Chocolate coconut pudding

This pudding could have been ice cream. In fact, if it hadn’t been for an issue with my ice cream maker, it would have been ice cream.

The two desserts are more similar than they may seem at first — take flavored cream and freeze it, and you have ice cream. Add a gelling agent, and you have pudding.

The recipe is essentially my basic chocolate coconut sorbet. One time, I tried to make it when the ice cream maker barrel wasn’t fully frozen, and my cream refused to ice. So what to do? Wait 24 hours and try again? Instead, I took it in the other direction, heating the cream with some agar-agar and turning it into pudding.

Agar-agar is a vegetarian/vegan substitute for gelatin. Made from seaweed, it is often found in Asian desserts. I sense the instructions for using it were written with the intent of selling extra agar-agar, because I’ve found you don’t need nearly as much per cup of liquid as many recipes call for. I use 2/3 teaspoon per cup liquid in order to get a soft, creamy pudding, and 2/3 tablespoons to get pudding that’s firm enough to hold its form (but is still soft).

One thing to keep in mind — you have to heat it for the full 5 minutes to make sure it properly dissolves. Otherwise, you could wind up with hard flakes in your pudding, which will ruin the texture.

If you’re not vegetarian, you could use gelatin instead of agar-agar. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to figure out how much to use (this recipe contains 3 cups of liquid) and how to use it.

For about 6 servings:

2 cups coconut cream
1 cup hot water
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
2 teaspoons agar-agar

Put the cocoa and sugar in a pot and mix with enough of the water so that it dissolves into a paste (this helps keep it from clumping later). Add the rest of the water, the coconut cream, the vanilla and the agar-agar, and bring to a boil. Heat for five minutes.

Pour the liquid into cups or molds and let harden. Unlike gelatin, agar-agar hardens once it cools to room temperature, but this happens more quickly in the fridge.

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