Friday, October 18, 2013

Fast Friday: Chocolate pudding tart

Is it really only Friday?  This week has zipped by, thanks to unusually busy evenings.

Though I'm nearly 30 (!), I still tend to think of weeknights like school nights and try to avoid making plans.  After a long day of work, I want to enjoy a glorious routine of exercising, making dinner, lounging in sweats, and not getting dressed up to go out again.

But, rules routines are made to be broken, especially when one's best friend of 20 (!!) years turns the big 3-0 (!!!).  A milestone birthday like that deserves multiple celebrations: Milkshake Mondays, a surprise dessert party on Tuesday, and dinner last night.  Tonight, a group of ladies is going out to commemorate her actual birthday, which is today.  Basically, we've eaten our way through the week, and I'm sure this is exactly how the birthday girl wanted it :)

When I asked Laura what swanky joint I could take her to for dinner, she threw me for a loop by requesting a home-cooked meal since she goes out so often.  Between the two of us, she is the restaurant aficionado and I'm the queen of cooking and baking; the ying and yang of food, if you will, so this worked out perfectly.

I told her the meal would be a surprise but knew exactly what to make right from the start.  For dinner, I made taco turkey casserole.  The very dish that she once claimed she wanted to "live inside."  And for dessert?  A divine chocolate pudding tart.

There are a plethora of epic chocolate desserts I considered baking for this cocoa lover, but none she's loved quite as much as this one.  I made it regularly when we first began hosting weekly dinners for each other.  Laura loved it so much that she'd go back for seconds and thirds until there was no more.

It's been years since I made it, so I knew she'd be surprised to see it return, and she most certainly was!

This chocolate pudding tart is a shining example of the K.I.S.S. principle.  A crunchy graham cracker crust, made with just 4 ingredients, is baked and then filled with cool chocolate pudding.  Ready in a flash, especially if you make the crust ahead of time.

You might be tempted to think this is an ordinary graham cracker crust, but stop right there because this one is the best one ever!

It's all thanks to my not-so-secret simple tweak to the standard recipe.  I use brown sugar in place of white sugar, and it makes such a difference.  The molasses-laced sugar pairs so well with the honey in the graham crackers, giving the crust real flavor in addition to the sweetness.

And the chocolate pudding?  You already know.  Rich and creamy, just how it should be, a perfect contrast  against the crunch of the graham cracker shell.

I could say so many things about this dessert and, while we're at it, this birthday lady.  But I'll K.I.S.S.:

Make this now.

You'll be glad you did.

Happy 30th birthday, Laura!

One year ago: Harvest chicken quinoa stew
Three years ago: Chocolate almond pastry

Chocolate Pudding Tart
-serves 4

A few notes: I used a 13 3/4-inch by 4 1/2-inch tart pan but this crust would work just as well in a 9-inch pie plate; follow the same instructions for baking and filling.  Also, use this recipe as more of a guideline because the possibilities are endless.  Feel free to use various types of cookies (i.e. ginger snaps, vanilla wafers, amaretti cookies) for the crust and any flavor of pudding you like.  Add chocolate curls, chopped nuts, or anything you like to dress it up!  Finally, I add cocoa to the chocolate pudding to deepen the flavor but it's optional.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Pinch salt
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, optional (see note above)

Preheat oven to 350°F.   In a medium bowl, combine cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, and butter until well mixed and moistened.  Press evenly into pan, patting crumbs into an even layer on bottom and up sides of tart pan.  Bake until firm, 12 to 15 minutes.  Cool on wire rack for roughly 30 minutes before filling.

(If making ahead, unfilled crust can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Prepare pudding according to instructions on the package and, once ready, spread evenly in pie shell and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.  Filled crust can be refrigerated for up to one day.  Cut and enjoy!

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