Sunday, September 8, 2013

Freezer Friendly Chocolate Pudding

I cook as many things as I can that are freezable, then freeze individual portions and grab one when I want one. I have frozen many servings of chocolate pudding, but it never quite worked right. Corn starch, the usual pudding thickener, doesn't hold up well to freezing. I could eat the corn starch pudding slightly frozen and it was okay. After that, it got liquidy. My second attempt, arrow root starch, produced slimy pudding. *shudders* Oh, and also doesn't freeze well. Rather than try every possible starch out there, I did some webby research and found what I thought would be an ideal solution: tapioca. And it is! The pudding made with tapioca starch tastes great. I can't tell I used tapioca instead of corn starch. And, it can be frozen and thawed and stays the consistency of pudding! So here's my recipe for freezer friendly chocolate pudding.

A word on chocolate. This pudding tastes like whatever chocolate and cocoa you use to make it. Use chocolate that you love to eat. For me, that's a good Dutch processed cocoa and semisweet chocolate. If you don't order a 10kg bag of Callebaut's semisweet callets as soon as the weather turns cold each year, you might try looking at Whole Foods. It was there that I got addicted to Callebaut chocolate!

6 egg yolks
2 cups of cream
5 cups of milk
2 cups of sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup tapioca starch (sometimes called tapioca flour), this makes a fairly soft pudding. Add 1-2 extra tablespoons of tapioca starch if you want a firmer pudding.
6 tablespoons cocoa (Increase to 1/2 cup for a more intense chocolate flavor.)
12 ounces chocolate (If you are using callets, use about 2 cups.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a pan that is at least 4 quarts in size, measure out the sugar, tapioca starch, cocoa, and salt. Mix until everything is combined.
Add the egg yolks and cream. Mix until the egg yolks are well incorporated and all of the dry ingredients are wet. (This is important. If you have little bits of egg yolk hanging around they are likely to scramble when you start heating the pudding.)
Add the milk. Mix a little at this point, but you don't have to worry about getting it perfect.
Over medium heat, cook while stirring continuously until the pudding thickens. You'll notice some light colored foam on top at first. When this blends in, the pudding is close to being cooked. When it becomes the consistency of melted chocolate and you get a bubble or two rising up from the bottom of the pan, you are good to go.
Remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate and keep stirring until it melts. Stir in the vanilla.

Strain the pudding. Yes, strain. I know it's a pain, but, you'll get rid of any lumps that way. And resist the urge to smush the lumps through the strainer. That just makes smaller lumps, it doesn't get rid of them. You are however welcome to scrape the bottom of the strainer to get all of the pudding.

At this point, you can take a big bowl of pudding and put it in the fridge, or, you can divide it into small containers to refrigerate or freeze. If you don't want a pudding skin, put plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding, or, fill up your containers all the way so that the lid touches the top surface.

Lastly, and most importantly, enjoy the super tasty result!! :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kindle Protection

My new favorite geek discovery: my Kindle Paperwhite fits perfectly in a Zip-Loc 1 quart freezer bag. Why would I want to put my Kindle in a zip-loc? The better for reading in the hot-tub! :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Here there be Dragon*Con!

In a few days one of my favorite events of the year is happening, Dragon*Con!!! And for the first time, I will be there for all of the first day of the con :) For the past 6 years I have snuck out of school early on Friday before Labor day, flown down to Atlanta, and arrived at the con just in time to get my badge before pickup closes Friday night. This year I'm arriving Thursday! I get to enjoy all the Friday goodness! This year I'm most looking forward to seeing George Takei. He was at the very first DC I even attended, but in a reallyreally small room. It was filled to overflowing, and a bunch of us stood outside the door. I remember that he was funny, but also that it wasn't my favorite DC experience. This year they've got him in a big ballroom. I'll have to arrive early, but I should still get a shot at a seat this time :) I have been saving my pennies for the dealer room. That's where I refresh my geek wardrobe (aka, t-shirts) each year. And I've got a handful of other panels scoped out that I will take a shot at. Mostly though, I am looking forward to being amongst fellow geeks. If you've never been the minority (in which case you're either not a geek, or are an extremely lucky geek), go do something where you are, and see how that feels. It's not exactly bad. But sometimes it is tiring. Sometimes I want to speak my own language and know everyone will understand. I want to laugh at all the smart jokes and give people the Spock eyebrow for the dumb ones. And just generally be one of the crowd. At Dragon*Con, I am. One of 50k+ like minded people. I hope to see you there!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why I left Academia

In May of 2005 I graduated with my PhD in Computer Science, and shortly thereafter, set sail for Middle of Nowhere PA (tm) to teach at a small liberal arts university. Teaching was something I loved and wanted to do. Yet, now, I'm writing Java programs at a company in Pittsburgh. And every time someone at my new job hears that I left a tenure track position to be a software engineer, they ask why. I've had a lot of practice at the answer. 1. I like to do new things. After 7.5 years, teaching wasn't new to me anymore. 2. I like intellectual challenges. There are not a lot of opportunities for that when teaching the same classes over and over. Most faculty satisfy this need via research. That's fantastic, when you can make time for it. But unless I wanted to work during the weekends, it wasn't happening in any great quantity. 3. For everything I did that I really liked, (aka, working with students) I had to do 10 things that I didn't like. The second question I get is: But what about all the time off? I suggest anyone who thinks faculty have it easy read this article, particularly the addendum. What is that bad for me? Not quite. It was more like someone who works 4 10-hour days a week then has a 3 day weekend. I worked 10 totally packed months, then got 2 months off. That works for some people. It didn't work so well for me. I may go back to teaching someday, but for now, I'm enjoying writing code. I get to solve puzzles, learn new things, and create something on a daily basis. It's a blast :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I'm baaaack :)

I am going to revive this blog :) That is all for today.