Mideast twist jazzes up chocolate dessert

NEW YORK (AP): Chocolates may be the easy route for a last-minute Valentine’s Day, but there’s still time to pull off a quick homemade chocolate dessert. It’s pudding, but with a sophisticated twist from the Middle East.

Cooks there frequently pair sweet ingredients with contrasting flavors, often something savory or bitter to add interest to what otherwise would be a one-note sweet dessert. Nuts and seeds are common choices, and we were drawn to their common use of the sesame seed paste tahini. In the U.S., tahini most often is used in hummus, but its nutty, buttery flavor both complements and offsets chocolate and balances its sweetness.

We applied that lesson in this stovetop preparation in our book “Milk Street Tuesday Nights,” which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less. For a creamy, luxurious texture, we use half-and-half as the base, enrich it with egg yolks and thicken it with cornstarch. We found the most complex chocolate flavor uses a combination of Dutch-processed cocoa and semisweet chocolate.

Whisking in a couple tablespoons each of butter and tahini at the end gives the pudding a lustrous sheen and nutty sesame notes. An easy whipped cream laced with more tahini balances the sweetness in the pudding.

Be sure to stir the tahini well. The oil in tahini separates and must be mixed in before use, or the topping will have a unappealing consistency.

Creamy Chocolate Pudding with Whipped Sesame Topping


Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

¼ cup plus 1½ teaspoons white sugar, divided

3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa

5 teaspoons cornstarch

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups half-and-half, divided

2 large egg yolks

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 4 pieces

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons tahini, plus more to serve

Cocoa nibs or toasted black or white sesame seeds, to serve

In a medium saucepan, whisk the ¼ cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt, breaking up any large clumps of cocoa; it’s fine if some small lumps remain. Add ¼ cup of half-and-half and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the yolks. Gradually whisk in the remaining half-and-half.

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high while whisking continuously. Once it reaches a simmer, cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly; the pudding will be thick and glossy. Off heat, whisk in the chocolate until smooth, then whisk in the butter and 2 tablespoons tahini.

Set a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Scrape the pudding into the strainer and push it through with a silicone spatula; scrape the bottom of the strainer to collect all of the pudding. Divide the pudding evenly among 4 serving dishes and set aside until barely warm, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the cream, 2 teaspoons tahini and remaining 1½ teaspoons sugar. Beat until it holds stiff peaks. Dollop the whipped cream onto the puddings. Drizzle each with additional tahini and sprinkle with cocoa nibs or sesame seeds.