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My puddings just aren't right :(

Okay, my puddings texturely are still not right. I made a chocolate pudding and a lemon pudding tonight. Here is how I made the chocolate: 2.5 cups milk, 2 tbls butter, .5 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, cocoa powder, and then while they were all simmering together I added semi-sweet chocolate chips. It ended up being too rich and too thick - not light, fluffy, chocolate pudding. Do you think that it is the chocolate chips that are making it too thick and rich? If so, should I just rely on cocoa powder for the chocolate flavor or would this not be enough?

Also, the lemon pudding was okay texturely but it had a different problem - a bit of a strange, overly strong lemon flavor too it. I just wanted a subtle background to the lemon and it was just very strong. I did 1.5 cups milk, the same recipe as above adjusted with .25 cups lemon juice. Was the problem simply that I added to much lemon juice? Maybe I should have added vanilla (totally forgot) to smooth out the flavor.

Anyway, any suggestions would be appreciated as I'm trying to get this right:) thanks!

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  1. For what it's worth, here's my two cents:
    Cornstarch looks a bit heavy for the amount of milk. (Whole milk, right?) I think you needed another half cup of milk though. Your milk to cornstarch/sugar ratio is low. 1/2 cup sugar looks right. You don't say how much of that semi-sweet chocolate you added but, for the ratios you list, anything over about four ounces would be pushing it. I usually include a pinch of salt; you don't list that. Not that salt would cause the problem you describe, just that a pinch of salt enhances the flavor of the finished product. A teaspoon of vanilla is also a common component of chocolate pudding.
    Your lemon pudding was nearly twenty percent lemon juice. That's more than a subtle background. You also might have found that adding a couple of eggs to the lemon pudding mix would have made it richer and rounded out some of the lemon. I would't use vanilla in lemon pudding.

    1. A cornstarch pudding like this is essentially a sweet gravy or sauce - that is , milk thickened with the starch. So you can adjust the thickness by adding more liquid, or more cornstarch slurry. The fact that it gets thicker at serving temperature makes adjusting the thickness a bit trickier, but not impossible.

      1. oh woops, forgot to mention, I also had two egg yolks in each mixture. I did also add salt.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cups123

          The addition of the yolks means it's more of a custard. The yolks, cornstarch and chocolate probably made a very firm chocolate pudding indeed.

          I agree with todao that you should increase your milk to 3c but I'd reduce the cornstarch to 3T since your chocolate also is a starch and that should be enough to bind with the proteins in the milk and yolks. The starch also makes the pudding heaver and slightly gritty. You may want to leave out the butter too since both it and the chocolate contain oil. Add the salt and vanilla as suggested. You'll need to cook your yolks with the sugar, salt. and cocoa and then add warmed milk and chocolate.

          Are you using a recipe? Did you cook the mixture? Your comment that the pudding is thick and rich - are you looking for more of a mousse instead?

          Again, for the lemon, I agree that the amount of juice and acid is way too much. Reduce both the lemon and the starch.

        2. I see three issues: A little too much cornstarch, the semi sweet chocolate is probably a little too sweet and the eggs aren't needed for pudding.

          Here is a terrific recipe for delicious chocolate pudding. It's versatile and I use it as pudding as well as for chocolate cream pie and trifles.

          Chocolate Pudding

          3 tablespoons cornstarch
          1 tablespoon unsweetened non-alkalized cocoa powder
          1/4 teaspoon salt
          1 cup half-and-half
          1 1/4 cups whole milk
          3/4 cup granulated sugar
          4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
          2 tablespoons unsalted butter
          1 teaspoon vanilla extract

          1. In a medium bowl, sift together the cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk in about 2 tablespoons of the half-and-half until it is a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining half-and-half; set aside.

          2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and chocolate. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the chocolate is completely melted.

          3. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate mixture into the half-and-half mixture. Whisk this mixture into the remaining chocolate mixture in the saucepan.

          4. Return the pan to the heat and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. When the mixture begins to bubble, continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.

          5. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and then the vanilla. Pour into one large bowl or individual ones. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. For no skin - press plastic wrap onto the hot pudding.

          7 Replies
          1. re: TrishUntrapped

            Thanks for the helpful responses!

            A few questions/comments: If I can avoid adding egg, I would love that (since it would make the recipe healthier). I was combining a few recipes (bad idea) and for some reason thought that egg was essential. Second, can I use skim milk by any chance? I only ask because of the health issue and also because I always have it around.

            I did want a rich chocolate flavor but not the accompanying thick texture. Do I need to even add the extra chocolate or should cocoa powder be enough?

            For the lemon pudding, the texture wasn't really even thick like storebought pudding. I am wondering if that is because there wasn't the extra starch like there was from the chocolate? Or maybe the lemon juice changed the properties of it?

            1. re: cups123

              1. I don't know if the recipe will work well with skim milk, as skim is akin to water in cooking.

              2. Yes you need the cocoa and the unsweetened chocolate for my recipe.

              3. I'm not sure exactly how you are making the lemon pudding. It is different from chocolate pudding. Most lemon pudding recipes include eggs (or yolks).

