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Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #4 and Creamy Chocolate Pudding

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So now that we’ve reached the ripe old age of three, it seems like a good time to get back to basics.

And one of the most basic dessert skills is making home-made pudding. We’re not talking about the powder in a box/slosh in some milk pudding mix. We’re talking about eggs and corn starch and tempering and raise the heat slowly so as not to scorch it pudding.

I bet there are a lot of people out there who have never made pudding from scratch, either because they are intimidated by the idea or because they think using a pudding mix is a whole lot easier. But home-made pudding is not that difficult, and the results are worth the effort.

And for this back-to-basics exercise, we’re going to sweeten the pot (so to speak) by giving you a recipe for Creamy Chocolate Pudding. This pudding is so rich it is delicious by itself, or it can be used in a pie or a parfait or mini-pastries. See, that’s the thing–once you’ve made home-made pudding, you’ll be looking for excuses to use it in all sorts of recipes.

Or just make a batch and eat it all right out of the pot. That’s O.K. too.

creamy chocolate pudding

Creamy Chocolate Pudding

2 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons cornstarch

3 cups whole milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

pinch of salt

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

whipped cream to garnish

Add the egg yolks and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients together, then stir in the cornstarch. The mixture will be pretty thick. Set aside.

Add the whole milk, semisweet chips, and salt to a pot and place over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly until the chocolate melts. Temper the eggs by scooping 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture and whisk into the egg yolk batter. Once this is well incorporated, whisk in another 1/4 cup. Once the egg yolk batter is warmed, pour it back into the melted chocolate and whisk all ingredients together. Continue to whisk this mixture constantly, over medium heat until mixture is thickened, or about 5 minutes. Once the mixture begins to bubble, stir constantly for 1 more minute. Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Divide this mixture between 4 cups. Place plastic wrap directly on pudding (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Serve pudding chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

Makes 4 1-cup servings.

homemade chocolate pudding

{Adapted from Recipe Girl}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #4, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #4, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #39 and Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

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A lot of good things have come out of Boston. The Red Sox and the Celtics are obvious candidates, Paul Revere and John Adams if you want to talk history, Aerosmith or The Cars if you want to talk rock and roll.

But this is a cooking blog and I’d better switch over to cuisine before I offend someone or get into a fight.

On the food side of the ledger, Boston boasts such specialties as Boston baked beans, corned beef and cabbage on St. Patty’s Day, and baked scrod (at least that was a regional specialty when I used to hang out in those parts). But my all time favorite Boston specialty (even better than Faneuil Hall Marketplace or the North End or the swan boats in the Public Garden) is Boston Cream Pie. For all I know, this isn’t even originally from Boston. But I don’t care! It’s the best dessert in the world and it has the name Boston in it, so it has to be the best thing to ever come out of Boston.

So there.

And to celebrate this marvelous mixture of cake, pudding, and chocolate, this week’s recipe is Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes. This recipe turns the large scale, fairly ambitious dessert into a more manageable quantity and undertaking, and makes it in single serving sizes.

If you’ve ever had this dessert, you know it’s a winner. If not, give it a try tonight. You’ll be glad you did!

(Go Sox! Oh yeah, baseball season is over. Well, there’s always next year.)

boston cream pie cupcakes

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

1 egg

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

3 Tablespoons milk

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 vanilla pudding cups

2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease 6 muffin cups in your muffin pan, and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a larger bowl, add the egg and granulated sugar and vigorously whisk until the mixture becomes a pale yellow and thick. Add the melted butter, milk, and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Whisk in the dry ingredients until the cake batter comes together and no lumps remain.

Divide the batter between the 6 greased muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, or until they just start to turn golden brown. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, cut each in half horizontally. Divide the two pudding cups between 6 cupcakes halves, spooning and spreading the pudding evenly. Top the pudding with the remaining cupcake halves.

Make the chocolate topping by heating the chocolate chips and milk in a microwave safe bowl for about 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate melts. Drizzle this mixture over top of each cupcake.

Serve immediately. Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator. Cupcakes are best eaten within 2-3 days.

Makes 6 cupcakes.

mini boston cream pie

{Adapted from Martha Stewart}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #39, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #39, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #24 and Tiramisu for Two

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Don’t you love the word “tiramisu”?

It sounds like the name of a heroine from a Renaissance ballad, outwitting lecherous barons left and right to escape with her true love, a dashing but impoverished country boy who turns out to be a prince in disguise testing to see if her love is sincere and when he realizes it is revealing his true identity and asking for her hand in marriage that she might become his princess and they can live happily ever after.

Whew! Sorry about that. Got a little carried away. The word “tiramisu” does that to me–so exotic and somehow romantic and enticing.

And the dessert behind the word is even better, if that’s possible. There are about a million versions of tiramisu out there. Our Tiramisu for Two is both easy and delicious. And because it makes only two generous servings (did I mention romantic dinner by candlelight?), you don’t have to worry about the leftovers getting soggy.

