Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Pudding is one of those things I rarely remember to think about, but on the rare occasion that I do, I also remember that I love it. So smooth, cool, and creamy! One of the only things I liked about my college cafeteria, besides the perpetual availability of cereal and ice cream, was that I could almost always get a little bowl of pudding with a dollop of whipped topping with (or, occasionally, as) my meal. So naturally, what do I do to satisfy my sweet tooth when it’s too hot to make or even buy ice cream (we have no air conditioning, and our freezer gets a bit indifferent about keeping things fully frozen when the outdoor temperature tops 90) and I can’t bake cookies, cake, pie, cobblers, or crisps because my oven is STILL BROKEN (not that I’m not bitter or anything)? Why, learn to make homemade pudding, of course!

Which, it turns out, is as easy as easier than pie. Sugar, milk, cornstarch, eggs, simmer, stir, a little butter and vanilla, chill, done. Sure, you have to temper things, but that’s just a fancy way of saying “pour, stir, pour.” I was worried my pudding wouldn’t set, but it turned out just fine—and besides, once I had a little taste, I realized it was so delicious I’d drink it through a straw if I had to. Given my intense love of all things caramel-like, this Cooking Light recipe for butterscotch (or, probably more accurately, brown sugar) pudding was a no-brainer for my first outing, and it’s going to be a hard one to top—but I’ve already hunted down further recipes for pistachio (my childhood fave), chocolate, vanilla, lemon, banana, and peanut butter, so expect many more pudding posts in the near future. Sweet but light, comforting but cold, it makes a surprisingly refreshing and grown-up (if slightly unphotogenic) summer dessert. The only change to the recipe I made was to nix the fat-free whipped topping, because ew. I like this pudding straight up, but if I wanted whipped cream I’d use the real stuff.

Postscript, September 2011: After trying a few more pudding recipes and becoming more confident in my pudding-making skills, I made this again and got a much thicker, more satisfying result, so I’ve made a few small changes and clarifications to the recipe below. I think I was too meek about cooking the pudding until it was thick enough the first time around, thinking that it was OK that it was fairly thin when I finished cooking because it would do most of its thickening when chilled, like instant pudding. Not so! It should really be close to normal pudding texture before you take it off the stove, so when Step 3 says “bring to a boil,” it means it; it may take more time than you expect, but there should be bubbles that can’t be stirred away before you start the 1-minute clock, and—assuming that, like me, you prefer a thicker pudding texture—you should definitely rely on your eyes rather than the timer to make the judgment about when it’s done. As long as you’re stirring constantly (good arm workout!) and nothing’s burning (keep the heat at medium; I’ve found that a silicon spatula is the best tool here, for making sure the pudding doesn’t stick to the bottom and corners of the pot), I don’t think you need to worry about overcooking, so let that sucker thicken. Oh, and I edited out the part about chilling the pudding in a bowl of ice; it’s a hassle, no other pudding recipe I’ve seen calls for it, and I skipped it the second time around with no ill effects. I suspect that perhaps it’s intended to reduce the formation of pudding skin, but it turns out I love pudding skin!

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Gradually add 2 cups milk and stir with a whisk until blended. Cook mixture over medium heat to 180 degrees or until tiny bubbles form around the edge (do not boil), whisking occasionally.

2. Place egg and egg yolk in a large heatproof bowl and beat lightly with a whisk. Add 1 cup remaining 1 cup milk and stir with a whisk.

3. Very gradually add 1 cup of hot milk mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add egg mixture to saucepan. Bring to a full boil over medium heat; cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly (a silicon spatula works very well for this). Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.

4. Spoon pudding into individual serving bowls; if you don’t like pudding skin, cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap. Chill.

Serves: 4–6
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Keeps in the fridge for at least a few days.

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