Friday, May 28, 2010

Caramel Pudding

So I'm going to say it upfront: as I sit writing this post, I am definitely eating the last of the caramel pudding for my lunch. Do I feel guilty about not eating real food for my midday meal? Hmm... no. Is it so delicious that I'm saying "yum" out loud to myself? The answer to that would be a resounding yes.

When I saw this recipe posted on Joy the Baker, I knew I had to try it. Not only did it look delicious and simple, but I also thought that it might make up for the complete Chocolate Blancmange fail I had a few weeks ago. Also, I have an ardent love for melting sugar (it never ceases to excite me when the solid turns into a gooey, syrupy liquid), so I definitely wanted to have an excuse to melt more sugar.

Anyway, the recipe went down without a hitch, and in my opinion, the end result was absolutely delicious. My mom thought that the texture was a little too stiff for her liking, and that the flavoring was more like butterscotch than caramel, but I didn't mind - it meant more for me! (I may not have browned the sugar long enough, too.) In all honesty, though, she had a good point - this recipe sort of reminded me of flan because of the burnt-sugar taste and the texture.

Oh man - isn't melted sugar awesome??! Sorry - you've probably all seen melting sugar before, but I just wanted to include these pictures because it's such an awesome phenomenon. Solid to white syrup to brown syrup - so cool!

I admit that the one time I was concerned during the recipe was when I added the cold milk to my wonderfully brown syrup. It turned into a rock hard blob on the end of my whisk. Dang. But not to fear! Once you begin to heat up the milk, the blob will remelt and stop holding your whisk hostage.

See? Ta dah! Whisk = clean!

From Joy... who got it from Smitten Kitchen. (see how many people think this recipe is awesome enough to post?)

Serves 8

4 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar

coarse sea salt and whipped cream for topping

In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 cup of the milk with the cornstarch, vanilla and salt until smooth. Set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar with 6 tablespoons of water and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until a deep amber caramel forms, about 8 minutes.  Be sure not to stir the cooking sugar.  If anything, feel free to swirl the pan around a bit.   Be patient but watch the stove like a hawk as caramel changes color quickly. 

Remove from the heat. Very gradually whisk in the remaining 3 1/2 cups of milk.  As you begin whisking it in, the caramel will get very dark and begin to seize with the cold milk.  Not to worry… everything will work out.
Return the pot to the stove and whisk over moderate heat until the caramel has dissolved again. Once again, watch this closely as the milk will foam up quickly as it comes to a simmer. Simmer over moderately low heat until the mixture thickens  just slightly and deepens in color, about 10 minutes.

Gradually whisk the cornstarch mixture into the caramel. Cook again over moderate heat, stirring, until the pudding thickens, about one minute.  The pudding may look and feel pretty loose, but will thicken nicely when chilled in the fridge.

Strain the pudding in a fine strainer set over a large measuring cup; if you want, you can skip this and nothing terrible will happen. Scrape the pudding into eight 1/2-cup ramekins and refrigerate until chilled and set, about 2 hours.

To avoid a pudding skin press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of each pudding dish as it chills.  Top with a generous sprinkle of coarse sea salt and whipped cream.

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