And if you want, you can make another batch for tomorrow night, using the leftover vanilla pudding. And maybe this time you will get to eat both, while you read our serialized novel, Two Sisters Times Two. Romance is fine now and then, but it’s hard to beat a quiet night alone with a good book.

tiramisu for 2

Tiramisu for Two

ladyfinger cookies*

2 Tablespoons hot water

1 teaspoon instant coffee

1 small box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix

2 cups cold milk

1 cup whipped cream or whipped topping

2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

tiramisu for two

Layer three ladyfinger cookies into the bottom of each serving dish. If you need to, break up the lady fingers so that the entire bottom of the dish is covered.

Mix together the hot water and instant coffee. Divide this mixture between the two dishes and drizzle over the cookies.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the pudding mix and milk until thickened. Allow the pudding to sit for 5 minutes. You will only need half of the pudding; place other half in refrigerator for later use. Fold the whipped cream into the pudding until well mixed. Divide this mixture between the two serving dishes, layering on top of coffee soaked cookies.

Sprinkle cocoa powder over top of pudding, using a sifter. This will help avoid clumps of cocoa powder. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. When you are ready to serve, top each dish with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with mint.

Makes 2 desserts.

*My local grocery store doesn’t carry ladyfinger cookies, so I used vanilla wafers. I put 5 vanilla wafers in each dish.

tiramisu

{Adapted from Kraft}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #24 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #24, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #24, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #18 and Banana Pudding Cupcakes

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There are universal desserts and regional desserts. Some of the universal (or nearly so) desserts are vanilla ice cream, apple pie, chocolate-chip cookies, brownies. Some well-known regional specialties include New York cheesecake, key-lime pie, bourbon pecan pie, tiramisu.

But our all-time favorite regional dessert (that is hardly regional anymore as everyone everywhere has discovered it) is banana pudding!

Except there’s one problem. Well, two problems really. Banana pudding is messy to serve and hard to keep. You need bowls and spoons and a big wad of napkins to eat it. And a day after it’s made, those banana pieces start to turn black; and that is not all that appetizing (like time to toss the rest in the trash crying all the while).

But Reading and Recipes has the perfect solution to these two drawbacks: Banana Pudding Cupcakes! Gone is the messiness of serving and eating (unless that little smudge of frosting on your upper lip is messy, but I say it’s cute). And you don’t have to worry about these cupcakes going bad after a day or two, if any of them last that long.

So give this new spin on a regional specialty a try. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too, or your pudding and eat it too, or your pudding-cake and eat it too, or your cake-pudding and eat it too.

(Guess I should give up trying to be witty and just stick to writing intros.)

banana pudding cupcake Banana Pudding Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons Nilla Wafer crumbs plus more for topping

1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg white

1/2 of a small ripe banana, mashed (a scant 1/4 cup of mashed banana)

2 Tablespoons buttermilk

For the frosting:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 vanilla pudding cup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

banana pudding cupcakes

To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 muffin cups or line with paper liners.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, Nilla Wafer crumbs, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.

In another mixing bowl, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg white and beat until well mixed. Stir in the mashed banana, mixing until fully incorporated. Add the dry ingredients, slowly mixing into the cake batter. Last, stir in the buttermilk until just mixed in.

Divide the batter between the three muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake in preheated oven for 20-24 minutes, or until tops begin to turn golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by combining the butter and 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Beat in the pudding cup, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir in 1/4 cup or more of powdered sugar, until your desired consistency and flavor is met. Store the frosting in the refrigerator until cupcakes are cooled. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost and sprinkle with Nilla Wafer crumbs. Store cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Makes 3 cupcakes.

banan pudding cupcake bite

{Cupcakes adapted from Cooking Classy}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #18 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #18, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #18, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #12 and Southern Buttermilk Peach Pudding Cake

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It’s June! Does that produce a “Yay!” or a “Yuck!” for you?

I suppose it all depends on your preference and your locale. For many, June marks the start of summer. And some of us have had an early taste of that season with the sun beating down and temps in the 90s (or hotter–yikes!). But for those in the Southern Hemisphere, June means the start of winter! Either way, it’s a watershed month. Soon your days will be getting shorter, or longer.

Whether June is a yay or a nay for you, Reading and Recipes has a yummy summer recipe to help you along. This Southern (as in the United States) Buttermilk Peach Pudding Cake will be a great way to use some of those local peaches that are just beginning to ripen in the Deep South and will soon be available in many areas.

And, thanks to global distribution of fresh produce, you can enjoy this taste of summer almost anywhere in the world. Bake the Peach Pudding Cake, turn on your sunlamp, break out the kiddie pool, buy a couple bags of sand from the local home improvement store, and pretend you are at the beach–with sunglasses, shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops–even if it’s snowing outside and you’re hiding out in your basement.

In Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #12, Brooke and Leah and Jodie and Penni have all gathered at the beach. The weather is cold and blustery, and the tone ominous. Brooke has called her sister and two daughters from across the country to a lonely cottage at the end of an island to share some important news. But the other three don’t yet know what this news is. Give this segment a listen or read to see the different ways these women react to the growing tension and concern.

buttermilk peach puddingSouthern Buttermilk Peach Pudding Cake

4 medium fresh peaches, peeled, cored and sliced*

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

peach pudding cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch round pan and set aside.

