A better than ever cook-and-serve sugar-free chocolate pudding
When I was a youngster, I loved old-fashioned, cook-and-serve butterscotch pudding and was surprised to recently come across a scratch-made butterscotch pudding recipe in a local newspaper. That recipe whets my appetite for dessert.
For a year and a half, I've avoided all desserts since most desserts are made with sugar or wheat flour or both, and neither works well with my low-carb food plan.
I read through that butterscotch pudding recipe believing I would make it until I ran smack into the need for brown sugar, butterscotch pudding's flavor source. That brown sugar was a stickler for making a sugar-free pudding.
I recently purchased an erythritol-based sugar substitute that said it could be used as a brown sugar substitute. That would be fine except for one thing, erythritol (ur·i·thruh·taal) has a cooling effect, like mint, on the palate. Not a good flavor match for butterscotch pudding. Drat.
I've done my best to stay away from all artificial, chemical-based sugar substitutes. I'm not going to go all scientific here; my personal preference is to shy away from artificial sugars. If I need to sweeten something, I use a small amount of organic stevia (which has erythritol listed on its ingredient list).
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol made from corn and is considered a natural sweetener that can be used as a sugar substitute.
Erythritol delivers certain dietary advantages. Erythritol contains just 6% of the calories of table sugar and will not spike insulin or blood glucose. Studies seem to indicate that erythritol may reduce the risk of heart disease. Sweet.
In my opinion, due to that palate cooling effect, erythritol would work best for making a cook-and-serve chocolate pudding. I took a basic chocolate pudding recipe and tweaked it by first substituting erythritol for the sugar. I boosted the chocolate flavor by using Dutch-processed cocoa powder and, finally, nudged my pudding's flavor by adding a little instant espresso powder.
My scratch-made pudding has only eight ingredients, and it is fairly easy to make. I whisked together all the dry ingredients in the bottom of a saucepan and placed it over medium heat. Slowly, I whisked in the milk and switched to a rubber spatula to make sure I could stir everything from the pan's bottom and corners.
Once it came to a low boil, I kept stirring, cooking it for a minute. Off the heat, I added butter and vanilla and stirred it in until it disappeared.
Using a soup ladle, I transferred the hot pudding into four serving bowls and then chilled them.
How was it? Oh my, it was sensational. Good, rich, deep chocolate flavor without any added sugar, saving 128 calories per serving.
On two of the puddings, I distributed some cocoa nibs (small pieces of crushed cacao beans) to add a nutty crunch and additional chocolate boost. Honestly, it was hard to eat just one serving.
Give it a try.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at email@example.com.
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No-Sugar-Added Chocolate Pudding
2/3 cup granulated erythritol (such as Swerve brand)
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2¼ cups whole milk (organic preferred)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan, stir together the erythritol, cocoa, cornstarch, espresso powder and salt in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in milk.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils; boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.
Pour into individual dessert dishes. To avoid a skin from forming on top, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface; refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Serves 4, ¾-cup servings.
Nutrition values per serving: 147 calories (47.8 percent from fat), 7.8 g fat (4.8 g saturated fat), 15.3 g carbohydrates (13.6 net carbs), 7.4 g sugars, 1.7 g fiber, 5.4 g protein, 21 mg cholesterol, 207 mg sodium.
Suggestion: Unlike sugar-sweetened pudding, if the puddings are not covered, the erythritol will form a slightly crystallized layer on the pudding's surface.
-- Don Mauer