Thursday, October 06, 2011
Yes! More pudding! If you’re some kind of weird pudding hater, be forewarned that there is actually still one more pudding recipe in the to-be-posted queue. After that, however, you’re in luck, because glory hallelujah, after suffering with just a stovetop and a broiler lo these many months, I finally have a brand-new oven, which means I will be reveling in cookies and cakes for the foreseeable future. Not that I will ever lose my newfound love of homemade pudding. In fact, Weird Pudding Hater, you can send all your unwanted pudding my way and I’ll gladly finish it off for you.
As far as I can remember, I never tasted a real pistachio until I was well into high school (I just don’t recall seeing them around when I was a kid—maybe they were harder to obtain in Minnesota back then or something?), but Jell-O instant pistachio pudding was always my very favorite flavor, even if I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like or why it was green. I loved it with an intensity matched only by my adoration of the croissants from Napoleon’s Bakery that were stuffed with a fat layer of almond paste. Later, I discovered that the green layer of spumoni ice cream was usually pistachio-flavored, and I would carefully excavate only that portion from my college cafeteria’s self-serve ice cream freezer, leaving the boring chocolate and weird chunky cherry parts behind. What can I say? I’ve always loved those somewhat old-fashioned dessert flavors (see also: butterscotch, butter pecan, butter brickle, maple nut). So as soon as I realized, thanks to this recipe at Joy the Baker, that I could make homemade pistachio pudding using real pistachios, which remain perhaps my favorite kind of nut (although it’s a close tie with cashews), I was all over it.
I made this recipe once before, early in my pudding-making adventures, but didn’t manage to photograph it before we devoured it all. That time, craving a perfectly silky-smooth pudding, I carefully strained it after cooking to remove all the pistachio bits. It was good, but on the thin side, because I wasn’t perfectly experienced with cooking puddings yet. This time around, tired and pressed for time, I just said “Screw it” and skipped the straining, and I gotta say, I don’t know if it was that or my improved pudding-making skills, but it was even better than before. Leaving the pistachio pieces in obviously heightens the flavor, and the texture is nubblier but not off-putting—and actually more reminiscent of the good old Jell-O version, which did have little nut chunks sprinkled throughout. You will, however, notice that unlike the Jell-O version, my pudding is more golden-brown than green. That’s because I lazily used the shelled pistachios from Trader Joe’s, which I’m guessing are roasted after being shelled, thus losing most of their color. If you have the patience to shell the pistachios yourself, you should be rewarded with a gentle green hue.
Ever since I first made this, I’ve been dying to know if I could achieve a decent almond pudding (as tasty as those almond-paste-filled croissants, perhaps?) by substituting almonds for the pistachios and almond extract for some of the vanilla. It seems like it should work, right? I’ll give it a try sometime and let you know—once I’m done playing with my new oven, that is.
½ cup salted pistachio nuts, plus extra for garnishing if desired
⅔ cup granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons water
2 cups milk (original recipe calls for whole, but 1% worked for me)
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1. Place ½ cup pistachios in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are in small bits. Add ⅓ cup sugar and the water, and blend until relatively smooth.
2. Spoon pistachio paste into a medium saucepan. Add the milk and whisk over medium heat until steamy and hot.
3. While milk is heating, whisk together ⅓ cup sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, and pinch of salt. (Mixture will be thick; keep whisking until it’s smooth.) Pour ½ cup of the steaming pistachio milk into the sugar and egg mixture; whisk together. Add another ½ cup of hot milk and whisk to incorporate. Return the milky egg mixture to the saucepan over medium heat.
4. Heat pudding mixture over medium heat until thick and bubbly, whisking constantly. (You might also want to use a heat-proof spatula to stir the mixture, ensuring that the sides and corners of the pan aren’t burning.) Boil for about 1 minute, or until fully thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract, until butter is melted. If you want a smoother pudding, press cooked pudding through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl to remove the pistachio pieces.
5. Spoon into small ramekins, cover the surface of the individual puddings with plastic wrap if you don’t like pudding skin (I happen to love it), and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. If desired, garnish with chopped pistachios before serving.
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; pudding will last, covered, in the refrigerator for about 4 days.