We don’t eat a lot of dessert at home, but on Valentine’s Day we always want a special chocolate dessert.  We love the combination of fruit and chocolate, and our favorite is chocolate and orange.  This homemade pudding recipe takes your romantic dessert from classic to classy with the addition of vanilla bean and orange zest.

I’ve loved chocolate and orange ever since my dad got me addicted as a little girl.  Every year for Christmas he would get a chocolate orange in his stocking.  He’d whack it on the table then unwrap it, doling out little orange wedges of chocolate like edible treasures.  I would savor every piece, trying to make it last in my mouth as long as possible.

I had 12 egg yolks in a container in my fridge from all the batches of frosting I made over the holidays.  I needed to figure out a way to use them up besides homemade mayonnaise, so decided to  make an old fashioned pudding.


This was the way puddings were made before they came in a box, and the flavor of a homemade pudding will make you wonder why anyone ever settled for the boxed version at all.  In fact, I have 4 boxes that have sat in my cupboard for a couple years because once I discovered the homemade version, I never went back!

The most complicated part of making this pudding is working with heat sensitive ingredients.  You need to get the pudding hot enough for the cornstarch to start thickening, but you also need to heat the eggs slowly enough to prevent scrambling them.  This is where the importance of a double boiler comes in.

You don’t have to actually buy a double boiler (though they are quite handy).  You can make your own buy finding a heat proof bowl that fits well into one of your cooking pots.  I have a big blue glass bowl that fits perfectly into my stockpot so that it doesn’t move around when I’m stirring vigorously.  Fill the pot with a few inches of water and bring that to boil.  Place your bowl on top and you have a double boiler!


When you add the hot milk to the eggs, make sure to add it just a little at a time, stirring continuously.  This is called tempering the eggs, and it slowly increases their temperature to create a custard like texture.  When you add the egg mixture to your double boiler, make sure everything gets nice and hot for your cornstarch to be able to set.  It should be just below the boiling point.

If  your pudding doesn’t set (is runny like soup), it means you didn’t get it hot enough in the final cooking step.  Don’t worry, all is not lost!  You can SLOWLY reheat the pudding on medium low, stirring continuously.  Once it’s warmed up quite a bit you can raise the heat slowly until it just begins to boil.  Remove immediately and place in a sink of cold water to cool your pot.  That will make sure your eggs don’t scramble.


If you don’t have cornstarch on hand, you can substitute flour.  Either one works but since using cornstarch makes this a gluten free recipe, I chose that option.

With the elegance of fresh orange and vanilla, this chocolate pudding is a grown up way to revisit childhood pleasures.  One of my favorite reasons for making it our Valentine’s dessert is that you can make it in advance and keep it in the fridge to set.  That means less work and more romance this February 14!  If you’re looking for a really elegant chocolate dessert, you can also try this raspberry chocolate tart.


Chocolate Orange Pudding Recipe

serves 2-4


1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
3 oz good quality chocolate (I used Scharffenberger 70% cacao bittersweet)
2 TBS orange zest
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 TBS cornstarch
1/4 tsp table salt
5 egg yolks, beaten
candied orange peel


Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod into the milk.  Reserve the vanilla pod for another use (like vanilla sugar).  Let the milk sit for 10 minutes to infuse with the vanilla flavor.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occaisionally with a whisk.  While it’s melting, in another pot, heat the vanilla infused milk until it just starts to boil.  Remove from the heat.
Add orange zest to the melted chocolate.  Mix the cornstarch, sugar and salt together then add to the chocolate and orange zest.  Stir half of the hot milk (1 cup) into the chocolate mixture and whisk well.
In another bowl, SLOWLY add the rest of the hot milk (1 cup) a little at a time to the egg yolks,stirring contiuously.  When all the milk is mixed in, add the eggs and milk to the chocolate mixture.
Whisk the mixture well for at least five minutes, until the pudding is just about boiling.  Pour into serving dishes and refrigerate until set.  Garnish with candied orange peels.

Approximate cost/serving: This actually costs less than the boxed version because the most expensive ingredient is the milk.  It cost me $3 to make the whole batch of pudding.  We stretched it into 4 servings (though we could have easily made it 2!).  That’s just 75 cents per serving for your Valentine’s dessert!

Vegetarian/Gluten Free: This is naturally gluten free and vegetarian though not vegan since it contains milk and eggs.

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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.