The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is often a blur of lights, sugar and parties. But at some point during the days of turning out cookie dough and shaking up wintery cocktails, I think you should slow down and make chocolate pudding.
Pudding is a classic dessert, but when did you last make it? I find it quite elegant in its simplicity, and it's appropriate for special occasions. Just right for December. An old-fashioned dessert for the most nostalgic time of the year.
Chocolate pudding is silky, rich, and something you can spoon into a small bowl and eat on the couch while watching your favorite Christmas movie, whether it's Love Actually or Die Hard.
This dessert offers a welcome departure from sugary holiday cookies and grants you a chance to casually stir something by the warm stove. Sometimes it feels good just to stir something.
Best of all, this is an easy dessert. There's really no reason to make pudding from a box. All we're really doing is stirring milk, cream and chocolate until it submits to the heat and thickens. The results are worth it.
It's a short ingredient list for this recipe, so I suggest using the best quality chocolate you can get your hands on. To match the smooth and rich taste of this pudding, real vanilla beans seem like a better match than store-bought vanilla extract, but you could use either.
To kick things up a notch, garnish the pudding with toasted nuts or flaky sea salt. Feeling decadent? Whip some cream and spoon it on top. Most recently I served the pudding in coffee cups with a bit of flaky sea salt.
This time of year goes by fast with layered cakes and everything cinnamon, but remember the simple desserts, too.
Make room for pudding.
Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Times. For more kitchen adventures, visit her blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.