Chocolate pudding. Back in the day kind of memories stir up. Adolescence and hot summer days and friends coming together. There was something special about one of our parent’s turning a box of brown powder into childhood magic. It bridged the gap between children and adults, sharing spoonfuls around the same table. There is something nostalgic about a rich, velvety bowl of pudding. I think of old, tattered metal lunch boxes and playgrounds trading lunches. Except not the pudding.
W and I don’t have children of our own. Yet, not yet. But that’s not the topic of this post. Lots of our dear friends have wonderful children that we see nearly everyday, since we live within a few houses of each other. And when the weather gets warm, they all come out. Last spring and summer the three boys three doors down had talked about a sleepover at our house one night. But as one night became two nights became the tip of fall, that idea disappeared, albeit temporarily.
The last couple of weeks skipped right past the end of winter and straight into summer. Spring, forget you not. Temperatures broke records and new highs. And each day was hotter than the day before. So it wasn’t long before the youngest brother asked us when we were having a sleepover. They never forget. We talked to their parents and told them we’d take them off their hands for a night but they’d have to pick the day and give the go ahead to it. And they did.
By Monday late afternoon we figured on a date and time. I was out walking the dog and saw the boys outside and told them about Friday night. Mistake number one. Their mom hadn’t told them yet so they wouldn’t act up all week. But all was well. As each day passed the kids would ride their bikes to our driveway and count down the days. “Only four more days,” one would say. “Three more to go, right Michael?” said another. One day after the other, consistent in timing and place.
When Friday rolled around W and I went over our game plan for the night. We knew three boys could be a handful so we wanted to make sure we had enough things planned to keep them busy and happy. With hours to go we had nearly everything taken care of and crossed off. Except dessert. And I thought and thought about it and then it hit me. Pudding. Every boy I’ve ever known likes both chocolate and pudding. Even the picky eaters can’t resist pudding goodness.
In the past I’ve made baked chocolate pudding, self-saucing pudding and other puds so recreating that childhood classic was just a matter of time. And this was the perfect time. Like the other puddings before it, making chocolate pudding from scratch is fairly effortless. And so much better than the box variety. So I made a batch until it was thick and creamy and poured them into cups. I made the whipped cream with cocoa and grated chocolate and put them away for the secret stash dessert.
When it hit 4pm on Friday W received a text from their mom asking about timing. We were finally ready. So we walked up to pick them up and give their parents a night off. Much needed and deserved. They each handed us a hand drawn picture and we were off. W was snapping away as they took off down the street. The middle one at our door before we were two steps from their house. This was going to be fun, and a lesson.
It was still warm out, although not nearly as hot as the days before, so we dropped their bags off in their room and packed into the car. We had an agenda, so we were gone in a flash. We made a short drive near the pizzeria but took a detour. Up by the old abandoned railroad tracks. W snapped away in her element as the boys moved between the tracks and bridgeway overlooking the water. A good thirty minutes taking some great pics for their mom to have.
After working up an appetite we stopped in at the corner store to pick up a treat and then grabbed a couple of pizzas to bring home. We had planned on everyone making their own pizza, but it turns out kids are picky and they only like one kind of pizza so it would have to do this time. W spread out the drinks across our usually half-empty table and I brought out the pizza. The five of us sat there, quiet and lost in our food. It seemed like forever, although it was more like a couple of minutes. I caught a glimpse of W as she watched over the boys. She fit the part. Her smile lit up the house.
As they helped us clear off the table I told them to have a seat back at the table because I had a surprise for them. Do you like chocolate pudding, I asked. Dumb question. I passed the glasses and spoons around the table and, for a few more minutes, we were all quiet again. This was the reason I made the pudding. I could see it in their eyes. Happiness. Content.
We finished off the night with a long walk with the dog and then settled in for movie night and homemade popcorn. Real popcorn, the first time the kids had the real deal. They laughed throughout the movie, as kids do, and we just enjoyed the night. When the movie ended we could sense they were finally tired. Although probably not as much as we were. We watched them brush their teeth, tucked them in, turned on the bedside table lamp, left the door slightly open and said goodnight. I checked in on them thirty minutes later. The light was off and they were fast asleep. Job well done.
Only the job wasn’t finished. W and I awoke slightly after 6am Saturday morning. Much earlier than our usual weekend time. We could hear the chatter of the boys. We lay still and quiet and listened as they talked as softly as they could, still loud by most measures, about games and each other. We kept quiet for a bit and then I went to see who was up. The youngest and oldest, downstairs on our couch chatting up a storm. “Aren’t you tired?” I said. And, “where’s your brother?” Asleep it turned out. So we made a plan. The little one would stay behind with W and I would take the oldest one for an early morning car ride to pick up milk and coffee.
When we pulled back into the driveway the lights to the house were on. It was still early by our measure, but we had sunk into the day by now. W and the two boys were in the kitchen waiting and we brought home the goodies. I started in on breakfast while W poured them milk and juice and started the coffee. It wasn’t long before the five of us were back around the table eating. French toast and croissants and bacon and fruit. Juices and milk and coffee. This is how a table should be. Some day.
We finished up breakfast and played games for a bit. Before long it was time to get going. They packed up their bags and belongings and I walked them back home. We said bye at the door. And they said thanks. I was fifteen steps down the sidewalk when the two youngest boys burst through the front door after me and gave me a hug. “Thanks Michael!!” they said. “And say thanks to Wendy as well!” The oldest boy appeared on the second deck, “Thanks Mike!”
It was just one night but it was great. We gave our friends a night off, which they were thankful for, and we had fun with three of the best young boys we’ve met. Yes, full of energy. But they are polite and kind and caring and they watch out for each other, always. As the day started to slip away we actually started to miss some of the noise that came with three energetic kids. But we were thankful for the chance.
It was epic.
From my kitchen to yours,
Epic Chocolate Pudding
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/3 sweetened cocoa powder
- pinch salt
- pinch of cayenne
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 large egg yolks
- 5 oz. or 150 grams dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa) finely chopped
- grated chocolate, for topping
- cocoa, for topping
- whipped cream
- In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, salt, cayenne and 1 cup of milk and whisk until all ingredients dissolved. Add in the egg yolks, whisking to combine thoroughly. Keep aside for a moment.
- In a medium saucepan combine the remaining milk and the cream and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat. Slowly pour the hot milk and cream over the mixture set aside, whisking constantly until smooth.
- Pour everything back into the saucepan and place over a medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5-10 minutes. It should coat the back of a wooden spoon when done.
- Remove from heat and push through a sieve to get rid of any remaining lumps and into a clean mixing bowl. Add in the finely chopped chocolate, stirring until the mixture is smooth again. Pour into 4–6 cups or bowls and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge until cold.
- Prior to serving, top the pudding with a good dollop of whipped cream, a pinch of cocoa and some freshly grated chocolate.