If you're becoming more ambitious with your after-dinner fare (or hoping that those who cook for you will do so), we recommend Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier ($29.95), by Isle au Haut dessert guru Kate Shaffer (who was recently named one of the top 10 chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professional magazine). Shaffer, whose Black Dinah chocolate creations are crafted on a small island off Maine's rocky coast, revels in what some consider to be an intimidating and fickle ingredient. She admits from the outset that "working with chocolate isn't exactly a walk in the park." But she urges us "to try to remember that the very best way in the world to learn anything is by screwing it up over and over and over again." And with that gentle encouragement, she guides the reader through recipes for truffles (Earl Grey! Wild Raspberry! Hazelnut Coffee!), as well as orange-scented chocolate-espresso cinnamon buns, chocolate pies and tarts, macarons with chocolate buttercream, and even chocolate-based (or -accented) sorbets and ice creams. For the home baker with patience and confidence, Desserted will produce delectable results.
Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding
Though my single mother did an admirable job of keeping us kids fueled-up on unprocessed foods and fresh vegetables, she had a few breaking points. They were: canned tomato soup, boxed macaroni and cheese, and Jell-O instant pudding. In fact, I remember more than a few post-work Monday-night meals that consisted of exactly these three items. Occasionally, even now as an adult, if I'm feeling like I need a little comfort food, these are my instant stand-bys. Luckily, the island store happens to stock all of these items, but even I can admit that there is nothing like pudding made from scratch. All the comfort, none of the chemicals. | Serves 6 to 8
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups milk
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped and melted
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped and melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium-size saucepan, whisk together the sugar, corn starch, salt, and egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in the milk, and then place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils.
Simmer for 1 minute, and then remove from the heat. Press this hot mixture through a sieve into a heat-proof bowl, and then stir in the chocolates, butter, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly until everything is melted and the pudding is smooth.
Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and place in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.
Serve the pudding in parfait glasses with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.