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The other day I met my 1st Grade Best Friend downtown for Happy Hour. Now that I live in San Diego again, we’ve reconnected. Years can go by, but we always manage to pick up right where we last left off. I love that about her. Back in Elementary School, we were nearly inseparable. We even wore matching t-shirts.
This dessert is inspired by her Mom and was my favorite as a kid. For special occasions she would make Dirt Cake – chocolate pudding thickened with cream cheese in between layers of oreo crumbs in a large flower pot with gummy worms scattered throughout. I lived for the stuff, well, at least until I found out about the cream cheese. I swore off Dirt Cake after that. Cream cheese freaked me out! I wouldn’t touch it until a friend finally convinced me during my Freshman year of college. Now I see bagels as naked without cream cheese. Funny how tastes can change.
This recipe foregoes cream cheese in favor of beer. Grab a bottle (or can) of a porter or milk stout with minimal bitterness; anything too roasted or hopped, particularly when paired with the bitterness of dark chocolate, will make a dessert that’s, well, overly bitter. That’s not sought after here. Here the goal is a decadent, but not overly sweet, dessert with robust flavors that’s reminiscent of childhood.
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups half & half
1 cup porter or chocolate stout
6 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract or one vanilla bean, scrapped
18 oreos/chocolate sandwich cookies
Special equipment: A double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water helps prevent scorched chocolate when making the pudding. If neither is available, use a smaller burner, pay close attention, and adjust the heat as needed
Combine cornstarch, sugar, and salt in the top of a double boiler, a heatproof bowl, or a medium pot while off the stovetop. Gradually whisk in beer and cream; scrape bottom and sides to ensure all dry ingredients are mixed in.
Place over simmering water, whisking occasionally to keep lumps from forming. The mixture will begin to thicken after 20 minutes or so. When it coats the back of a spoon, add the chocolate. Stir 4 to 5 minutes. The pudding is ready when it’s thick and smooth.
Remove from heat; add vanilla.
If you’re anti-lumps like me, dirty an etra dish and push through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. It’s amazing how many tend to sneak in there, even when the mixture is seemingly smoother than smooth.
Do you like the skin that forms on the top of pudding or simmering milk? If so, place plastic wrap over the bowl, leaving headspace between the pudding and the plastic, to let that skin form. If not, gently press plastic wrap directly onto the top of the pudding.
Place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to a few days.
Prior to serving, place cookies in a resealable bag and use a rolling in to whack/crush/pulverize until the consistency of, well, dirt. Alternatively, use a food processor – but where’s the fun in that?
To assemble, spoon pudding into an individual bowl until half full, top with a layer of crumbs; add more pudding, top with with additional crumbs and a couple of gummy worms.