A few weeks ago, Brett and I traveled to Chicago to celebrate my 29-ish (ok, 30th) birthday. The weekend was packed with SO MUCH FUN AND DELICIOUSNESS that I knew I just had to tell you guys all about it. Oh, and we’re going to talk about chocolate budino too, so happy birthday to everyone apparently.
Have you been to Chicago? It’s literally the best. The town is clean and beautiful with amazing restaurants, architecture, and shopping to boot. If cool food, professional sports, and really nice locals are your thing, Chicago is where it’s at.
We stayed downtown at the Loews Hotel and spent pretty much every waking moment eating and navigating the city. Although the shopping and tourist attractions were all pretty stellar, the hands-down highlight was the architecture tour along the river. Taking in the city from a boat on a sunny day was a treat I won’t soon forget.
Another day was spent with my dearest friend, Trisha, and her husband who drove from Indianapolis to surprise me for my b-day! This girl has a brand new baby boy at home and still made the trek to hug my neck and celebrate- isn’t that golden? We had a few meals, shopped, and experienced the view from the 96th floor of the John Hancock building during our time together. Let’s raise a glass to the besties that love us well.
In the evenings, we hung out with my brother, Blake, who lives in downtown Chicago. While together, we visited some of my very favorite restaurants in the city and spared no calorie to make sure that we enjoyed the full culinary experience. My brother is a super adventurous eater and really appreciates good food, so it was next-level amazing to have him join our dining squad.
On our last day in Chicago, we had brunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Little Goat Diner, and went to see the Broadway musical Hamilton. If theatre or American history or hip-hop or ridiculous musical talent is your thing, THIS SHOW IS FOR YOU. I laughed, I cried, I danced in my seat- this show literally blew my mind and I’m dying to go again. If you have the opportunity to see this show, DOOOO IT.
Be sure to check out my list of Chicago faves below. In a city with a thousand wonderful things to do, I hope you’ll make time for at least one or two of these on your next trip.
While in Chicago, we ate dinner at Monteverde, a 2017 James Beard Award winning chef’s restaurant. We ordered things like pesto gnocchi and pumpkin ravioli, but the winner for me was the butterscotch budino. If you’re not familiar, budino is basically a rich Italian take on pudding, sometimes smooth and creamy like a custard, other times light and eggy like a souffle. Always wanting to appease my pudding-loving husband, I started tinkering with a chocolate budino recipe a few months ago, and I am thrilled to share the outcome with you today.
This chocolate budino is not your average Snack Pack. There’s no artificial chocolate powder flavor here; this thing doesn’t taste like a Yoo-Hoo. This version of chocolate budino tastes like CHOCOLATE- rich and buttery with the perfect amount of sweetness, but otherwise decidedly chocolate in flavor. Making chocolate budino is quite similar to making a homemade pudding, and once you know the base recipe there are three different topping variations that you can try. Seriously, I see this coming to an intimate dinner party near you.
To make the chocolate budino, we start at the stove. Gently heat some whole milk and cream while you mix together the dry ingredients- cocoa powder, cornstarch, and sugar. A few egg yolks are whisked into the dry ingredients before the steaming dairy is added to the mix. We add the hot liquids in a slow and careful stream, whisking vigorously the whole time to ensure that we don’t scramble our egg yolks in the process. Once the milk and cream have been added, we pour the whole lot of it back into the saucepan on the stove and cook, continuing to whisk, until the mixture has thickened slightly to the consistency of a thick and creamy salad dressing. Next, we lower the heat and add the remaining ingredients of chocolate, salt, vanilla, and butter, stirring to combine. Immediately divvy the pudding into small heat-safe containers and rest a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of each one to make sure that the pudding doesn’t form a skin (yuck).
This chocolate budino can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge just until the time of serving. I like to let mine warm up on the counter for a few minutes prior to serving so that you can realllllly taste the chocolate. While they sit out, you can begin assembling the toppings for these treats! Fresh whipped cream is a must, but from there you have some choices to make. I’ve included instructions for a berry topping, a chocolate crumble (adapted from this cake!), and hazelnut praline. All options are terrific, so pick how you want your chocolate budino and get to work! You won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for always letting me jabber on about desserts and traveling. If you have any must-see spots in Chicago, PLEASE, tell me about them! And if there’s another city you think I need to eat my way through, please inform me so that I can begin negotiations with Brett. Ha! Enjoy these chocolate budinos and cheers to you!
Where We Ate in Chicago:
Fun/ Casual Bites:
Little Goat Diner
My favorite dish (This Little Piggy Went To China) is from here!
Girl and the Goat
Global food served in a family-style setting.
The best burger and garlic fries in Chicago.
A mix of Asian, African, and Indian cuisine served in the COOLEST atmosphere.