              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                Cornstarch thickens water (or stock) just as well as milk, so the fat in the milk is not important.

                Butter and egg yolks (even the chocolate) bring fat to the party.

                1. re: paulj

                  I'm not so sure that a fair substitution can be made. My recipe calls for some half and half as well as whole milk. I don't know if you will get that velvety mouthfeel in your pudding with skim milk....

                  If you want to experiment go ahead.... Just don't be surprised if the results aren't as good.

                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                    3 cups of 4% butterfat whole milk has about 1 oz of butterfat (3c * 8 oz/c * .04), i.e. the equivalent of about 2T of butter, or 3/4c of 16% cream.

                    Does the mouth-feel depend on where the butterfat comes from, or just the total amount?

                      1. re: paulj

                        Shouldn't matter since both are dairy fats.

            2. Here's one that's a little unusual, but good. Be sure to use REAL maple syrup:
              MAPLE-MOCHA PUDDING (as in The Maple Syrup Cookbook)
              3 T cornstarch
              1 T powdered instant coffee or powdered instant espresso
              1 t unsweetened cocoa
              3 egg yolks
              3 cups milk
              1/2 c pure maple syrup (I prefer Grade B)
              1 T butter, cut into pieces
              1 t vanilla
              Stir first 4 ingredients in heavy-bottomed pot. In a bowl, whisk yolks, when whisk in milk and maple syrup. Stir into dry ingredients and turn on heat to med-high. Gradually bring to boil, stirring constantly, scraping sides as you stir. Once it boils, continue stirring while it boils for one minute. Take pot off heat, stir in butter and vanilla. Ladle into 4 or 5 bowls and chill.

              3 Replies
              1. re: greygarious

                This one sounds fantastic! Thanks.

                1. re: karykat

                  I also agree with most post, sounds like difficult and unusual recipes. I have a couple for chocolate which I like and can post if you want ... also a lemon. Pretty standard and simple but good. Not as difficult. Let me know, glad to post.

                  1. re: kchurchill5


                    Have you done a search for both chocolate and lemon puddings on the web? There are tons and many lo-cal as well. You might want to start with a tested recipe from epicurious or foodnetwork - after you've done one, you can riff off the technique and ingredients.

              2. Here's my recipe for basic pudding that is easy to modify into different flavors:

                2.5 cups milk ( I use half and half but it can be made with 2% or skim or all the way to heavy cream in the other direction which makes a mousse-like pie filling)
                1/2 cup sugar
                pinch of salt
                2 Tbs cornstarch (3 Tbs if not using egg yolks)
                2 egg yolks (optional)
                2 Tbs butter
                1Tsp vanilla extract
                1vanilla bean (optional)

                Place 2 cups milk, sugar, salt in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Split bean if using and add seeds and pod to milk. Heat, stirring occasionally until the milk is just steaming. Meanwhile, add the cornstarch to the remaining half cup of milk and mix until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks if using. When milk is steaming, remove pod and add a little steaming milk in a slow stream to the milk-cornstarch-egg mix while stirring to temper the mix and then stir this mix back into the pot. Continue to stir (I use a whisk at this point) until the pudding just comes to a boil. Immediately turn heat to low and continue whisking until mixture thickens (5 minutes or less). Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into dessert cups or a bowl and cover with plastic on the surface of the pudding to avoid a "skin" .

                To make chocolate pudding: finely chop up 2 ounces of semi-sweet darkest chocolate (I use a high quality candy bar) and add it to the milk and sugar (eliminating the vanilla bean) at the beginning. No cocoa powder. Then proceed with the recipe. The chocolate will look grainy until you add the butter and vanilla extract at the end. The butter smooths everything out.

                For lemon or other flavors I eliminate the vanilla entirely and sub in lemon (or other) extract at the end.

                This recipe works for me every time making a smooth, creamy pudding with great flavor and mouth texture.

                1. I just noticed that you want 'light and fluffy'. Is it possible to produce that by just tweaking the liquid and thickener proportions? Maybe you need a recipe that calls for whipping, incorporating air into the pudding or one of its ingredients (such as the cream).

                  1. Ah, pudding! Just about the most comforting thing there is! Good luck, cups123!

                    Chocolate Pudding
                    1/4 cup cornstarch
                    1/2 cup sugar
                    1/8 teaspoon salt
                    3 cups whole milk
                    6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
                    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

                    Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into six individual serving dishes. Chill for at least 30 minutes or do what I do and dig right in!

                    Lemon Pudding
                    3/4 cup sugar
                    1/4 cup cornstarch
                    2 1/2 cups milk
                    3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
                    2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
                    Pinch salt
                    1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
                    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

                    Whisk the sugar and the cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Add the egg yolks, zest, and salt and cook, stirring frequently over medium heat until thickened enough to thickly coat the back of a spoon.
                    Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the lemon juice and butter. Pour into a large serving bowl. Let cool to room temperature then chill for at least 2 hours...if you can wait that long!