Sunday, August 24, 2014

Homemade creamy caramel pudding

Addie had such a good time making vanilla pudding with me last time that she begged me to make caramel pudding. I was hesitant only because I hate making pudding recipes with only egg yolks (you all know my dilemma... I almost always have a stash of leftover egg whites and never know what to do with them). Much to my delight, I found a recipe on Food and Wine that seemed promising. No heavy cream, no butter, and most importantly, no egg yolks.

The recipe seemed easy. Make caramel, add milk, add a cornstarch mixture, and voila! Well, except it wasn't that easy. My caramel took forever to make, and instead of it magically melting into a gorgeous amber color, my sugar clumped up and looked like snow. I did not panic and knew that these sugar clumps would eventually melt and turn into caramel. It did, but then after I added the milk, the caramel seized up and turned rock hard. I tried to stay patient and knew that after I continued heating up the liquid, the caramel would eventually melt back into liquid form.

My patience paid off after I whisked for nearly an hour (!). The instructions said that after all the milk melted the caramel, one would only need to whisk for another minute before it turned thick into pudding. Yeah right. I stood at the stove and whisked until my arm was about to fall off, and about 15 minutes later, the mixture finally thickened. Moral of the story: just keep whisking and have some patience.

I am ecstatic to say that this pudding was superb. Although it took forever for the pudding to come together, my patience was worth it. The resulting caramel pudding was thick and smooth with a rich caramel flavor. It made a huge batch, so we'll slowly snack on this over a few days. If you have extras, you can always layer it in between some cake or add it to a trifle. Or give some to me.

Homemade creamy caramel pudding
  • 1 quart (4 cups) 2% milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 TBSP cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP water
Directions
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the milk, cornstarch, vanilla and salt until smooth.

In a large saucepan, mix the sugar with the water and bring to a boil over medium high heat.

Keep cooking (do not whisk) until the sugar mixture turns a deep amber color, about 8 minutes (my sugar clumped up and turned snow-like. I kept mixing until the sugar lumps melted and turned into caramel. This entire process took close to 30 minutes). Watch carefully and do not allow the caramel to burn.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and gradually whisk in the remaining 3 and 1/2 cups of milk. Put the saucepan back on the stove over medium low heat until the mixture starts to thicken and darken in color (I had a difficult time with this. After I added the milk, my caramel seized up and became rock solid. Regardless, I kept whisking and eventually the caramel melted and mixed with the milk. This took a good 30 minutes or so).

Remove the saucepan from the heat again and slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Turn the stove on to medium high heat and put the saucepan back on and continue cooking. Continuously stir so no lumps form. The mixture will begin to thicken to pudding consistency after a few minutes. (My mixture took at least 15-20 minutes to thicken, and I had it on the stove over medium heat.)

Strain the pudding through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl or measuring cup. Evenly distribute into small ramekins or serving cups. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool, at least 2 hours.

Pudding should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 10-12 servings

Source: Food and Wine

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