I love me some Italian food, like most sane, interesting people who have a soul. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about pasta, pizza, and many other aspects of this succulent cuisine, but I admit that when I first looked at the title of this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings recipe for Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Budino, I had no idea what a ‘budino’ was! According to Baked Explorations, it is synonymous with… *drumroll please*… PUDDING. Yup– that humble, all-American dessert that most people buy in boxes of “instant” powder or pre-packaged cups. I’m not sure if Italians would necessarily agree with this comparison, but I’ll go with it for the sake of this recipe.
I don’t believe I’ve ever cooked homemade pudding before, and honestly, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to make this one, but as usual, I’m glad I tried something new. I mean, really, there’s nothing not to like here– vanilla bean and milk chocolate puddings layered together in creamy, comforting goodness. I would say this is one of those quietly elegant, understated desserts that can be served in a variety of settings from after-school snack to après-dinner party.
Despite a number of dishes to clean up, the pudding is rather easy to make, and it’s nice that you make only one batch which is split between the vanilla and chocolate flavoring agents. The vanilla beans are combined with bourbon, always a nice combination, though I used a scant tablespoon because I don’t like my desserts super boozy. In contrast, I have a torrid love affair with vanilla, so I was excited that this recipe called for an actual vanilla bean, versus the more typical vanilla extract.
For the chocolate half, it’s important to use good-quality chocolate, as this is a starring ingredient. I used one of my favorites, Elite chocolate from Israel (affectionately known as “cow chocolate”), though I bought these particular bars here. I’m pretty sure these were less chocolaty than the bars that I brought back from Israel a couple of months ago, as they seem lighter in color and weaker in chocolate potency… hmm…
The budino is made by cooking a milk/sugar/cornstarch base, then adding it to an egg/cream mixture in order to temper the eggs.
There were no complications to report in making the budino, though after blending the base with the vanilla and chocolate ingredients, the mixtures were slightly lumpy with bits of egg, cornstarch, and vanilla pod, so I decided to strain them through fine-mesh sieves for a smoother texture. (Two more bowls and strainers to wash!) The finished puddings were thick, but still quite pourable. The chocolate mixture was much lighter in color and flavor than I would have liked, so I will make sure to use a much darker milk chocolate next time, such as TCHO “SeriousMilk” 39% Chocolate Discs. The bourbon-vanilla mixture, on the other hand, was beautifully speckled with those lovely vanilla beans!
The budino is meant to be served in 8 wide-mouthed serving glasses to show off the layers of pudding, which I don’t have, so I decided to use wine goblets. The recipe says to divide the vanilla pudding among the serving vessels, chill for 20 minutes, and then layer the chocolate on top and re-chill; I wanted to come up with a pretty and creative presentation, but the picture in my head unfortunately did not come to be. My idea was to swirl the two puddings together or create multiple layers; I remembered that I have pastry bags that are split into two compartments, allowing one to pipe two completely different substances side-by-side through a single opening at the bottom. These are very tricky and awkward to fill, but I used my recently-acquired pastry bag holder, which worked really well to keep the bag upright. (I also folded over the open tip and secured it with a small binder clip to prevent the puddings from pouring out.)
This seemed promising, and I had visions of creamy, pillowy swirls layered in my wine glasses, like luscious frozen yogurt. But… no. The puddings were way too liquidy to hold any kind of shape; both flavors basically poured right out of the bag. I tried to “pipe” them in a circular motion at least, but there was very little discernible design. Despite this, I was hopeful that the budino would taste great, and off to the fridge the glasses went to chill for a couple of hours.
In the meantime, I made some fresh whipped cream and prepared cocoa powder as a garnish.
I hadn’t really thought about it, as most of the pudding I’ve eaten in my life has come out of a small plastic cup, but apparently people have very strong feelings about “skin or no skin” on their pudding. I guess I prefer no skin, but it was too awkward to cover the budino surface directly inside the wine glasses, so I took my chances with the skin. (If you ask me, the whole issue just sounds dirty…)
The time had come to dive into the budino. Perhaps I’m still pining for the ever-so-lovely Malted Milk Chocolate Pots de Crème from January, but this dessert was rather anticlimactic for me. It’s not really a fair comparison, as they are not the same thing at all; nevertheless, I found the pudding to be lacking in flavor, and the texture was… grainy? mealy? course? I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but it definitely did not possess the smooth, rich mouthfeel that I expected in a pudding.
The lack of flavor punch was probably due in part to the weak chocolate bar, but I still don’t think it would have made a world of difference. Fortunately, the whipped cream helped with both flavor and texture. Now, if you are a pudding enthusiast, which I am not, you may absolutely love this dish, and I encourage you to try it. For me, it’s not one of my favorites from BAKED.
Visit Baked Sunday Mornings for the Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Budino recipe, and see how my baking buddies liked it as well!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.