Friday, November 4, 2011

Creamy Chocolate Pudding and Chocolate Tasting with Jack Bishop


Are you ready for some chocolate? I always am, especially dark chocolate (in fact, I’ve become quite fond of 91%), so when I saw that the Book Larder was hosting Jack Bishop from Cook’s Illustrated magazine with a chocolate tasting – well, I had no choice, I had to attend. When I arrived at the shop for the event, I was given a copy of the new Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. Let me tell you, this is a serious cooking tome, filled with 20 years of tested (and re-tested) recipes, and a book that I already know I’ll be turning to often.


To start the evening, Jack Bishop shared stories about the magazine and some favorite tips. When creating a dish, the test cooks deconstruct a recipe (even something simple like a grilled cheese or hard cooked eggs) and analyze every step of the process and each ingredient to arrive at the perfect method of preparing. Recipes are routinely tested 60-70 times!


As you can imagine, the test cooks can recommend many utensils and share lots of helpful tips. The most useful kitchen utensil (after your hands, knives and a cutting board)? An instant read thermometer. This is the only way you can accurately test your meat, custards and breads to see if they are cooked correctly. A favorite tip from a reader? When a pot is about to boil over, throw a couple of ice cubes in rather than trying to move the heavy, full pot (I’ll definitely give this one a try).


Jack Bishop then taught us about the protocols of taste testing at Cook’s Illustrated. They only taste products that are available nationwide (or at least in more than half of the country) and are from grocery stores. Tastings are done in the morning, because in the evening your palate is tired and reflects what you’ve been eating that day.


He passed out three little cups labeled A, B and C to each of us, all containing chopped up pieces of dark chocolate. We were instructed to let the natural heat of our tongues melt the chocolate and to taste for texture (more cocoa butter = more creaminess), the intensity of flavor (more cocoa solids = more complex flavor) and other flavor notes such as a roasted and smokey one or fruity and tropical one and, lastly, the sweetness of the chocolate. We rated all three samples on a numeric scale in each of these areas. My favorite sample was C, due to the roasted, espresso-like flavor, creaminess and relatively low sweetness. This turned out to be Ghiradelli (60%). The other samples were Scharffenberger (60%) and Baker’s semi-sweet.


Well, after nibbling and pondering cocoa solids and cocoa butter, I definitely needed to make something chocolate from the new cookbook! I settled on Creamy Chocolate Pudding ... an ultimate comfort dessert. I didn’t change a thing in the recipe - after all, it’s been tested! The pudding was sublime, intensely chocolate, soothing, creamy and luscious. I served it in china tea cups from my grandmother’s collection, turning a nursery dessert into something elegant. But really, you can eat the pudding straight from the sauce pan with a wooden spoon – nothing fancy needed. No matter how you indulge in it, I can promise you’ll be scraping your dish and licking your spoon as I did!


Have a wonderful weekend!

19 comments:

  1. I have an instant read thermometer and use it all the time but never for custards. What temperature are you supposed to hit? I am afraid I have a tendency to overcook these because I'm subconsciously applying baking standards of doneness to them (i.e. no wobbling and clean toothpick).

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  2. @threecleversisters.com
    I've never used a thermometer for custard either, but will start to now. I know I've been overcooking mine! Even an extra 5 degrees can cause it to overcook. Here's some info on custard temps from the experts: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/howto/detail.asp?docid=19645

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  3. Thanks! I'm looking forward to more custards (and better( now that i am well-armed--off to check it out now.

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  4. Omigosh, I saw the Cooks Illustrated book while out shopping last night, and it took every ounce of self control not to buy it immediately. It now tops my list of birthday/holiday must-haves. Guess I should see if Jack Bishop is heading my way anytime soon!

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  5. how fascinating - I can't believe they test the dishes so many times. And how interesting that your palate gets tired by the end of the day. I love the look of the dish in the cups, really pretty. Look forward to seeing you at chutneyandspice.com

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  6. Lucky you! Good tip on throwing in a few ice cubes into a boiling pot. That chocolate pudding looked delish.

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  7. Between hunger and fresh taste buds, it's no wonder breakfast has been my favorite meal of the day. That pudding looks so good in your antique cups.

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  8. This event looks like so much fun! I love Cook's Illustrated and it's cool to hear about how they test their recipes. Love the tip on throwing ice cubes in the boiling pot - another good one is to prevent your pasta water from boiling over place a wooden spoon horizontally across the top of the pot. It stops it! This chocolate pudding looks amazing. I'm with you - the darker the chocolate the better!

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  9. Awesome! I'm glad you had a chance to go! I love Cooks Illustrated and ATK. Thanks for sharing what you learned with us!

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  10. What an interesting post, Hannah! I'm a long-time fan of CI too and while I knew they tested things many times, I had no idea they tested them 60-70 times!! Wow. Love the ice cube tip, and how to taste chocolates!

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  11. @onehundredaweek
    This is a terrific one to top your list, Cate! Hopefully Jack Bishop will be in your area. It was a fun evening with him!

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  12. @Alex Evelyn
    Thank you, Alex! It was a marvelous time of learning and tasting.

    I appreciate you visiting here and I'll be popping over to Chutney and Spice! :)

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  13. @thislittlepiggywenttothefarmersmarket.com
    Thank you, Lisa! Isn't that a great tip? Another one was to use a child's sippy cup for salad dressing - mix ingredients in the cup and then you can shake the dressing out in small amounts and won't overdress the salad.

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  14. @ChefMoji
    Thank you, ChefMoji! I'm with you on breakfast. :)

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  15. @katherinemartinelli
    Thank you, Katherine! Terrific tip for pasta water and I'll be using it - I love discovering new ideas like that.

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  16. @B
    My pleasure, B! It was a fun evening.

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  17. @thewimpyvegetarian.com
    Thank you, Susan! It was fun to taste and learn - always great to get new ideas. :)

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  18. Goodness what is not to love about chocolate tasting. Those chocolate puddings look so good, and you have given me another use for my newly acquired tea set :)

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  19. @Mairi
    I know, you can't go wrong with a chocolate tasting! My Nana's tea cups stay tucked away and I love seeing them, so I pulled them out for desserts - that will give them a lot more use!

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