Whoever came up with the idea of using crushed chocolate cookies to simulate dirt on food is a complete genius. Nothing else so perfectly mimics dark, moist, peaty soil, and as a cake decorator, I've had a blast conceiving all sorts of kid's cakes with the stuff. Unfortunately, most chocolate dirt desserts are sort of trashy: layers of boxed instant chocolate pudding, Oreo cookie crumbs, Cool Whip non-dairy topping, all decorated with handfuls of squiggly neon gummy worms. I decided to challenge myself by remaking this mash-up with some good, wholesome ingredients and a fresh design with adult appeal.
To start, that meant making a chocolate pudding from scratch. I pulled a favorite recipe from my trusty binder. I know that nothing beats the ease of an instant boxed pudding that sets in 5 minutes, but nothing could top the pudding that I whipped up on the stove in a matter of minutes. I simply heated whole milk, cornstarch, cocoa, sugar, and eggs, then stirred in bittersweet chocolate and some vanilla at the end.
The creamy, satiny texture of this pudding is unbelievable, and the flavor of chocolate is so spot on. As I made it, I was getting totally psyched that this was going to be the best chocolate dirt pudding that anyone's ever tasted. For the "dirt", I gave crushed Oreo cookies a chance, but they ended up being too sweet. My old standby, dark Nabisco Famous Wafers, which have deep chocolate flavor without being too sweet, came through as always.
While I get that worms wiggling in and out of a pile of dirt might be fun for a kid's birthday party or maybe a family reunion picnic, the idea of bugs in my dessert doesn't really do it for me. After gleaning some inspiration from Martha, I decided to go for a fun but elegant approach. I divvied up the pudding and crumbs between cute individual glasses, then topped each patch of dirt with a mini green herb garden. Into the top-soil layer I planted tiny sprouts of mint and basil. These are adorable, classy, over-the-top chocolaty, and outrageously easy to make. And I promise not to judge you if a worm or two finds its way into the dirt.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore as a freelance writer for Time Out Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com. Follow Yvonne on Twitter.