Does anything frozen or quick or canned or pre-packaged or instant taste better than homemade? That’s a serious question. Other than fruits and vegetables, which seem to hold up pretty well to being preserved by freezing or canning, I have to go with no, myself.
Of course, I understand why people don’t typically cook from scratch anymore. It all started in the 1950s and 60s. Families split up. That doesn’t mean that they divorced. It means that households no longer held multiple families under one roof. Instead, single families moved into their own homes. Women went to work. Education (high school, trade school, college) became a goal. People were busy is what it comes down to. They needed to work to earn money to pay for what they wanted, and they needed to keep improving themselves. So, mundane activities like cooking from scratch fell by the wayside.
Luckily for these people, though, convenience stepped in. America, with its ability to mass produce goods, was set up to provide a culture of convenience. So, things like frozen meals, canned soup, bagged chips, processed cheese, and instant pudding began to fill the shelves at grocery stores. Pretty much anything people used to cook at home from scratch could be reproduced in convenience form, whether that was by preserving it in a can, drying it into a powder that could be reconstituted later, freezing it, or replacing its perishable components with chemical compounds.
When it comes to food, I like things real, though. I grew up in a house with two working parents where convenience was key. So, once I started cooking for myself and making food from scratch, I was filled with wonder and awe. Never again will I be able to eat instant mashed potatoes, bottled ranch dressing, or jarred spaghetti sauce! Really, it’s very easy to make food from scratch, it’s actually cheaper, and I have a ton of fun doing it. And, like I keep saying, food and history go hand in hand. You make memories while you’re writing grocery lists, researching how to make things, shopping, cooking, smelling your food cook, and finally tasting it. And, what’s life without good sensory memories? I can’t even imagine that!
So, what are we cooking? Homemade chocolate cream pudding from 1000 Ways to Please a Husband published in 1917.
When is the last time you had pudding that wasn’t instant or pre-made? I know – instant pudding comes in so many flavors, and those big tubs of pudding in the refrigerator section of the grocery store aren’t bad. But, give this a try. Buy some real, inexpensive ingredients, have some fun following the steps, feel accomplished as your pudding begins to thicken, breathe in the chocolatey aroma, and treat yourself to a lovely, rich dessert. Let’s go into the kitchen and make history!
Here are our ingredients: Corn starch, sugar, salt, unsweetened baking chocolate, milk, the whites of two eggs, and vanilla.
Step 1: Measure your dry ingredients (corn starch, sugar, and salt) into a saucepan and put in on the stove. Don’t turn on the heat just yet. But DO whisk the dry ingredients together!
Step 2: Check out your baking chocolate. Is there a handy explanation for what constitutes a “square” of chocolate? There was one on the back of mine! Four mini-rectangles equal a “square.” So, I broke off six of them to make a “square and a half” of chocolate, which is what the recipe calls for.
Step 3: Place your chocolate in a small saucepan and add three tablespoons of hot water to it. Then, over medium-low heat, swirl the water and the chocolate around until it melts. Turn your heat up to medium if you’re having trouble, but don’t leave the pan on the burner. You don’t want the chocolate to burn!
Step 3.1: This is what it’ll look like once it’s melted. Set it aside away from the heat!
Step 4: Now, let’s get back to the dry ingredients. Slowly whisk the milk into them. You want to go slowly so the dry ingredients can absorb the liquid.
Step 5: Once you’ve done that, stir in your melted chocolate. It’s okay if it doesn’t incorporate completely right away. Now, turn your heat on to medium-low.
Step 6: You don’t have to stir constantly, but stir often. As the mixture heats up, you’ll feel it start to thicken on the bottom. Keep stirring to make sure nothing settles and burns. Once the mixture is hot all the way through and steaming, continue to cook it stirring frequently for ten to fifteen minutes. You want it to become a nice, thick pudding! Once you have the pudding cooked to the thickness you like, take it off the heat and whisk it for three minutes. Your arm will get tired! But, you want a completely smooth pudding, right?
Step 7: Okay, so the pudding is done. Set it aside. Get out a mixing bowl and separate the whites of two eggs into it. Do whatever you want with the yolks, just keep them away from your whites!
Step 8: Beat the whites until you have stiff peaks. Whew! I can’t even imagine having to do this by hand the way they did in the old days…
Step 9: Then, add your pudding to your beaten egg whites. And, add your vanilla, as well.
Step 10: Then, fold everything together! Tuh-duh! Cover and chill the pudding for at least two hours before you serve it so it can finish thickening!
Final step: Whip up some homemade whipped cream for the top of the pudding. Just beat together a cup of heavy cream with two tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla until it’s stiff – easy peasy! Pour the pudding into some fancy bowls (or wine glasses like I did), top it, and send it off to impress whoever gets the pleasure of eating it!
Enjoy the fact that you made something from real ingredients! And, did it really take you all that long? Plus, now you know how to do it, and you have the memory of trying your hand at making homemade chocolate pudding. You might get something that resembles chocolate pudding when you buy a $0.99 box of instant pudding mix at the store, but you don’t get all the other stuff – the memories, the sense of accomplishment, the ability to learn, the added cooking skills. And, can you really put a price on those? Always take time to do things. I’ve certainly never regretted it!
From 1917: Chocolate Cream Pudding
- 5 Tbs. corn starch
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1.5 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
- 3 Tbs. hot water
- 2 cups milk
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Whisk together the corn starch, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, place the chocolate and pour the hot water over it. Put the saucepan over medium-low heat and swirl the saucepan above the burner to melt the chocolate. Do not set the pan directly on the burner or the chocolate will burn. Once the chocolate is melted, set it aside.
- Back to the dry ingredients: Slowly whisk the milk into the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Then, whisk in the melted chocolate. Place the pan over medium-low heat.
- Allow the pudding mixture to heat all the way through. Stir frequently. Once the mixture begins to steam, cook it for 10-15 minutes, or until the pudding has reached a thickness you like. Remove from heat and whisk for 3 minutes until the pudding is completely smooth. Set aside.
- Separate the egg whites into a mixing bowl. Beat them until stiff peaks form.
- Pour the pudding mixture into the egg whites. Add the vanilla. Fold to combine.
- Cover and chill for at least two hours. Serve with whipped cream.