Last summer when I was making ice cream nearly every week, I discovered that the base of the chocolate ice cream that my family and friends love is a wonderfully smooth and rich chocolate pudding. I grew up on boxed cooked pudding (Royal, I think--terrible-- but not as bad as instant), so this was a revelation. The liqueur (in this case Frangelico, or hazelnut liqueur), adds a wonderful nutty flavor, but you can leave it out or substitute with the liquor of your choice. This is not exactly nursery food--it's a little rich and sophisticated for that--but it is very chocolatey and comforting, if chocolate is your thing. I like the pudding with a few flakes of fleur de sel sprinkled on top. 2014 update: I made some modifications, and used the pudding (without liqueur) in a chocolate cream pie. And had a little pudding left over, so there's a new (better) photo. —drbabs
4 (assuming you're sharing nicely)
3 cups whole milk, divided
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered espresso
1 pinch kosher salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces very good semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons Frangelico or liqueur of your choice
In a large saucepan heat 2 cups of milk, cocoa, sugar, salt, and espresso, whisking so that all ingredients are completely blended.
Whisk cornstarch into remaining milk until smooth and thoroughly incorporated. Stir this into chocolate mixture. Cook on medium-medium high heat, whisking constantly until the pudding begins to boil and becomes noticeably thicker. Turn heat down to medium-low, Continue whisking until it's so thick that the whisk leaves trails in the pudding (about 5 minutes).
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract, chopped chocolate and liqueur (if using), stirring until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is very smooth. Divide into individual ramekins and place plastic wrap or a parchment circle over the top, laying it flat against the surface of the pudding so that a skin doesn't form. Refrigerate till cold (if you can wait that long).