Decadently rich with a smooth and delicate texture, this simple chocolate custard is stirred, not baked, and unlike pudding, there's absolutely no cornstarch. You can flavor it with vanilla, as we do in the recipe below, or add a splash of almond or mint extract instead, and it's excellent served with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chopped nuts.
How to Make Chocolate Custard
Custards differ from puddings in that they're thickened with eggs and cream rather than with cornstarch, this gives them a resolutely creamy texture and also gives them a boost of nutrition, too, since egg yolks are particularly high in choline, a nutrient that helps to support liver health and that is likewise essential for cognitive health in babies and children as well as adults as we age.
There are two primary types of custard: Stirred custard and baked custards. Stirred custards are thickened in a double boiler, where they are heated very gently over simmering water. Stirring the custard continuously as it cooks over simmering water gives it a luxurious, smooth and creamy consistency. By contrast, baked custards (like this Chai Custard) are baked in a water bath in the oven until they thicken on their own. Stirred custards are typically faster and less finicky to make than baked custards, but they may need to thicken in the refrigerator before serving.
Making Chocolate Custard
To make chocolate custard, you'll pour heavy cream into a double boiler set over simmering water, and then you'll whisk in whole, unrefined cane sugar unless you want the deepest, darkest chocolate custard in which case you can simply skip it. You'll also want to flavor the custard with vanilla bean powder which offers a deep and dusky vanilla flavor, and it stands up better to the rich flavor of chocolate than vanilla extract.
After simmering cream with sugar and vanilla powder, you'll temper the egg yolks by whisking a slip of hot cream into the egg yolks to warm them up and ready them for custard making. Once you've added egg yolks back into the double boiler with the hot cream, add the chocolate and allow it to melt into the custard base. Both the chocolate itself and its coupling with egg yolks will yield a thick, but spoonable custard.
After pouring the custard into ramekins or a serving bowl, place it into the refrigerator overnight to set completely. You can serve it cold, but the flavor of chocolate and vanilla bloom when they're served at room temperature, so pull the custard out of the fridge about an hour before you plan to serve it.
Simple Chocolate Custard Recipe
- Set your double boiler (find one here) atop a saucepan half-ful of simmering water. Pour in the cream and warm it for 3 or 4 minutes, then whisk in the vanilla bean powder, sugar and salt. Continue whisking until the sugar is dissolved.
- Spoon a bit of hot cream into the egg yolks to temper them, then pour the eggs into the double boiler, stirring continuously for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped chocolate and continue stirring until it melts, combining with the cream and eggs and thickening enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Spoon the custard into 4 (6-oz) or 6 (4-oz) individual ramekins, cover with plastic wrap to prevent it from forming a skin, and refrigerate it or serve it right away with whipped cream.
What to Look for When Buying Chocolate
So that the flavor of chocolate really shines through in this custard, you'll want a fine, 85% dark chocolate. Look for one that is free from emulsifiers like soy lecithin. Ideally it should contain only cocoa beans, cocoa butter, and sugar as well as a small amount of additional flavoring, like vanilla.
Additionally, human trafficking and child labor are issues that plague the chocolate industry, so look for a chocolate that is not only organically produced, but is also Fair Trade. I use this fair-trade, organic 85% dark chocolate.
More delicious desserts
If you're partial to this decadent, creamy dark chocolate custard, you might want to give some Nourished Kitchen's other nourishing desserts a try, too.
Pumpkin Custard is an excellent alternative to pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.
Mexican-Style Hot Chocolate is sweet and dark with a touch of spice.
Rustic Mayan Chocolate Truffles are marvelous for Valentine's Day.