Did you think I was going to pull a box out of the pantry?
Last year when I started this journey I was a pretty decent cook but there are so many pantry items I never would have even thought about making from scratch. Pudding was one of those things.
When you read the list of ingredients on the back of the pudding box it sounds so magical, so mysterious, so laboratory and so improbable that you could make pudding yourself from things you already have in your pantry or fridge in the same amount of time it takes to cook box pudding.
Imagine making amazing pudding anytime you want without having to run to the store because you are out of boxed pudding, and without giving a dime to a large food corporation. No special packaging to dispose of and no artificial flavors or chemicals. And because you control the amount of sweetener the ingredients are, for the most part, totally wholesome ingredients that can help you get nutrient dense calories into a growing child. How cool is that?
Tonight’s pudding is dessert but it could just as easily be breakfast if I increased the number of egg yolks and cut back on the sugar. In fact, I may just make a bacon and maple syrup flavored pudding for breakfast one day. It would be the same basic recipe that I’m about to share with you and that would be one of a million ways in which you could personalize it.
By adding various flavoring extracts in place of the vanilla (think orange, coconut, mint, almond) or steeping herbs and spices for 30 minutes in the warm milk before making the pudding (think mint, lemon verbena, cardamon, coffee beans, tea with Chai spices, cinnamon, even garlic, rosemary or basil), adding solids (think citrus zest or pureed pumpkin) or substituting another liquid at the end as part of the total liquid in the recipe (think Frangelico, Kahlua, scotch) your options are endless.
You can dial up or down the sweetness and the fat to your own personal preference since the sugar and butter have nothing to do with getting the pudding to set. The cornstarch and egg yolks take care of that for you.
And really, there’s always room for pudding. Everyone knows that.
Master Recipe for Pudding
3/4 cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons organic corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter in 3 pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
If you plan to steep herbs or spices in the milk gently warm the milk, add the spices, then turn off the heat and let the milk sit for 30 minutes before straining. Discard the herbs or spices and use the milk as directed in the recipe.
In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. If you were making chocolate pudding you would add your cocoa powder now as well. Add half of the cream and the egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining cream and milk.
Place the pan over medium heat and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly once the mixture thickens. Boil the pudding for 1 minute then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter along with any extracts, liquors or chocolate chips until the mixture is smooth.
Pour into individual serving dishes then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Pudding will set once it is chilled.
I have not found a satisfactory work around for covering the pudding surface with plastic wrap and I hate to use it around food. This step is not necessary but it does help make the pudding creamier since the steam doesn’t escape as the pudding cools and that thick skin doesn’t form on the surface.
What I do is put all the ramekins on a tray and cover that with another tray. Because the steam is trapped under the top tray the skin doesn’t form but as condensation forms on the tray above the pudding, it drips back down and discolors the pudding surface. The texture is still intact and you could easily hide the surface with some whipped cream if you were entertaining. My kids certainly don’t mind though!
Add 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder along with the sugar. Once the pudding is cooked and you’ve removed the pan from the heat stir in about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips or chopped baking chocolate. Cinnamon, mint, orange, coffee, Kahlua, or Frangelico would all be great in this chocolate variation.
Substitute 3/4 cup brown sugar for the granulated sugar. Once the pudding is cooked and you’ve removed the pan from the heat stir in 2-3 tablespoons of Scotch along with the vanilla.
Chai Latte Pudding
Steep 1 tablespoon of black or rooibos tea along with 3 cardamom seeds, 3 peppercorns, 1/2 stick of cinnamon, 6 cloves and a pinch of ginger in the milk before making the pudding as discussed above. Proceed with the master pudding recipe.