Place half of the peaches into a food processor. Process until smooth. Pour in the buttermilk and vanilla, and process until ingredients are mixed together. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, or about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until incorporated and the batter turns a pale yellow. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger. Add about 1/3 of this dry mixture to the creamed butter and stir in. Add half of the peach puree and stir into batter. Repeat this process, mixing in the final 1/3 of dry ingredients last.

Layer remaining peach slices into prepared baking pan. Pour batter over top of slice peaches. Bake the pudding for 25-30 minutes, or until the pudding is set. Allow pudding to cool slightly. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.

Makes 6-8 servings.

*Use any variety of peaches you can find–just make sure they are ripe! My store only had nectarines in stock, but the recipe still turned out delicate and delicious.

buttermilk peach pudding cake

{Adapted from Robert Stehling, Hominy Grill, Charleston, SC, Southern Living Magazine Sept 2011}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #12 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #12, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #12, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters, Serial #34 and Mini Chocolate Pies

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Did you ever have a special treat when you were a kid? O.K., so you’re still a kid. Do you have a special treat now, one that just the thought of puts a smile on your face?

Well, for me that treat is chocolate pie. It’s not that chocolate pie is the richest or most decadent or exotic or flavorful dessert I’ve ever had. Far from it. Nor is it exactly a comfort dessert (bread pudding would fill that bill for me).

But there’s something about chocolate pie that makes me all happy inside, and that’s before I eat it!

And it seems to us here at Reading and Recipes that we all need something to put a smile on our faces as we slog through these last weeks of a too long winter. Or for y’all in the Southern Hemisphere, maybe you’re worn out by a long and too hot summer! Or maybe you’re feeling the blahs in the lull between Valentine’s Day and Saint Patty’s. Or a crunch at work. Or mid-terms at school. Or the kids are home sick (now hey, these chocolate pies will put a smile on their faces!).

Whatever your doldrums, chocolate pie is the cure. You don’t even have to eat them.

(But go ahead and eat one. You need the boost.)

mini chocolate cream pies

Mini Chocolate Pies

1 package mini graham cracker crusts (6 total)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups milk*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

whipped topping

mini chocolate cream pie

Over a small pan, sift together the granulated sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in the milk until no clumps remain. Heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to simmer. Reduce heat to low and whisk mixture for another minute, until it becomes glossy and thickened. Remove the mixture from the stove and stir in the vanilla extract and butter.

Divide the pudding between the six graham cracker crusts. Put the mini pies on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap, ensuring to press plastic wrap directly onto pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. When ready to serve, remove the pies from the refrigerator and garnish with whipped topping.

Makes 6 mini pies.

*Be sure to use dairy milk. (I used 1% in this recipe.) Using non-dairy milk, such as almond or soy milk, will result in a filling that does not thicken properly.

chocolate cream pie

{Adapted from Dessert for Two}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #34 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #34, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #34, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Angels Unawares, Serial #20 and Very Berry Chocolate Parfait

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Every once in a while a diversity of pleasures comes together in the perfect combination, and you feel like for just that moment you can have it all–like sitting out on the patio with a light breeze blowing and the irises and lilacs blooming and filling the air with a sweet fragrance and the sun setting in a rainbow of pastels and the evening songbirds calling back and forth. Ah, yes, you can have it all. Or lying out on the beach, the morning sun warm but not too hot on your skin, the sand cool around your toes, the sound of the waves lapping, the gulls calling, the smell of salt on the breeze. Sometimes you can have it all.

This Very Berry Chocolate Parfait aspires to such lofty heights. It’s easy and quick to make, giving immediate (or nearly so) gratification. It’s healthy, with the vitamins and nutrition of fresh fruit and yogurt. It’s got the indulgence of chocolate (got to have that in any dream dessert). It has a variety of textures and flavors, but is also cool and creamy. And to top it all off (the rest isn’t enough?) it’s very pretty and multi-colored in the glass–just before it disappears into your mouth.

Maybe this Very Berry Chocolate Parfait isn’t quite the same as a perfect morning on the beach, but at least you don’t have to slather on sunscreen or worry about the kid upwind throwing sand in the air that ends up in your face. These perfect moments are difficult to find and more difficult to preserve. Go for the sure thing: Very Berry Chocolate Parfait!

parfait

Very Berry Chocolate Parfait

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

4 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 cup Cool Whip, thawed

1 cup mixed berries 

1/3 cup chocolate wafer crumbs

fruit parfait

In a small bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt, cocoa powder, and sugar until well blended. Fold in the Cool Whip.

To assemble the parfaits, spoon some of the chocolate wafer crumbs into the bottom of two glasses. Top with the chocolate yogurt mixture, and then with some of the fruit. Repeat these layers. Top the last layer of fruit with a dollop of Cool Whip. Eat immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Makes 2 parfaits.

bite of parfait

Click below to listen to or read Serial #20 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #20, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #20, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!