creek Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, which I used in this pudding. I love its smoky and somewhat sharp flavor. I know bourbon whiskey is not for everyone. Instead, I would suggest a good Irish whiskey like Jameson or Concannon. I’ll be honest; I get a little concerned about adding alcohol to warm, cooked mixtures right off the stove, as I worry the boozy flavor will immediately evaporate once it hits even a slight heat. I tasted the pudding after adding the whiskey, and felt it was a bit too subtle, so I added an extra tablespoon of whiskey (for a total of 3!). My initial concerns may have proved unnecessary. While this pudding chills in the fridge, the whiskey flavor deepens – so my puddings were exceptionally boozy. I liked them that way, though, so absolutely no regrets here!
I decided to assemble my puddings in some small, wide-mouthed Kerr mason jars I had handy, for a rustic look. I love Baked’s suggestion to serve the puddings in an assortment of vintage-style containers. You will need six dishes or containers, and do your very best to layer and distribute evenly. First, a layer of chocolate pudding is laid in the bottom of the dish, topped with a strata of crunchy graham crumbs. A final dollop of chocolate pudding tops the graham layer, and with a small piece of plastic wrap pressed firmly onto the tops of each pudding to prevent a skin formation, these gems are placed in the fridge to cool down and muddle flavors for while. I put mine in the fridge overnight, which worked well. With the crispness of the graham layer, you won’t want to keep these around too long, or the crumbs might absorb the moisture from the pudding and turn soggy… but trust me, these are so delicious, they won’t last long.
The glorious finishing touch to the s’mores pudding is a homemade toasted marshmallow creme swirl spiked with a whisper more of whiskey. What would something “s’mores” be without the requisite torched marshmallow, right? Don’t be daunted by making your own marshmallow creme; you may be surprised how easy it is. Remember those egg yolks you used in the pudding? I hope you saved 2 of your egg whites; you’ll whisk these with sugar, water, corn syrup and whiskey in a mixing bowl set over some simmering water (to safely “cook” the egg whites a touch). Once this mixture is warmed up nice and hot and the sugar feels dissolved, you’ll transfer the bowl to your mixer with the whisk attachment and whip it up to a fluffy cloud of stiff, satiny meringue. Remove your puddings from the fridge, and top each with a healthy slathering of this gooey, dreamy meringue. For the final pièce de résistance, get out your handy kitchen torch and toast that marshmallow topping off. I like burnt marshmallows in my s’mores myself, so I made sure there were some good burnt spots on a couple of these!
Now, I realize that I started out this blog saying this pudding is simple… yet my writing became quite lengthy in describing the process of making this recipe. I do advise you give this recipe a whirl, however, if anything about it even remotely intrigues you. It is fabulous in every sense of the word. As you dip your spoon down into the cup, you first hit the sweet, toasty marshmallow, followed by the deep, dark chocolate tinged with smoky whiskey, then the spicy, crunchy graham cracker crumbs… on my. Sinful. Try your best to get all three textures in one bite. You owe it to yourself. This is easily a romantic dessert, where one serving of pudding can be shared by two, snuggled under a blanket by a cozy fire… or even in front of the TV. Jake and I each polished off our own individual serving immediately after I assembled these, but with stomachs full of decadent pudding, we decided that one serving could easily be shared or savored over time, as they’re pretty rich. I would argue that the sugary marshmallow topping might be a little much, and next time, I may not pile as much on each serving – but this is really a minor gripe. There wasn’t much about this treat we didn’t like. I’m thrilled that it was our final recipe to go out of Baked Elements on, as it was a wonderful finale-type recipe that I’ve only come to expect from the Baked guys. So incredibly good.
Follow this link to make your own pudding:
…and please be kind and visit the blogs of my fantastic fellow bakers by checking out the “Leave Your Links” page for this particular recipe as well. It’s always interesting to see how the other bakers fared, and let me tell you – this is a pretty talented group of folks working on these recipes together. I’m privileged to be among their company, and so happy to have made some new friendships with many of them, especially after meeting a few of them only recently in NYC.
Now that we’ve completed Baked Elements, here’s a little wrap-up of my personal favorites among those I made… along with some of my least favorites.
THE WINNERS: Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones, Lemon Shaker Pie, Antique Caramel Cake, Triple Rum Black Pepper Cake, Simple Chocolate Whiskey Tart with Whiskey Whipped Cream, Whiskey Peach Upside-Down Cake, S’Mores-Style Chocolate Whiskey Pudding, Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Chocolate-Chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Pumpkin Harvest Dunking Cookies, Devil Dogs with Malted Buttercream Filling, Malted Milk Chocolate Pots de Crème, Spicy Brownies, Brown Butter Snickerdoodles, Orange Almond Ricotta Cheesecake, Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes, Chewy Chocolate Mint Cookies with Chocolate Chunks, Honey Banana Poppy Seed Bread
LEAST FAVORITES (because “Losers” just sounds too mean): Good Morning Sunshine Bars, Bale Bars (these were just inedible to me), Lemon Pistachio Cornmeal Muffins, Alfajores, Brooksters, Chocolate Banana Tart
The Elements chapter with the most personal favorites: BOOZE (go figure!)
Of course, these are not all of the recipes I made out of Elements, just the ones that stood out to me the strongest either way! So far, out of all Baked’s books, Baked Explorations still stands out as my favorite (their second book), with their first, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, not too far behind. I find that I bake most frequently out of these two. I particularly appreciated Baked Elements, however, for how it spotlighted Matt and Renato’s favorite ingredients in their own separate ingredient chapters. I loved that we shared so many common favorites – in particular: booze, citrus, caramel, cinnamon, cheese, CHOCOLATE (of course), and pumpkin – but I was also challenged to try some recipes with ingredients I typically do not like – nuts, malt, bananas (though I still didn’t really appreciate that bananas chapter too much). I also have a little bit of a soft spot for this book, as it was just published when I first met Matt and Renato in person in Woodstock, IL. I’m looking forward to diving into Baked Occasions next. I may not be contributing and/or following along with Baked Sunday Mornings with as much frequency, but since we are heading back into an every-two-weeks baking and blogging schedule, it may prove more manageable. Along the way, I will let you know which recipes I was lucky enough to test, and you may just get a glimpse of some photos from my initial testings!
Until next time, good friends… Happy Baking (as always)! Now, go and make these puddings!