Back when free time was abundant and our lives were not obstructed with, well, life….some of my girlfriends and I used to get together once a week for what we liked to creatively call…wine night. Coming from a variety of backgrounds including Italian, Chilean, and Cuban, we’d rotate cooking elaborate three course dinners complete with… duh, wine. Lots of wine. Lots of conversations, sometimes tears, stories, advice, confusions, and laughs, definitely lots of laughs. Especially one time, at my house, where I threw something “unbreakable” into the air and it shattered into a million pieces. I know they still remember that.
But when said life, jobs, time, laundry, school, and boyfriends got in the way, they became less frequent. Their once-a-week-ness diminished to..once a month, maybe once every two months. We all still kept in touch, and do still now, but it just wasn’t feasible to hold these dinners, which now turned into just wine, or just dessert, or a potluck. And the last time we had one, I made these butterscotch puddings.
Which, while empty bottles sat on my living room table and plates of dinner lay empty, were devoured with praise. I’m not usually a fan of pudding, being as that I’ve been accustomed to Jell-O or Handi Snacks. I never felt compelled to make it because, let’s get real, those are super blah. But if those are blah, these are you-make-me-wanna-shout song. Heeeeyeeyeyeyy! These are thick, creamy, and custardy. And the best part? Pudding is actually super easy and therapeutic to make, with ingredients that you usually have on hand. Plus! You can make it earlier in the day and chill them in your fridge til serving time. Stress-age reduced.
Some people add fruit or nuts or some sort of crunch to puddings, which is wonderful as well and adds another level of texture. But I opted to keep it simple, with just a bit of salt added. The salt contrasts perfectly to the unctuous sweetness of the butterscotch, which is lightened up again with a bit of whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon. When seconds were requested, some people added chocolate chips, which created sort of a cookie dough-esque pudding. Yum.
Make pudding, live life, and have your friends over. They’ll love you for it.
Salted butterscotch pudding
Adapted from David Leibovitz
Notes: this is a very decadent pudding. But if I’m eating pudding, I’m eating worth-it, real pudding. If you’d like to tone down the decadence, use 2 1/2 cups whole or reduced fat milk and omit the heavy cream.
This recipe makes for a salty pudding. If you’d like to tone down the salty, use 3/4 teaspoon salt instead of the 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons. If you want more or less salt, taste and adjust as you go.
Feel free to add a liquor of your choice, such as whisky or amaretto or whatever, about 2 teaspoons, when you add your vanilla. I’m just not a fan of liquor flavor, even if it’s “cooked down.”
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons salt (taste and adjust if you wish)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
Sprinkling of cinammon
Chocolate chips, nuts, fruit, whatever your heart desires or is in your pantry
In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the dark brown sugar and salt, then stir until the sugar is well-moistened. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth (there should be no visible pills of cornstarch), then whisk in the egg yolks.
Gradually pour the remaining milk into the melted brown sugar, whisking constantly, then whisk in the cornstarch mixture as well.
Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for one minute, whisking non-stop, until the pudding thickens to the consistency of hot fudge sauce. (Note: this will take a bit of time, like at least 10-12 minutes, but don’t give up. Do it over low heat and keep on whisking, making sure not to scorch the bottom. We don’t want burnt pudding! It will seem liquidy for a while and then ultimately come together. You’ll know it’s done when a spoon run through the bottom of the pan leaves a track.)
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. If slightly-curdled looking, which is totally normal, strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to avoid the pudding skin. Some people like pudding skin. If you’re one of those, don’t cover. Chill for at least four hours. Once chilled, pour the pudding into their serving dishes.
Alternatively, you could pour into 4-6 serving glasses or custard cups and chill straight from those. Then you’re ready to serve.
When serving, top with the heavy cream and whatever else you want.