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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 04/15/12

Sunday, April 15, 2012

HERE'S A GREAT CHOCOLATE PUDDING RECIPE!

   This recipe comes from smittenkitchen .  Who doesn't love/like chocolate pudding, my teenage kids love the stuff. Good luck and happy eating!



chocolate pudding




More often than not, after such an evening I find myself too full for even a nightcap, quite tired and, while we are being honest, like I need to spend an hour on the treadmill. And I hate the treadmill.




ladling chocolate pudding



But chocolate pudding is none of these things. The perfect recipe–the one I sifted through dozens and dozens to find–would be chocolaty but not overly heavy, indulgent but not too rich. In short, the kind of thing you’d want to eat with the love of your life without the risk of shortening the length of it. As a bonus, it would be a reasonable recipe to tackle on a weekday night.



making pudding




This turned out to be a surprisingly complicated feat. You see, chocolate pudding has lost its way. Over the years, as chocolate desserts have gotten more and more decadent, so-called “puddings” have followed suit. Suddenly, the chocolate pudding that your grandmother made for your mother, or your mother made for you has been poshed up with cream and butter and egg yolks. They’re made in food processors, they’re hit up with immersion blenders, they’re lightened with whipped egg whites, they’re baked in ramekins in water baths covered with tented foil. While these desserts are many wonderful things–pot-de-cremes, pasty creams, souffles–puddings, they are not.



coating a spoon?



And this is the point where I can progress no further in this story without tell you how my mother feels about making chocolate pudding: she thinks it is pointless. As she has similar cooking proclivities, one day when my sister and I were young, she set out to replace the My-T-Fine stuff we knew and loved with one she made from scratch. In her words, it took forever and tasted exactly like the stuff from the box. She would never make it again. “Some things,” she says when I wax on, conspiring to make my own sourdough starter, yogurt or marshmallows, “are just not worth it.”



quite the process



chocolate pudding, step 100
chocolate pudding elements
chocolate pudding, really



Of course, I didn’t listen and dove first into a recipe from someone I adore so much, it broke my heart that I hated the recipe. You started in a double-boiler, then a saucepan, then move over to the food processor, then the food processor a second time, then the saucepan again and then the food processor. No, I am not making this up. It had egg yolks, a whole egg, butter, cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate in it and I just don’t know what I was thinking. I was almost embarrassed to tell my mother that it was good–oh, and we did eat it with nary a complaint–but not even mindblowing. To her credit, she spared me the “I told you so.”



making pudding



But I knew I had to spare you this recipe, truly more of a pastry cream than a pudding. I mean, you would have rightfully scoffed. For gosh sakes, it is pudding not salted butter caramel ice cream, evidence that not everything I have been saving in my recipe files for many years has earned its keep.



chocolate pudding



And this was when I remembered something, well, really quite mindless. Skimming down to item #43 in the “sweets” subsection of my Cook This list, there was the blissful, three-step (oh, and the third one is “chill”), egg-, butter-, cream-, food processor- and oven-free 22 minute chocolate pudding from John Scharffenberger of Scharffenberger Chocolate that Luisa had posted about over a year ago. You see, the best recipe was already out there, and now it is here too.
Perhaps if my mother had tried this recipe instead, I’d be getting my sourdough starter from her!



chocolate puddding


Silky Chocolate Pudding
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used good quality semisweet chocolate chips; use 70% bittersweet if you want more of a dark chocolate kick)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer (or skip this step if you’re a slacker like me who is absolutely certain that there is nary a lump her puddin’) into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

3. If you like pudding skin, pull plastic wrap over the top of the serving dish(es) before refrigerating. If you dislike pudding skin, place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days (ahem, good luck with that).

THE TAKAYAMA FESTIVAL FROM JAPAN!!!



    The Takayama Festivals in Takayama, Japan, started in the 16th to 17th century. The origins of the festivals are unknown; however they are believed to have been started during the rule of the Kanamori family. Correspondence dated 1692, place the origin to 40 years prior to that date. One of the festivals is held on the 14th and 15th of April and the other on the 9th ad 10th of October.
    The Spring Takayama Festival is centered on the Hie Shrine. The shrine is also known as the Sanno Shrine, and the spring festival is also known as the Sanno Festival. The Sanno Festival is held to pray for a good harvest and the Autumn Festival is for giving thanks.







    The Autumn festival is centered on the Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine and is referred to as the Hachiman Festival. It is held after the crops are harvested. The fall festival is one of the three largest festivals in Japan. The other two are Kyoto's Gion Matsuri and the Chichibu Matsuri.





Floats

    The festivals are famous for the large ornate floats, or yatai, which roam around the city at night. The floats date back to the 17th century, and are decorated with intricate carving of gilded wood, and detailed metal work, rich design, similar in style to art from Kyoto during the Momoyama period, and blended with elements from the early Edo period. Detailed carving, lacquering and beautiful decorative metal works is found not only on the outside of the floats, but inside as well, under the roof and behind the panels, where the worked is amazingly detailed. The floats are also gorgeously decorated with embroidered drapery. The Uatai floats are lined up before dusk, and once the town become veiled in the evening darkness, as many as 100 chochin lanterns are lit on each of the floats. The unique ornaments of the yatai floats look even better in the darkness of the night. The floats are moved around the city by people but are wheeled carts and the bearers are not required to endure the load. The floats are lit by traditional lanterns and escorted on a tour of the city by people in traditional kimono or hakama dress. Each float reflects the district in Takayama to which it represents.







    The craftsmanship and the Hotei tai have intricate marionettes, which perform on top. The puppet show is a registered as a "cultural asset". The tall festive floats are displayed during the two days of both festivals. During inclement weather the floats are returned to their storage houses. The Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan store four of the eleven fall floats; the others are stored in special storehouses throughout the city, when not in use. During inclement weather, the outer doors to the Yatai Kaikan are open so visitors may view them. The floats in the Yatai Kaikan are changed several times a year.






    The Yatai Kaikan is located in the northern end of Takayama's old town, a 15-20 minute walk from the station. The Yatai Kaikan is open from 8:30 am. to 5:00 p.m., from March to November and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from December to February. The admission fee is 840 yen (approximately $10.10)






Puppets

    The puppets or marionettes are made of wood, silk, and brocade or embroidered cloth. They are operated by strings and push rods from with the yatai. Karakuri (mechanical) puppet plays performed on a stage are superb. The puppets, like the Yatai, represent the skilled craftsmen of the area. The puppets or the three marionettes on Hotei Tai (the god of fortune), require nine puppet masters to manipulate the 36 strings which make the marionettes move in a lifelike manner, with gestures, turns, and other movements. A problem with the puppets are parts needed to repair the puppets. The springs in the puppets are made of Right whale baleen and cannot be replaced with steel springs or the baleen of other whales. Other materials used to make the springs cannot duplicate the movements of the springs made from the whale baleen.