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You know you love your great aunt's banana bread, but you probably don't know why you do. In Modern Comfort, Ashley Rodriguez from Not Without Salt figures out what makes our favorite classics work, and then makes them even better.
Today: New-and-improved pudding Snack Packs, minus the little plastic cup and plus a whole lot of adult sophistication.
When I was growing up, spending a night over at my cousin's house was a regular affair. The pestering my mother endured from me was enough to make anyone succumb to the demands.
Sure, I loved going there to play with my cousin, wade through their creek, and ascend the massive tree in her front yard, but the real reason for my persuasive urging was mostly because I loved my aunt’s lunches.
For school lunches, my aunt would stuff those brown paper bags so full they couldn’t possibly be folded over at the top. There were cans of soda wrapped in aluminum foil, Handi-Snacks tucked into the corner alongside Fruit Roll-Ups and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread. But I always saved the Snack Packs for last because they were my favorite part. I’d slowly lap up each spoonful of sweet pudding, even missing a bit of recess for the sake of savoring this rare treat.
Many of my tastes have grown up right along with the rest of me, but my love of pudding remains. This recipe hints at all the good that I found in those pudding cups, yet there's a bit more adult sophistication—if only because it’s not consumed out of a small plastic cup.
Here, sweet and salty come together (as they should) with layers of chocolate and peanut butter pudding capped with cool whipped cream and caramel-coated pretzel sticks. A little dusting of flaky salt balances the sweetness and elevates this sack-lunch dessert to something worthy of ending a fine meal.
While my adult days are now balanced with many more vegetables and those sack-lunches of my childhood make me cringe, I still get giddy when pudding is nearby. But these days, I’d forgo the foil-topped Snack Packs for this homemade treat.
For the pudding:
cup cornstarch, divided
2/3 cup sugar, divided
6 cups whole milk, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
For the pretzels and assembly:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups pretzel sticks
Whipped cream, for serving
Flaky salt, for serving
All photos by Ashley Rodriguez