Published September 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Homemade chocolate pudding often suffers from either lackluster chocolate flavor, caused by a dearth of chocolate, or a grainy texture, caused by too much cocoa butter. We found that using a moderate amount of bittersweet chocolate in combination with unsweetened cocoa and espresso powder helped us achieve maximum chocolate flavor. For thickening, cornstarch proved the right choice, and using mostly milk and just half a cup of heavy cream, along with three egg yolks, ensured that our pudding had a silky smooth texture. Salt and vanilla enhanced the chocolate flavor even more.
We recommend using one of our favorite dark chocolates-Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate, L-60-40NV, or Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar. If you like, garnish the pudding with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
The Gritty Truth about Cocoa Butter
As we developed our pudding recipe, we found that there was a limit to how much bittersweet chocolate we could add before the texture turned gritty- but that we could continue to add chocolate in the form of cocoa powder without affecting smoothness. Why should this be the case? The culprit in causing grittiness, it turns out, is cocoa butter- and solid chocolate has far more of it than cocoa powder. Chocolate is manufactured so that its fat remains solid at room temperature but literally melts in the mouth. But when melted chocolate is allowed to re-solidify, the crystalline structure of its cocoa butter is reorganized. It becomes more stable and melts at higher-than-body temperature. If present in high enough amounts, this more-stable form of cocoa butter can create the grainy mouthfeel we detected in the pudding.