Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Thrift Week 2018, Day Seven: Chocolate Pudding

In the first six days of Thrift Week, we've covered recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But what about dessert? Does eating frugally mean you have to go to bed with no dessert, even if you haven't done anything naughty?

Of course not! Frugality is all about getting the most possible joy out of the smallest expense, and there's little joy in a life without sweets. Brian and I have several dessert recipes we enjoy regularly, but our real go-to recipe is chocolate pudding. It's our number one choice for several reasons:
  1. It's pretty easy to make, and much less time consuming than a pie or a cake.
  2. It's healthier than most desserts. We make it with skim milk and just a tiny bit of oil or butter, so the only thing in it that's not so healthy is the sugar, and there isn't too much of that.
  3. It's filling. One batch makes two good-sized bowls, so this dessert doesn't leave us hungry for more.
  4. Most important of all, it calls for nothing we don't habitually have in the house. So any time we're in the mood for dessert, we know we can always make pudding, with no trip to the store required.
Brian's chocolate pudding recipe is a variant on the basic chocolate pudding recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. (Actually, it's a vanilla pudding recipe, with variants for chocolate or butterscotch, but why make vanilla when you could make chocolate?) That recipe makes four small servings and calls for two egg yolks, no whites. When he first started making it, he used to halve the recipe and make one big bowlful, which we would share.

Now, that same cookbook also has a recipe for tapioca pudding, which calls for you to separate the eggs, beat the egg whites separately, and fold them into the pudding. Doing this allows you to get twice as many servings from the same volume of milk and eggs, with roughly half the calories per serving. So eventually, we came up with the idea of adapting this technique to the chocolate pudding recipe, and our basic recipe now makes a bowlful for each of us. The cost and the calorie count are pretty much the same, but we get nearly twice as much food—which means we're less likely to go hunting for something else (maybe something less healthy) to nosh on later.

Here's the recipe as Brian now makes it:
Brian's Healthi(er) Chocolate Pudding
  1. Divide 1 large egg. Place the yolk in a cup or small bowl and the white in a larger bowl.  Set both aside.
  2. Whisk together 3 Tbsp sugar, 4 Tbsp cocoa powder, 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch, dash salt, 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil (or butter), and 1 c. milk. (We use skim milk, which makes the recipe lighter, but you can use whatever you have.)
  3. Heat in a saucepan on low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble.  Let it bubble for one minute (still stirring), then remove from heat.
  4. Pour about 1/3 of the mixture into the cup or bowl containing the egg yolk and whisk to combine.  Add the combination back into the saucepan and stir to mix.
  5. Return the saucepan to low heat and continue to heat, stirring, until the mixture begins to bubble again.  Remove from heat and add 1/2 tsp vanilla. Set mixture aside.
  6. With an electric mixer or equivalent, beat the egg white, gradually adding 1 Tbsp sugar. Beat until medium-to-stiff peaks form.
  7. Fold the chocolate mixture into the beaten egg whites and mix carefully.  Distribute into bowls. Pudding can be cooled in the refrigerator or served at room temperature.
This dish costs us $1.25 to make: 67 cents for the cocoa (organic and Fair Trade), 25 for the egg (organic and Certified Humane), 17 for the milk, and 8 each for the sugar and coconut oil (both organic). The cost of the salt and cornstarch is negligible. If you made this pudding with conventional cocoa, sugar, and egg, you could probably whip up a batch for around 81 cents.

Now, I must confess that when Brian and I have chocolate pudding for dessert, we tend to add to the cost by topping it lavishly with whipped cream. The cans of whipped cream we buy (having determined that whipping our own really isn't cost-effective, and having figured out that we can actually recycle the cans with a bit of work) are about $3 apiece and, according to the label, contain 61 servings. However, the label also claims that a serving is 2 tablespoons, which is simply to laugh. We like to have whipped cream in every spoonful, so we cover the surface of the pudding with it, then come back for more when we get down to the next layer. Altogether, we probably use at least a half-cup of whipped cream for every bowl of pudding, so that adds at least 20 cents per serving. But even so, the total cost of this dessert is only around 83 cents per serving, which is a small enough price for the sheer hedonic joy it brings us.

And with that, our Thrift Week of ecofrugal eating comes to a close. We now return to our regular weekly blog schedule, so I'll be back this weekend to talk about what Brian is building me for my birthday present.
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