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!