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A single serving of Jell-O chocolate pudding, the kind we ate as kids*, came packed with the full spectrum of nutritional evil: an entire ounce of sugar and ten percent of an adult's daily sodium, plus a handful of unpronounceables. Even so, it got to squeak by as a wholesome snack moms could feel good about 'cause the Cos reminded them that it was made from fresh milk.
*The recipe used at Jell-O nowadays has cut back significantly on sugar and salt.
How did that work, exactly? Did five percent calcium go farther in the eighties? I don't mean to sound critical of Jell-O itself (a paragon of milk chocolatey satisfaction!) only the tactics once used to shill it. Nutritionally abysmal, calorically empty, vitamin deficient, sugar laden, fatty McFatterson desserts are kinda my thing.
I just don't like operating under the delusion that some nominal calcium can act like a nutritional Band-Aid. I love nutrition. I'd just prefer to keep it in vegetables where it belongs. I live secure in the knowledge that I deserve a bowl of chocolate pudding. I don't have to justify it or excuse it.
So let's free ourselves from the prison of these wholesome delusions and enjoy chocolate pudding for its merits.
What made Jell-O pudding in the little plastic cup so exceptional compared to the instant variety, or even homemade, related directly to its texture. It had a slick silkiness that made all other puddings seem as thick and heavy as paste. You could suck up a spoonful through closed teeth, letting it flood your mouth with creamy chocolate wonder. And what can compare to the exquisite pleasure of licking clean the chocolate stained tinfoil lid?
You can't make chocolate pudding like that with eggs; they lend an unwelcome richness and a yolky flavor vaults the flavor straight past pudding to pot de creme territory. And while cornstarch-thickened puddings have a lovely creaminess, they sit more heavily on the tongue. A major bonus when it comes to a slice of chocolate cream pie, but not so much when it comes to pudding snacks.
The Jell-O folks do it with an arsenal of industrial shenanigans (e.g., sodium stearoyl lactylate) which we can skip by using...wait for it...gelatin. An ingredient ironically not used in Jell-O pudding.
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About the Author: Stella Parks suffers from an unhealthy obsession with recreating the mass produced snacks of her childhood, but ironically is employed by a Frenchman to make the high brow desserts of his childhood. She blogs that dichotomy at bravetart.com and can be followed on Twitter at @thebravetart.