Not to long ago, Mr. F.'s mother sent Mr. F. his childhood picture books. Finn is to the age now where he can really enjoy them, and he asks us to read them to him on a daily basis. One of his favorites is "The Poky Little Puppy." I remember it being a favorite of mine, too, as a child.
Have you looked at your childhood picture books lately? They are not like the picture books of today. Mr. F. and I don't quite know what is the supposed point of "The Poky Little Puppy." In case you aren't up to date on this particular story, I will recap it for you.
Day one: Five puppies dig a hole under the fence and go for a walk. Four make it up a hill. Where is the fifth? The poky little puppy? He is down at the bottom of the hill sniffing the ground. The four puppies go down to see what he is smelling. The poky puppy smells rice pudding. The puppies beat it back home. Not surprisingly, four make it home faster. They get in trouble for digging a hole under the fence and are sent to bed without dessert. The poky little puppy comes home after everyone is in bed and eats up all the rice pudding.
Day two: Repeat day one. However instead of sniffing the ground at the bottom of the hill, they poky little puppy is listening to something. Specifically, he is listening to chocolate custard being spooned into bowls. The puppies run home. The four fast puppies get in trouble and are sent to bed. The poky little puppy comes home and gorges on chocolate custard.
Day three: Repeat day one and two. This time the poky little puppy spots a ripe strawberry in the ground which obviously means strawberry shortcake for dessert. The four fast puppies make it home to get a sound talking to from their "mother." They go to bed without dessert. However, they wake up after she has supposedly gone to bed to fill the hole under the fence. When they are done, they see their mother has observed their actions. As a reward, they get strawberry shortcake. When the poky little puppy returns home, he has to squeeze in through a wide part of the fence. He makes it home just as everyone else is finishing up dessert. Nothing is left for him. His mother says, "What a pity you're so poky! Now the strawberry shortcake is all gone." The poky puppy goes to bed feeling sorry for himself.
Man, that poky little puppy sure learned his lesson. Obviously. Or not.
Regardless of the point (or lack there of), every time I read the book, I get a craving for chocolate custard. Or more specifically, chocolate pudding. (Which is just custard that has been chilled as we learned the other night when we looked it up.) Luckily, Mr. F. is willing to oblige in such matters as these. This last time, we cut the sugar in half and found the taste to be preferable--a darker, chocolaty flavor. But, we are renegades here and like to keep things only as sweet as absolutely necessary.
Double Chocolate Pudding
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup granulated sugar (we used 1/3 cup and substituted sucanat.)
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 cup light cream
3 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. To melt the chocolate, chop and place it in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost simmering water, stirring once or twice until smooth. You can also melt the chocolate in a microwave at 50 percent power for 3 1/2 minutes, stopping to stir after 2 minutes. If the chocolate is not yet completely melted, heat up to 30 seconds more at 50 percent power. After melting, allow to cool slightly.
2. Sift cocoa powder, cornstarch, sugar, and salt into large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Slowly whisk in light cream, followed by yolks, then milk. Stir in chocolate. (Chocolate will form clumps that smooth with cooking.)
3. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with whisk, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Pudding will gradually darken and thicken. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring gently but constantly with wooden spoon until pudding very thickly coats spoon or instant-read thermometer registers about 200 degrees, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
4. Pass pudding through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing with rubber spatula. Leave residue in strainer. Stir butter and vanilla into pudding. Serve warm or directly cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap, cool 30 minutes, and refrigerate.