Accept no substitutions: Chocolate pudding

Along with a number of indignities that arrived with middle age–poochy stomach, sagging eyelids, graying hair, and the inability to remember my children’s names–I also acquired an intolerance to lactose.

After experiencing the seven stages of grief over the loss of my beloved dairy products, I emerged with a new hopefulness. It seemed that eliminating the daily ritual of the after-dinner dish of butter-pecan ice cream resulted in a small weight loss.

Alas, like all dreams, this was temporary.

The faux dairy products available, like tofu ice cream sandwiches and soy cheese, were not only totally unsatisfying, but downright nasty. It seemed as if the manufacturers of these products had overcompensated for the lack of butterfat with excessive amounts of sugar and guar gum. The pounds returned, and for what? A cloyingly sweet, gritty cup of soygurt? No thanks.

Then, I made a startling discovery. One can avoid lactose and still have fun. Butter, for example, contains only trace amounts of lactose. Pie–with a butter crust–was an option, I just couldn’t have it a la mode. Hard cheeses, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, also were very low in lactose. Welcome back, pasta carbonara.

So, you’ll find those products in my recipes. But for the most part, you won’t find milk or cream, which is where the motherlode of lactose resides. I avoid them like the plague.

Well, for me, they are the plague.

But sometimes the kids request a dairy bomb. This is a really good one. Or so they tell me.

Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appetit

2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups lowfat milk (you could substitute soymilk, I suppose, but I would adjust the sugar)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly add half the milk, whisking the whole time. Add the remaining milk and continue to whisk. Turn on the heat to medium high and whisk constantly until the pudding comes to a boil. It will start to get very thick, but not pudding thick. Whisk like crazy to prevent lumps. Boil and whisk for another minute, then turn off the heat. Add the vanilla and whisk.

Pour the pudding into four small bowls and refrigerate for one hour until set and cool.

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