OK, I'll admit it. I have a problem. I'm sure there are normal people out there who can pick up a cookbook, thumb through it, say, "Nice pictures" or "that looks tasty" and put it down and walk away. I'm just not one of them. To me a cookbook is the Rosetta Stone of the kitchen, promising to unlock the secrets of flaky pie crusts, hearty breads, and succulent roasts (and I don't even make roasts!). I own an embarrassing amount of cookbooks, some of which have never even been used. But I can't seem to part with any of them.
So, obviously the last thing I need is another cookbook. I've got enough recipes at hand that I could cook for my family for the next 5 years without repeating a meal. And that's without surfing the net for recipes. So I decided - Enough! No more cookbooks. I don't need them. I was firm in my resolve. Until....until IT came into my life. Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Recommended online, checked out from the library, IT snuck into my kitchen and nestled it's way into my heart. Filled with beautiful pictures, wonderful anecdotes, and mouthwatering recipes, this one was a keeper. Well, for the 30 day loan period. And then for the two week extension period. During that time I made cookies for our annual cookie exchange from this book and our Happy Birthday, Jesus cake for Christmas day. And I took it to bed with me at night for a little light reading. Ah, sigh, the sorrow of having to turn it back into the library.
But here's where marrying a wonderful man pays off. My sweet husband gave it to me for Christmas so barely any time elapsed between turning in the book and having it back in my kitchen! Yeah!
My most recent effort from Baking was the wonderful Split-Level Pudding. What a delicious way to use up egg yolks. A dark chocolate base paired perfectly with smooth, full vanilla pudding. I'd never made a pudding using my Cuisinart, and it behaved differently but in the end yielded a lovely silken pudding that firmed up beautifully as it chilled.
I had no whole milk so I used 1/2 1% milk and 1/2 half and half. Also, I used a heavenly vanilla extract my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas. This is a recipe where good vanilla really shines.
Split Level Pudding
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
2-1/4 cups whole milk
6 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
3 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
2-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Chocolate shavings for decoration (optional)
Have six ramekins or dessert cups ( holding 4 to 6 oz. each) at hand
Put the chocolate in a 1 or 2 cup glass measuring cup. Bring the heavy cream to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds, then gently stir to blend. Divide the chocolate ganache among the cups and set aside.
Bring 2 cups of the milk and 3 Tbsp of the sugar to a boil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.
While the milk is heating, put the cornstarch and salt into a food processor and whir to blend. Turn them out onto a piece of wax paper, put the remaining 3 Tbsp sugar and the egg yolks into the processor and blend for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the remaining 1/4 cup milk and pulse just to mix, then add the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to blend.
With the machine running, very slowly pour in the hot milk mixture. Process for a few seconds, then pour everything back into the saucepan. Whisk without stopping over medium heat- making sure to get into the edges of the pan - until the pudding thickens and a couple of bubbles burble up to the surface and pop (about 2 minutes). You don't want the pudding to boil, but you do want it to thicken, so lower the heat, if necessary.
Scrape the puddding back into the processor (if there's a scorched spot, avoid it as you scrape) and pulse a couple of times. Add the butter and vanilla and pulse until everything is evenly blended. The pudding might look a bit runny at this stage, but don't worry, it will firm up as it chills.
Pour the pudding into the cups over the chocolate. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of each pudding to create and airtight seal and prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate the puddings for at least 4 hours. You can serve it chilled and you will have a nice texture contrast between the silken pudding and the firm ganache. I liked it at room temperature so the ganache was soft and blended with the pudding. To dress up your pudding you can scatter chocolate shavings on the top of it just before serving.