Simply stated, there is not one dessert on Earth I’d rather have on a regular basis than pudding; not even my beloved ice cream! I’ve loved pudding as long as I can remember, and I can’t think of a variety of pudding I dislike. All the puddings are well loved in my book, but mocha pudding holds a special spot near the top. When I discovered just how easy it was to make homemade pudding (and I don’t mean the stuff in the box, whether instant or cooked), it just fed my pudding fire. As long as you have milk, cornstarch, unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, and coffee extract (or instant coffee granules), you are just moments away from a perfect batch of Mocha Pudding Cups. Eat them warm for a seriously sophisticated and indulgent pudding experience, or chill them for a slightly more grown-up version of chocolate pudding cups.
Pudding makes me happy. Does that make me a child? I don’t think so. There’s something so comforting about pudding. It’s silky, creamy, and a purist’s dessert. It only has a handful of ingredients, so it lets each of them really shine through. Today’s pudding is a prime example: Rich Mocha Pudding Cups.
As the name suggests, these are the perfect marriage of chocolate and coffee. You all probably know by this point that I’m only an occasional coffee drinker. I love coffee but coffee doesn’t love me. Think heart palpitations, cold sweats, racing pulse, and general malaise and you’ll understand why I only give passing attention to the wonderful brew.
I do, however, find ways to sneak it into all sorts of desserts and baked goods as a background flavour. I find that a little undercurrent of coffee boosts chocolate in the most delightful way, and add it whenever I can. Pudding is an ideal place to drop in a little bumper or two of coffee.
I use coffee extract to accomplish the job, but in the absence of that, you can certainly use instant coffee granules.
The beauty of this recipe is in its simplicity. ALL of the ingredients are ones that are easily found at even the most rural, limited grocery store; milk, cornstarch, unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, salt, vanilla and coffee extracts (OR instant coffee granules.) Really, when you see how amazing this pudding turns out, you’ll never be able to consider a box of the pre-mixed stuff again. Besides the facts that this is every bit as easy to make as the boxed stuff and easier on the wallet, the homemade Rich Mocha Pudding Cups are SIGNIFICANTLY better for you by virtue of their utter lack of preservatives, artificial flavours, and artificial colours. Is it GOOD for you? Well, it’s how I get my daily dairy. In my world, that makes it health food.
- To measure your cornstarch and cocoa powder, use the dip, scatter, level method. In other words, use a second spoon to dip into the powder, sprinkle it over your measuring spoon, then use the flat handle to scrape across the spoon and level it. Don’t pack it into the spoon or shake it to level it… Either of those methods will compact the powder and throw off your measurement.
- Be sure the pan to which you’re adding your dry ingredients is bone dry and cool to the touch. You’re going to add all of your dry ingredients and whisk them together before introducing any liquids. Be sure to smoosh any visible lumps of either cornstarch or cocoa powder with your whisk. This helps prevent lumpy pudding. (Lumpy pudding = yuck, unless it’s rice or tapioca pudding, then carry on.)
- Let’s talk milk. You can choose any fat content you want, but it probably goes without saying that the higher the fat content, the silkier and richer your final pudding will be. Whole milk is my fave, but it can be made with 2%, 1%, or skim, as well. The lower the fat, the softer-set the pudding will end up being, too. You can probably make this with non-dairy milks like almond, coconut, soy, or hemp, but I haven’t tested it. I’d love to know if you do!
- Don’t dump all the milk in at once, or you’ll be whisking ’til your little old arm falls off to get rid of the lumps. I usually slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of the milk while whisking to help make a slurry of sorts. When it’s an even mixture, then I slowly whisk in the rest of the milk while whisking constantly. Only then do I turn the heat on under the pan.
- You can choose any number of serving vessels for your pudding. I like dessert cups or jelly jars. Either is great. You could pour it into a large bowl to serve out family style after a meal. This is also WUNDERBAR! when poured into a pie shell a la chocolate cream pie.
- I think the pictures make it obvious that I fancy my pudding with a giant cap of whipped cream. This is strictly optional, as is the shower of grated chocolate I love to put on top of everything else. 100% optional, but, um, you’re nuts if you skip it.
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ⅓ cup sugar (you can use regular granulated white, raw, or sucanat equally well here.)
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups milk
- 5 ounces bittersweet or medium dark chocolate (don't use any higher than 60% cacao for best results), chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon coffee extract (or 1½ teaspoons instant coffee granules stirred in with dry ingredients if extract cannot be found)
- whipped cream
- grated or shaved chocolate
- Combine cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, kosher salt, and instant coffee granules (if using) in a dry, heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan. Try to smash any clumps of cornstarch or cocoa powder in the pan to prevent lumps in the final product.
- Drizzle about ½ cup of the milk into the pan while whisking. Whisk until you have a smooth thick mixture. Continue slowly adding the milk to the pan, whisking constantly, until all the milk has been incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent scorching or clumping. Boil for 2 minutes, still whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate and extracts. Whisk slowly but constantly until the chocolate has melted and fully incorporated into the hot pudding. You will be able to tell it done when the colour darkens and it becomes glossier looking. Pour immediately into dessert cups or jelly jars. You can serve the pudding hot, as is, or lay a piece of plastic directly on the surface of the pudding and transfer the cups carefully to the refrigerator (they will be hot!). Chill for at least 2 hours.
- Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream and a little grated chocolate, if desired.