I knew that I could get my husband moving quickly – something that simply isn’t in his nature – if I told him that my half & half had spoiled and if he wanted budino for dessert tonight I needed him to run to the store NOW to buy more. Andrew loves all custards and puddings and this version is rich and sophisticated yet simple to make. Oh, and did I say that it has dark bittersweet chocolate?! And the hint of lemon in the caramel is a surprising twist. This is truly a wonderful dessert – delicious any time of the year.
I found this recipe years ago in the New New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey and I have been making it ever since. I believe this cookbook is now out of print, but copies are still available through used book dealers. It contains many wonderful older recipes.
Budino is not difficult to make. The trickiest part is making the caramel, but once you have learned how to do that, you will be able to make flan and caramel sauce with ease. And if you mess it up the first time, remember that it is only sugar and you can easily start again. Follow my directions exactly and you will likely get it in one.
Budino can be made the day before but it at least should be made 4 to 6 hours before you wish to serve it, giving it enough time to set and chill. I make mine with half & half, but you can use whole milk. If you go with anything thinner – well, it just won’t be the same. If it makes you feel any better, there is only a quarter cup of the half & half per serving. You want to use the best eggs and a good quality dark chocolate. I like to go with a 64% to 70% cacao. Left-overs will keep for several days un-molded in the refrigerator. Once you taste this you will wonder why you haven’t made it before.
Budino al Cioccolato (Chocolate Crème Caramel)
Yield: 4 servings
For the caramel
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
For the custard
1 cup of half & half or whole milk
2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks from large eggs
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
Pinch of Kosher salt
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Boil 3 cups of water and keep warm.
- Set out 4 half cup oven-proof custard molds on a cooling rack.
- Combine the 1/2 cup of sugar, water and lemon juice in a light-colored saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. (If you use a dark pan, it will be difficult to impossible to see when the sugar has become just the right color. This is one of those things that you wait for and the ALL of a SUDDEN – it’s done.)Allow the mixture to boil WITHOUT STIRRING AND DO NOT TOUCH! If you stir, the sugar will evaporate before it ever caramelizes and nothing burns like hot sugar. You are looking for the mixture to become a light amber color. It will take about 8 to 10 minutes(ish).
Just be patient and DO NOT walk away! Nothing much will happen for the first 6 minutes or so. And then all of a sudden, you have caramel. If the sugar gets too dark, it will taste bitter so REALLY, DON’T WALK AWAY! Okay, this is the hardest part and you got it in one. Now quickly divide the caramel into each custard cup and swirl the liquid so it climbs part way up the sides of the mold. Be careful because the sugar is still very hot, but do it right away before it sets.
- While the caramel is cooling, heat the half & half or milk with the chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts.
- Beat the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar until smooth. Slowly whisk the chocolate milk mixture into the eggs. You don’t want the eggs to curdle so you need to bring them up to the same temperature as the hot liquid which is easily done if you pour in just a little of the hot mixture at a time.
- Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the custard into a bowl with a lip or a large measuring cup. Discard the foam.
- Divide the custard into the prepared custard cups and place them in a baking dish large enough to easily hold them. Place the dish in the oven and carefully pour enough boiling water around the cups to come about 1/3 of the way up the sides. Bake until the custard is set – about 30 minutes.
- Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool. Once you can easily handle the cups, remove them from the water and place them on the rack to cool completely. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate the custard for at least several hours.
- When you are ready to serve, take a thin, sharp knife or metal spatula and run it around the edge of the custard. Place a shallow bowl over the custard cup, flip the dish and the mold over and give one firm plop. The custard should come out in one piece along with the caramel.
A small disk of the caramel might remain in the dish. That’s fine. You can wash it out with hot water – it’s sugar after all – or you can chip out pieces and suck on them like candy. I’m not judging.