A couple of months ago I was perusing The Pinterest when I came across a dessert photo that immediately stopped me in my scrolling. Judging strictly by appearances, it had everything that is good in the world of sweets: a stand-up crust, layers of flavor and plenty of whipped cream. It was a recipe from Jo Cooks and it was called–my apologies to the bashful amongst us–“sex in a pan.” I clicked through to find out how I could create the masterpiece in my own kitchen and, as often happens, I was disappointed to find that what appeared to be so sublimely delicious was made from imposter products posing as food (instant pudding–yuck!). Sigh. Still, I couldn’t get the thought of that creamy dessert out of my mind. And so I did what any good lifestyle blogger would do and I figured out a way to adapt it to meet my standards so that I could share it with you, my discerning readers. Mission: accomplished.
If I may, I’d like to introduce you. This, my friends, is Chocolate Pistachio Pudding Stack.
Be still my heart. It currently reigns as the champion of my dessert world. Better than the very best berry cobbler, better than any cupcake my teeth have ever sunk into, better even than pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting–yes better even than those–this delectable dessert is what dreams are made of. It begins with a chocolate shortbread crust. Atop that is a cream cheese layer reminiscent of cheesecake filling. And then comes a layer of homemade pistachio pudding topped by a layer of homemade Bailey’s vanilla bean pudding. Homemade whipped cream and shaved chocolate serve as the cherry on top, if you will. Oh, friends, it’s just a work of art.
What it is not, however, is quick. This is one of those desserts that you save for special occasions. Like when you want to impress a coworker or the in-laws. Start to finish it takes me two hours every time I make it, but if you don’t have that much time in one afternoon you could always make the puddings ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for a day or two until you have time to finish the rest. It’s worth the work, I promise.
For the chocolate shortbread crust:
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2/3 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
For the cream cheese layer:
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup homemade whipped cream (recipe below)
For the pistachio pudding:
- 1 cup pistachios
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons water
- 4 cups whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
For the vanilla bean pudding:
- 2 2/3 cups whole milk, divided
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
For the whipped cream:
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
For the shaved chocolate:
- 1 high quality chocolate bar
To make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350º. Whisk flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut butter in with a pastry blender or two forks until combined. Dough will be crumbly but should hold together when pinched. Press dough into the bottom of a lightly-greased 13x9 inch pan. Bake for ten minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the cream cheese layer:
- Combine softened cream cheese and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until combined. Add whipped cream and beat on low just until combined. Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the dessert.
To make the pistachio pudding layer:
- Begin by making a pistachios paste. Place the pistachios in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the sugar and water, and blend until smooth. Transfer your pistachio paste into a medium saucepan. Add the milk and whisk constantly over medium heat. Continue whisking and cooking until the mixture is steamy and hot. Meanwhile, combine sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. The mixture will be very thick. Whisk the mixture until it is smooth. Next you want to temper the eggs by slowly drizzling about 1/2 cup of the hot milk/pistachio paste mixture into the milk/sugar/eggs mixture. Whisk constantly as you drizzle in the hot milk. Repeat this process with another 1/2 cup of the hot milk. Slowly pour the egg/steamy milk mixture back into the pan over medium heat and continue cooking it until it is thick and bubbly, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for one minute, or until the pudding is nicely thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla until the butter has thoroughly melted. Pour pudding over a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and the pistachio bits that are left behind. Refrigerate pudding until you are ready to assemble the dessert.
To make the vanilla bean pudding:
- Add 2 cups of the whole milk to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat. Meanwhile, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt & caviar scraped from the vanilla bean in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2/3 cup whole milk, making sure to whisk constantly to avoid lumps. Whisk in the egg. Once milk is very hot and steamy, temper the egg by slowly drizzling 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the cornstarch mixture in the bowl, whisking constantly as you drizzle. Return the mixture to the saucepan, stirring constantly. Bring the pudding to a boil and allow it to cook for one minute until the pudding is nicely thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the Bailey's, if using. Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the dessert.
To make the whipped cream:
- Combine heavy cream and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on the highest speed just until cream reaches stiff peaks. Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the dessert.
To assemble the dessert:
- Using a rubber spatula, spread cream cheese layer evenly over chocolate shortbread crust, making sure to go all the way to the edges of the pan. Repeat with pistachio pudding, vanilla bean pudding and whipped cream. Using a grater, shave the chocolate bar over the whipped cream. Refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.