Makes 3-1/2 cups; serves 4 to 6
From The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg (Hyperion, 2006).
Most people believe that a mousse is sophisticated, but that pudding is cozy and casual. This recipe does away with that notion. When chocolate pudding is as intensely flavorful as this, with a refined texture, it can hold its own beside any mousse. Cooking the pudding in a double boiler and then straining it gives it a wonderful silkiness.
Combine the cornstarch, sugar, and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides.
Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a serving bowl or strain the pudding into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.
Some find the layer of "skin" that forms on the top of pudding after refrigerating to be the best part, while others can't bear the thought of it. If you're the type who dislikes a pudding skin, place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface; the wrap keep a skin from forming. But if you want that dense, chewy layer to form, just pull plastic wrap tightly over the top of the serving dish(es) and don't allow it to touch the pudding.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.