Our top 5 favorite puddings

Pudding is creamy, comforting and a delicious memory from childhood when Mom used to whip it up from scratch or use a dry mix, especially around the Thanksgiving holidays.

Today, this time-honored dessert comes in gourmet mixes, fully cooked deliveries and recipes that are far easier than Mom relied onbut which just as scrumptious.

Here are our five favorite puddings that you can make or order right now:

Fave pudding #1: Chocolate pudding

Believe it or not, chocolate pudding started out as a type of health food! Served to sick people who had difficulty working up an appetite for a proper meal, it was considered a wholesome high-calorie alternative. No doubt it was one of the few foods you were miraculously able to get down when you were sick as a child. Today, you don't have to wait to get sick to beg Mom for a cup of chocolate pudding. What's more, there are new gourmet chocolate pudding options that bring this traditional treat to a whole new indulgence level.

Make it: Recipe

Buy it: King's Cupboard dry mix, choose from Triple Chocolate, Espresso Chocolate and Hazelnut Chocolate, $4.95 per one pound bag, KingsCupboard, (800) 962-6555

Top with... a dollop of fresh whipped cream, raspberries and mint leaves.

Fave pudding #2: Bread pudding

A favorite of the British, French, Belgian and American Southerners, bread pudding was traditionally a practical—and scrumptious—way to get use out of stale bread. You can continue the tradition or use fresh bread—totally your call.

Make it: Recipe

Buy it: Louisiana General Store White Chocolate Bread Pudding dry mix, $5.75 for 8.75 ounces, NOSCOC.com

Top with... powdered sugar or warmed bourbon sauce.

Fave pudding #3: Rice Pudding

Enjoyed for hundreds of years, first by the Chinese then Middle Easterners before finally making its way to the west, rice pudding is a simple pudding withno surprise hererice as its main ingredient.

Make it: Recipe

Buy it: Rice to Riches fully cooked delivered, choose from 20 flavors including tiramisu, almond, caramel and canoli, $49 for 40 ounces, RicetoRiches.com, (212) 274-0008

Top with... cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger.

Fave pudding #4: Figgy pudding

Any pudding that makes normally docile holiday guests refuse to leave until they get some (and then have their impatience memorialized in one of the most famous Christmas songs ever) must have something going for it. Maybe the host was just holding out for, say, a holiday gift, bottle of wine, or perhaps a little help in the kitchen. (There are two sides to every story, aren't there?) If your guests are similarly demanding, don't be afraid to drop hints. Really big ones.

Make it: Recipe

Buy it: The Vermont Country Store Figgy Pudding fully baked, $23.90 for two 5-ounce bundt cakes, VermontCountryStore.com, (802) 362-8460

Top with... powdered sugar, fresh whipped cream or hot cognac sauce.

Fave pudding #5: Christmas Pudding (aka Plum Pudding)

This English dessert is steeped in more  tradition than the alcohol used to make it. Cooked up on the Sunday five weeks before Christmas, everyone in the home gives the mixture a stir while they make a wish. The pudding itself is a hearty one, containing spirits such as whisky, Madeira and Suffolk ale as well as citrus juices, which are blended with vine fruits and almonds. It was once common to include silver sixpence coins in the batter, and the lucky person who got them in their serving of plum pudding got to keep the coins (perhaps to pay for the broken teeth after biting down on them). However, this practice died away soon after sixpence coins were made with other metals, which could taint the pudding and were considered unsafe. We're betting that the broken teeth had something to do with it, too....

Make it: Recipe

Buy it: English Privilege Pudding dry mix, $32 for 1.5 pounds, DeanandDeluca.com, (800) 221-7714

Top with... warmed traditional hard sauce.



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