Perfect Chicago deep-dish pizza. We called ahead and ordered carry-out to avoid a wait!
The Purple Pig
Highly acclaimed Chicago favorite serving New American cuisine in a shared-plate atmosphere.
Duck Duck Goat
Stephanie Izzard’s take on Chinese food. It’s RIDICULOUS GOOD.
A seasonal Indian menu in a chic setting.
Italian cuisine with house-made pasta and loads of global influence.
Rustic Mediterranean small plates and home of the best Chorizo-stuffed dates.
A classic steakhouse with French flair.
A daily-changed menu serving housemade pasta and Italian seafood.
American food served in a unique club atmosphere.
Modern Italian cuisine in a sassy atmosphere.
Contemporary American cuisine and small plates in a dark dining setting.
Consistently ranked among the best restaurants in the WORLD, Alinea is a fine dining experience that is equally parts meal and show. Expect modern American cuisine, impeccable service, and a bunch of surprises throughout the evening.
Where We Drank in Chicago:
Three Dots and A Dash
The coolest tiki lounge in The Loop!
The Signature Lounge
Cocktails from the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building!
A moody bar with a speak-easy vibe.
My favorite spot for day drinking in Chicago.
A Chicago-born coffee company with a terrific brew.
A tiki bar with and island aesthetic.
The Fox Bar at Soho House
A cheeky late-night spot to grab a drink.
Things We Did in Chicago:
Millenium Park to check out The Bean!
Shopping on Michigan Ave.
River architecture tour
Hamilton– the best broadway show I’ve ever seen.
Shopping on Armitage
Took in the view from the top of the John Hancock Building
Places I’m Dying to Try Next Time in Chicago:
Three Arts Club Cafe
Big Star Tacos
Publican Quality Meats
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Chocolate Budino: Three Ways
Chocolate budino, a rich pudding-like dessert, can be prepared in three ways- with a chocolate crumble, with a berry topping, or with a hazelnut praline!
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 15
- Total Time: 90
- Yield: 4
For the budino:
- 1–1/4 cup (300 mL) whole milk
- 1/3 cup (80 mL) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/3 cup (30 gm) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup (50 gm) sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the whipped cream:
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
For the chocolate crumble topping:
- ¼ cup (55 gm) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2–1/2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons (60 gm) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 tablespoon water
For the berry topping:
- 1 cup mixed berries (I prefer blackberries and raspberries)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
For the hazelnut praline:
- ¼ cup (40 gm) chopped hazelnuts
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons butter, melted
To prepare the budino:
- Combine one cup of the whole milk and the heavy cream in a 6-quart saucepan on the stove. Turn the heat to medium-low while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, cocoa powder and sugar. Add the egg yolks and the remaining milk, whisking to combine.
- Once the milk and cream on the stovetop are warmed and barely steaming, carefully remove one cup of the mixture and add it to the cornstarch mixture, whisking quickly all the while. Once combined, add the cornstarch and milk mixture back to the saucepan on the stove, whisking together constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. You’ll want the mixture to become a viscous consistency, similar to the texture of a creamy salad dressing.
- Turn the heat to low and add in the salt, chocolate, butter, and vanilla. Whisk quickly to combine and melt the chocolate and then remove from the heat immediately. Pour into four heat-safe containers and place a small sheet of plastic wrap on top so that a skin does not form on the top of the pudding.
To prepare the whipped cream:
- Place the cold cream in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at medium speed until slightly thickened and frothy, then add the sugar. Increase the speed to high and beat just until medium stiff peaks form. Keep in the fridge until you plan to serve the budino.
To prepare the chocolate crumble topping:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Beat the butter and sugar on medium low speed until creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and beat on low until large crumbs begin to form. Chill the crumbs in the freezer for about 5 minutes to set the crumbs.
- Spread the crumbs out onto a quarter sheet pan and bake in the oven, tossing occasionally for about 15-20 minutes, or until crumbs are baked and set. All to cool completely.
To prepare the berry topping:
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Mash larger berries to release juices and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and is bubbling. Remove from heat and cool completely.
To prepare the hazelnut praline:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine all three ingredients and spread out on a small sheet pan.
- Bake for about 5 minutes, then stir and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes. The nuts should be fragrant and crunchy with melted sugar. Allow to cool completely.
- If desired, add 1/4 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) to the pudding.
- As an alternative to the hazelnut praline, consider making cookies to top the pudding! Check out my recipe for butter pecan cookies. Substitute hazelnuts for pecans and crumble baked and cooled cookies over top of the pudding.
- Switch out these toppings for some of your favorites. Salted caramel, pretzels, shortbread cookies, toffee sauce and bananas, and any other number of items would taste delicious here! Change according to your preferences.
Recipe for the budino adapted from Nigella Lawson