Friday, October 14, 2011


And so we come to the end of my effort to make homemade versions of all my favorite Jell-O instant pudding varieties. (Well, I might try coconut someday…and maybe pumpkin…but I will not be attempting “cheesecake,” “Oreo,” “chocolate fudge,” “Devil’s food” [don’t ask me how Kraft’s three kinds of chocolate pudding differ from one another], “white chocolate,” “egg custard,” or “flan.” [Kraft’s online description: “But don’t be fooled by its elitist attitude this flavor is beloved by everyone.” Aside from the heinous lack of punctuation, how is flan even a flavor? Is it shorthand for caramel? And while we’re at it, the concept of custard-flavored pudding kind of blows my mind, too. Isn’t that like saying “yam-flavored sweet potato”?])

I used Food Blog Search to find my way to this recipe, from a book called Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham. There’s not much to say about it except that it’s lemon, it’s pudding, and it’s delicious. The recipe is structured a bit differently from other ones I’ve tried, in that you cook the egg at the same time as all the other ingredients instead of adding it later, but the result was pretty much the same. I like a really thick pudding, so for my taste, I should have cooked the pudding a tiny bit longer; I forgot that I’d be stirring in an entire ½ cup of liquid at the very end, which thinned it out somewhat. I also freaked out and threw in some vanilla at the last minute, on the principle that vanilla is delicious with everything and would give it a richer, smoother taste. I liked the resulting flavor, but I’m not sure I can out-and-out recommend it because the bright taste of the unadulterated lemon is great, too—I’d go with straight lemon for a spring/summer version, whereas mine was maybe more appropriate for fall/winter.

As I was making this, I pondered why other fruit-flavored puddings aren’t common. Why not strawberry, for instance? Couldn’t you make a lime or orange pudding using the same method as this lemon one, or would that just be gross? As you know, I had a hard time even finding a banana pudding recipe that had real banana in it. Most of my searches for fruit puddings turn up bread puddings, British-style puddings, or pudding cakes, not plain old pudding pudding. Although I’m not necessarily sure this is something I want to pursue—my ideas for future pudding experiments tend more toward peanut butter or maple. Which off-the-beaten-track pudding flavors sound good to you?

¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2½ cups milk
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
A pinch of salt
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1. Whisk together the sugar and the cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Add the egg yolks, zest, and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently at first and constantly towards the end, until thickened.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and butter. Press through a fine-mesh strainer into a large serving bowl or four individual serving dishes. Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, loosely covered, for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days, until set and thoroughly chilled.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good, for a few days (I've found that homemade pudding eventually gets runny or sort of separates if you keep it too long, although it comes together with a vigorous stirring and still retains its essential yumminess).

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