Sunday, February 8, 2015

Decadent Dairy Free Chocolate Pudding


This recipe is inspired by the first non-dairy pudding I ever tried back in culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute. Until then I didn’t know it was possible to make a pudding that could fool you into believing it was full of milk. 

One of the ingredients that helps to make this pudding creamy is Kuzu (or kudzu), a wild growing vine. The starch is made from its roots and is used as a thickener like cornstarch or arrowroot.   Another unusual ingredient in this recipe is Agar, a seaweed used in Macrobiotic cooking and acts as a gelling agent just like gelatin. When used together, they create a wonderfully creamy pudding-like texture.   I like to make this for people and not tell them that this isn’t any ordinary pudding, until after they have tried it. It always wins over the crowd.  This recipe is more work than a regular dairy pudding but so worth the time.

Yield 4 ½ cups
about 11 servings

Ingredients
2 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk, room temperature, plus a little extra (about 7 tbsp extra)
4 tbsp agar flakes
4 tbsp kuzu powder
½ cup water
1 13.5oz can coconut milk, full fat, not light
½ cup plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cup maple syrup, grade b
2 tbsp vanilla

Procedure

Place 2 cups milk in a medium pot and add the agar flakes. Stir to submerge the agar and set aside. Do this first while you start to assemble the other ingredients. Letting this sit helps the agar to “bloom” (soften) in the liquid. Can let this sit up to 4 hours, especially if the milk is cold.

Place kuzu and water in a small bowl and stir until dissolved. Set aside.

Place coconut milk in a measuring cup and top off to the 2-cup level with additional soy or nut milk. Pour into the pot with the agar.

Place pot over medium heat. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring frequently with a whisk. It is ok to walk away from the pot a little, coming back to give it a stir every couple minutes.  Once the milk comes to a boil, the agar should be dissolved. **Once milk is close to the boiling point the pot can easily boil over, lower heat a little so that the milk is at a rolling boil, until agar is completely dissolved.

To check, scoop some into a spoon and look for any small pieces of undissolved gelatin.  

The picture below still shows undisolved agar. Keep going.

This looks much better below. But see those couple darks spots in the spoon?  Those are the agar pieces, almost disolved, but not quite. Keep simmering another minute when it looks like that. 

Once those are gone, it is ready. (About 15 minutes until agar is completely dissolved.)

Whisk in cocoa, salt, maple syrup and vanilla. Continue stirring and bring almost to a boil. Bring heat up a little if you lowered it in the last step. This will take about 5 minutes.

Give the kuzu a quick stir and then add to the pot while stirring and continue to cook until pudding becomes thick, about 1 minute.

Remove from heat and pour pudding into a shallow pan or bowl and place on the counter or back of the stove to cool, about 30 minutes to an hour. 

Once some of the heat has dissipated, place in refrigerator to cool the rest of the way, until firm.  **this takes a long time to completely get cold, Best to make the day before and leave in the fridge overnight. You want the gelling process to complete before placing in the food processor, or the pudding will not be entirely smooth.
Once completely cold and firm, place in food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary. 

Pour into a dish and serve!
 
*A note about cocoa powders:  A really good cocoa powder is important here. This makes up the most of the flavor. My favorite is the cocoa powder at Penzey’s. Choose a high quality cocoa like Rapunzel, Dagoba, Sharffen Berger or Guittard.

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