As a nineteen year old girl, I was completely smitten by this older, bearded man who could sing and play his guitar beautifully. Not only musically inclined, Ryan wooed me with his sweetness, with his warm hugs and hearty laughter. I found in him a companion for my always searching heart.
During those first few months, we spent many evening watching old movies and Mystery Science Theater. He would pop a big bowl of popcorn, and I would pull out my animal crackers. I rediscovered those delightful treats during my first semester at college, and I bought a big plastic teddy bear of cookies to store in Ryan's room.
Now animal crackers couldn't be consumed on their own. They required a key component--chocolate pudding. In my nineteen year old mind, there was nothing better than eating animal crackers and chocolate pudding while resting my head on this boy that I loved.
But my tastes have evolved, and now instead of animal crackers and packages of Jello Chocolate Pudding, I make tarts.
Not only do I make tarts, but I make pastry dough initials to personalize my already involved evening treat.
Yes, I've become a bit of a baking fanatic over these past 5 years. A lot has changed in our consumption of baked goods--almost all for the better.
But thankfully, I still get giddy each time my husband walks through the front door. I still can't control my laughter when he imitates famous celebrities or infamous family members. I still lie next to him each night, and think to myself, "We are so lucky to have each other". Although a lot has changed, I know that the important things have either stayed the same or gotten better.
So make this pudding...and if you feel up to it, make these pastry shells to hold the chocolate, creamy goodness. But if not, just buy yourself a carton of animal crackers. I promise you it will make your night a little happier.
*Adapted from Tyler Florence
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup natural cocoa powder
4 teaspoons cornstarch
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup whipping cream
1. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and the cocoa in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer, over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of the milk, cornstarch, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla in a bowl. Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat whisking constantly, until the pudding comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and continue whisking until thick, about 2 or 3 minutes more.
3. Pour the pudding into 6 small cups or 9 pastry cups. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight until set.
*makes 9 mini pastry cups
3 TBSP ice water, plus extra as needed
1.5 TBSP sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces and frozen for 10 min
1. Mix 3 TBSP of ice water with sour cream together until combined. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl. Scatter the butter pieces on top and process the mixture with a fork or a pastry blender until the butter is the size of large peas.
2. Pour half of the sour-cream/water mixture over the flour mixture and stir until incorporated. Repeat with the remaining sour cream mixture. If the dough doesn't hold together when pinched, sprinkle 1 to 2 TBSP more ice water over the mixture.
3. Flatten the dough into a 4 inch disk, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough outward from its center into a 12-inch circle. Using a 4-inch round cutter, cut out 9 circles of pastry dough. Carefully place each circle of dough into a muffin tin. Gently press dough into the bottom and sides of each tin. Prick dough with fork.
5. Line each prepared muffin tin with a small piece of foil. Place pie weights or dried beans in the center. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and beans and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the crust is a light golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool before filling with pudding.
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