The grand finale for a Valentine’s Day dinner? Chocolate budino (that’s Italian for pudding) with grapefruit cream and espresso crumbs. Grapefruit zest adds a tropical note that cuts the richness of the chocolate, and the textures of espresso crumbs, pudding and cream make for a flawless dish.
The base of this three-layer dessert is a cornstarch-thickened custard. To infuse the grapefruit cream with even more citrus flavor, combine the zest and heavy cream and refrigerate for a few hours before the cream is whipped.
Bittersweet Chocolate Budino with Grapefruit Cream and Espresso Crumbs
For the espresso crumbs:
¼ cup flour
2½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons finely ground espresso
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and kept cold
For the grapefruit cream:
1 cup chilled whip ping heavy cream
Grated zest of ½ small grapefruit
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
For the budino:
3¼ cups whole milk
10 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, prefer- ably 70 to 73 percent cacao, chopped
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brewed espresso or strong coffee
¼ cup cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
For the espresso crumbs: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have a baking sheet at hand.
Combine the flour, granulated sugar and espresso and cocoa powders in a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse/process to achieve a pebbly consistency. Spread evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes to form a solid chocolate sheet. Let it cool completely, then break up the sheet into different-size crumbs and pieces, which can be used right away or stored in a container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
For the grapefruit cream: Beat the heavy whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held mixer on medium speed just until the mixture starts to thicken. Stop and add the grapefruit zest, vanilla extract and confectioners’ sugar. Beat on medium speed to form soft peaks. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days.
For the budino: Prepare an ice bath large enough to hold a large saucepan that will be used to cook the milk mixture.
Combine 2 cups of the milk, half of the granulated sugar and all of the salt in the saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Combine the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, then place the bowl over the pot of milk. Once the chocolate has melted, stir to incorporate the butter, adding the brewed espresso. Let cool to room temperature.
Combine the cornstarch and the remaining 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar in a mixing bowl. Gradually stir in the remaining 1¼ cups of milk, then whisk in the egg yolks until well blended.
Slowly add a bit of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the egg yolks from coagulating. Add the tempered egg yolk mixture to the pot of hot milk, whisking to form a thickened custard (budino). The mixture should coat the back of a spoon yet remain somewhat pourable.
Slowly add the finished budino to the bowl of chocolate. Fold everything together with a spatula until fully incorporated. Immediately transfer the bowl to the ice bath to cool the mixture quickly.
If you find clumps, use a flexible spatula to push the budino through a fine-mesh strainer. At this point, the budino can be served immediately or covered with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly on the surface and refrigerated for up to a day.
When ready to assemble, divide the budino among glassware or dessert bowls. Top each portion equally with the espresso crumbs, then with a generous dollop of the grapefruit cream. Serve right away. Serves 8.
Per serving: 370 calories, 6 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 26 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 170 mg cholesterol, 95 mg sodium, no dietary fiber, 24 g sugar.