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Archive for June 26, 2013

FOOD HOLIDAY: National Chocolate Pudding Day & Best Chocolate Pudding Recipe

From-scratch chocolate pudding. Photo by
Bonchan | IST.


June 26th is National Chocolate Pudding Day. If you don’t already make chocolate pudding from scratch, it’s the day to discover this intense, creamy chocolate delight.

Sure, instant pudding is tasty. But imagine how much better it is made from scratch, with quality chocolate.

Here‘s the recipe our Nana lovingly made for us, every week. We’d try to get there twice a week, we loved it so much. (It wasn’t just the pudding; we loved Nana, too.)

We got to scrape the pot and eat the hot pudding remnants from a spatula: It is equally delicious hot/warm or chilled.

Remember: The better the chocolate. the better the pudding. Look for 100% cacao (i.e., unsweetened) chocolate in stores that sell gourmet chocolate.

You can substitute higher-cacao sweetened chocolate (75% or higher) and cut out a teaspoon or two of the sugar in the recipe.


Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional for a richer pudding: 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: crème fraîche, mascarpone, shaved chocolate curls, whipped cream,

    1. SCALD 2 cups milk with chocolate in the top of a double boiler or a glass bowl set over a saucepan of lightly simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the top pan or glass bowl). Beat until smooth.

    2. COMBINE cornstarch, sugar and salt. Stir in cold milk. Add to scalded milk and cook 15 minutes in double boiler. Stir constantly until mixture thickens; then stir occasionally.

    3. COOL slightly and add vanilla. Fold in optional heavy cream.

    4. SERVE warm or chilled.



    If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy a delicious chocolate pudding—dairy free! This budino, the Italian word for pudding, was created by Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, stars of Cooking Channel’s show, Extra Virgin. They used House Foods’ premium soft (silken) tofu.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao or
    higher), chopped
  • 1 package (14 ounces) soft/silken tofu

    Dairy-free chocolate pudding. Photo courtesy House Foods.


    1. COMBINE sugar, water and cocoa in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and cool slightly. Stir in vanilla.

    2. MELT chocolate in a double boiler or a glass bowl set over a saucepan of lightly simmering water.

    3. ADD both mixtures plus tofu into a blender or food processor; purée until completely smooth.

    4. DIVIDE the chocolate mixture among ramekins and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to overnight.


    Conquistadors brought “chocolatl” (the Aztec spelling, pronounced cho-co-LAH-tay) from Mexico to Spain in 1528. Originally a bitter drink mixed with cornmeal and spices, it was up to Spanish chefs to find different ways to make chocolate more palatable. For starters, they sweetened it.

    About this heavily taxed import, one official of the time commented, “None but the rich and noble could afford to drink chocolatl as it was literally drinking money. Cocoa passed currency as money among all nations; thus a rabbit in Nicaragua sold for 10 cocoa nibs, and 100 of these seeds could buy a tolerably good slave.”

    Over time, this costly ingredient was used to flavor custards and other puddings. Solid chocolate was not “invented” until 1847, in England (here’s the history of chocolate timeline).

    “Pudding” means different things in different countries. There are two basic types:

  • The recipe is boiled then chilled, essentially a custard set with starch. This is the style commonly eaten in the U.S., Canada, Sweden, and East/Southeast Asia.
  • The recipe is steamed or baked into a texture similar to cake. This is the style in the British Commonwealth. If you order pudding of any kind in the U.K., Australia or New Zealand, expect cake instead of a creamy pudding.


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    PRODUCT: New McDonald’s Quarter Pounders

    Front and center: Bacon Habañero Ranch,
    Bacon & Cheese and Deluxe Quarter
    Pounders. Photo courtesy McDonalds.


    We don’t often head to McDonald’s to have a burger: Our neighborhood is dotted with gourmet burger emporia that command our attention.

    But one of Mickey D’s new Quarter Pounders will have us stopping in more frequently.

    Updating the Quarter Pounder menu—the QP was introduced more than 40 years ago—are three new varieties with different toppings:

  • Bacon Habañero Ranch Quarter Pounder Burger, with white cheddar, thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and a spicy habanero ranch sauce.
  • Deluxe Quarter Pounder Burger, with American cheese, tomato, lettuce, crinkle-cut pickle slices, red onion, mayonnaise and mustard.

  • Bacon & Cheese Quarter Pounder Burger, with the thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, American cheese, crinkle cut pickle slices, red onion, ketchup, and mustard (it’s the Deluxe with bacon plus ketchup instead of mayonnaise.
  • The classic Quarter Pounder Burger With Cheese—two slices of cheese, onions and pickles—is still available.

    While each will have its fans, to us the Bacon Habañero Ranch Quarter Pounder Burger is tops. We’re more than happy that “hot and spicy” is now a menu option at the world‘s second largest restaurant chain*.

