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Food and Wine Best Pastry Chef winner Stella Parks recreates and re-imagines childhood favorites into sophisticated modern desserts.

BraveTart: Make Your Own Jell-O Style Chocolate Pudding

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[Photographs: Sarah Jane Sanders]

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?

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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.

Get the Recipe

Homemade Jell-O Style Chocolate Pudding »

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.

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