Isn’t chocolate pudding the perfect little comfort food? Easy and quick to make, and good in any season?

Yesterday I made some in preparation for tonight’s Shabbat dinner. We don’t serve desserts often, opting for fruit instead, but my husband recently mentioned that he felt we should make more of an effort to make Shabbat dinners special. Since last night was a rare Thursday evening when I wasn’t out teaching, I figured I’d make my German grandmother’s chocolate pudding.

Not only is it a simple recipe and rather quick to make, but because it was a treat of my childhood, it will make any meal special for me.

And everybody in my family loves chocolate pudding! Master cook and baker that my grandmother was, she insisted on a particular brand of cocoa (van Houten from the Netherlands) for any chocolate-flavored dish. One of her tin cans of van Houten cocoa holds court on a high display shelf in my kitchen. I’ve been using Hershey’s cocoa and that has worked well enough.

Chocolate Pudding

1 liter milk (a bit more than 4 cups)
6 tbsp. starch (potato or corn starch work well)
4 tbsp. cocoa
a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips (this is my addition – there are no chocolate chips in Germany – but they intensify the chocolate taste)
sliced almonds for decoration

Whisk starch and cocoa together in a medium-size pot. Put on medium heat. Pour in the milk while stirring continuously with a whisk. The only hard part of this recipe is that you do have to continue stirring this mixture until you feel it thickening. This takes a few minutes, and I usually have a magazine at the ready and stir while I read. (If you don’t stir it all the time, you risk the milk burning or the starch clumping; both will ruin the pudding.)

When the mixture thickens, toss in a handful of chocolate chips and take it off the heat. Continue to stir until the chocolate chips have melted. Taste to see if it’s chocolaty and sweet enough for you. Add more chocolate chips if needed (too many, however, will make the pudding too liquid).

For a jazzier version you can add a drop or two of mint syrup. However, be careful. I once added too much (I got some potent mint essence from one of the mint farmers in Indiana), and the pudding tasted like spearmint chewing gum.

Pour pudding into small bowls and decorate with a few slivered almonds. Refrigerate a few hours until firm. (My grandmother actually did not refrigerate it, and it still got solid.)

This recipe serves four but can be easily adjusted if you figure 1/4 liter (250 ml – roughly one cup) of milk per person.