    The spicy hot habanero ranch sauce is so enjoyable that we’ll be making a simple version at home: Mix mayonnaise, ranch dressing or Russian dressing sriracha† or other hot sauce.

    The new burgers are available at participating locations for a recommended price of $3.99. We’re lovin’ it.
    *Subway is the world’s largest restaurant chain.

    †Sriracha is a hot chili sauce from Thailand. It is made from sun-ripened chile peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It can be found in the Asian aisle of some supermarkets, in Asian grocery stores and online.


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    PRODUCT: Awake Chocolate, Caffeinated

    Now you can roll out of bed in the morning and…have a bar of chocolate?

    Awake Chocolate, created by three friends in Toronto, contains the same caffeine kick as a 20-ounce cup of coffee or a 250ml energy drink.

    Alas, compared to calorie-free or low-cal cup of coffee (that is, unless you start piling on the sugar), it has the same calories as a bar of chocolate. Let us hastily add that the company doesn’t propose a chocolate bar for breakfast. Rather, it’s intended as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

    Depending on where you buy your coffee, it might be a cost-effective alternative: $2.49 per 44g bar.

    The bar launched last summer in Canada, and is now entering the U.S. with two flavors: Milk Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Caramel—a thin layer of caramel in the center.


    In milk chocolate and milk chocolate caramel. Photo courtesy Awake Chocolate.


    While the Milk Chocolate Caramel is much sweeter (think Hershey bar), it has more chocolate flavor than the plain Milk Chocolate. Perhaps we got a bar from an aberrant batch?


    Inside the wrapper: 4 bites of caffeinated chocolate. Photo courtesy Awake Chocolate.



    A 44g bar, 230 calories, contains 101 mg of caffeine, plus the ingredients found in a typical newsstand chocolate bar: sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, cocoa powder, skim milk, soy lecithin, artificial vanilla flavor), succinylated mono- and diglycerides.


    Awake belongs to a category called functional food: products that contain an ingredient or ingredients that provide nutrition or other benefit(s) beyond what is provided by the traditional varieties of said food. Examples include orange juice with calcium, probiotic yogurt and vitamin-enhanced water.


    Of course, when you’re in need of a jolt of caffeine, you might not care about the source.

    Learn more on the company website,


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    JULY 4TH GIFT: Red, White & Blue Macarons

    If you need a snazzy July 4th gift, these red, white and blue macarons are sure to impress.

    From one of our favorite chocolatiers, Richart, they are made with the finest ingredients, including Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar.

    A gift box of 12 macarons is $18.00; a large box of 25 macarons is $37.00. Buy them at

    What’s the difference?

    The original macarons were made by Italian monks of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar.


    Red, white and blue macarons. Photo courtesy Richart Chocolate.

    The name comes from the Italian maccarone or maccherone, derived from ammaccare, meaning to crush or beat. It refers to the crushed almonds that are the principal ingredient.

    Theose maccarone were the ancestors of today’s Amaretti cookies, which were created by Francesco Moriondo, pastry chef of the Court of Savoy, in the mid-17th century.

    Because they contained no flour, macaroons were kosher for Passover. At some point, the Jews of Europe incorporated shredded coconut to make a more cakelike coconut macaroon.

    During the French Revolution (1789-1799), two nuns seeking asylum in the town of Nancy paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaroon cookies—or macarons, pronounced mah-kah-RONE in French.

    Today’s popular gourmet French cookie sandwich called macaron—two meringues sandwiched with ganache—was invented by Parisian pastry chef Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée at the beginning of the 20th century. Over the years, he developed many flavors of macarons—from cassis to violet. If you’re in Paris or New York City, stop into his stores to see the rainbow of airy delights.

    Here’s the whole history of macarons.


    Check out some of the world’s most popular cookies in our delicious Cookie Glossary.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cheese Flag For July 4th

    Cheese flag photo courtesy Vermont
    Farmstead Cheese Co.


    You can fly the flag on July 4th, and you can eat it too.

    This tasty flag was created by Vermont Farmstead Cheese Co., an award-winning creamery in Woodstock, Vermont. The creamery specializes in Cheddar, Edam, Tilsit and WindsorDale (based on a 1800 farmhouse Wensleydale recipe).

    You can make your own flag cheese plate with:

  • Cubes of one or several different white cheeses.
  • Red “stripes” made of cherry tomatoes, peppadews and/or red bell pepper strips.
  • A dish of blueberries in the “stars” field, or cubes of blue cheese.
  • A plate of white crackers on the side—ideally these star-shaped crackers.
  • For a red, white and blue-ish cracker effect, look for different colored rice crackers. You can find them in pink, white and black (we love them!).

    If you don’t have a large, white rectangular plate, use a rectangular baking pan. If it isn’t in gleaming condition, cover it with foil.

    Play John Philip Sousa marches as you prepare the food.


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