Saturday, September 12, 2009


I have not been cooking. Yay grad school! Fortunately, I had a huge stock of frozen leftovers. Unfortunately, I've gone through most of it.

So based on my blog reading, it has come to my attention that a good pudding recipe is hard to find online. They are all complicated and require food processors or strainers or all sorts of other weird things (or strange ingredients, like sweetened condensed milk or chocolate syrup, that just don't belong in pudding). Well, my mom made pudding from scratch for my family while I was growing up and her recipe is really not that difficult. And it's delicious. When I was a kid, she put animal crackers in chocolate pudding and called it "tar pit" dessert. It was one of my favorites.

And those of you who are grad students might ask why you need to make pudding rather than buying that junk you get in the store. Well, just ask anyone I've made pudding for, it is far superior. But it is time consuming. It's a special treat my friends often beg me for. I don't remember how to make butterscotch offhand (you use brown sugar, but I'm not sure how much).

1 egg
1/2 c sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 c milk
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
(For chocolate pudding make it 1 c sugar and add 2 oz baking chocolate or 6 Tbsp cocoa powder and a Tbsp butter)

First, take out an egg and let it reach room temperature. This is critical to ensuring your pudding is not lumpy. In fact, go ahead and beat the living daylight out of it now. I usually require a friend help me as a condition of me making pudding. I put him or her in charge of warming and beating the egg while I do everything else.

Blend 1/2 c sugar, 2 Tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt in a saucepan (if you are making chocolate, add the extra ingredients here as well).
Add 2 cups milk and cook and stir (make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan very well!) over medium heat until it is bubbly. Once bubbling, cook for two minutes.

Here's the tricky part, which I like having an extra set of hands for. Make sure the egg is beat in a heat proof bowl. Carefully stir the warm pudding mixture into the egg. The more mixture you stir in, the less lumpy your pudding will be, so go ahead and fill that bowl (but slowly, and beating the whole time). This is called tempering the egg.

Slowly mix the egg mixture back into the pudding and return to heat. Cook for two more minutes, then stir in vanilla and butter. If you are making vanilla pudding, use the best vanilla you can find. For the years following our trip to Mexico, my mom used Mexican vanilla and the vanilla pudding was amazing, almost better than chocolate (and coming from me, that means a lot).

I suppose you could strain it, as there will probably still be a lump or two, however, if you are careful with tempering the egg, there shouldn't be many. My dad commented on how smooth my pudding is (in contrast with my mom's). I'm not sure they let her make it after trying mine, although it's the same recipe.

There you go: simple ingredients and all you need is a pan and a bowl. And a friend (or three to help you eat it).

As a warning: the chocolate pudding is extremely rich, which is perfect for me, but hard to eat after a big meal. Also, I've mixed a little cinnamon and cayenne pepper into the chocolate pudding for something a little different, and both chocolate and vanilla are great with banana slices.

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