Thursday, April 19, 2012

What to Eat for Dessert: Butterscotch Pudding

This is an oldie, but a goodie. The lovely Melinda, who taught me practically everything I know in the sweet kitchen, used to make this when she was the pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck's short-lived, Los Angeles, brewery/restaurant Eureka. The recipe was printed in Adventures in the Kitchen, which included recipes from several of Puck's LA restaurants.  Melinda taught me how to make it in the mid 1990s when I worked in her kitchen at Cafe Nola in Washington State. I made it over the weekend for a dinner party after having forgotten about it for several years.

This pudding is great served with a Butterscotch Lace Cookie on the side. That recipe originally comes from the Bakers Cafe in Katonah, NY. That's the unifying theme - all these great establishments are gone. But not because of bad butterscotch.

Butterscotch is a a wonderful flavor and less tricky than caramel to make. The flavor is essentially achieved by combining dark brown sugar and butter, tho a bit of heat is required to strengthen it. Dark brown sugar is requisite here - light brown doesn't bring enough color or, really, molasses to the equation. If you're a sugar geek, you might appreciate these facts: light brown sugar contains 3.5% molasses compared to 6.5% molasses for dark brown sugar. Sugar geeks already know that brown sugar is just white granulated sugar with molasses added. If you're a super sugar geek, you know that molasses itself is a by-product of the sugar making process (the steps between hacking sugar cane in the jungle (or uprooting a sugar beet) and the particular product you purchase to fill your sugar bowl - for me it's Sugar in the Raw or La Perruche raw cubes). And if you had the same wacky naturopath as I did in the late 1990s and were iron deficient and told to supplement your diet with blackstrap molasses you know that blackstrap molasses is the sludge left over after every last bit of sugar has been sucked out of the cane. Or beet.*

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying to use dark brown sugar when you make butterscotch because it's not as good if you don't.

Butterscotch Pudding
Print recipe only here

Makes 8-10 six-ounce servings

6 ounces unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle and scraped
3 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup cornstarch
6 egg yolks
2 t vanilla extract

First, measure out everything. This is the kind of recipe where everything needs to be on hand because the steps must be executed in quick succession.  Measure the cornstarch into a small bowl, and separate the eggs and place the yolks in a mixing bowl. Whisk lightly.  Also, set a fine mesh strainer inside a mixing bowl or large pitcher. You will strain the pudding before transferring it to individual cups. Set out the cups/ramekins/glasses in which you intend to serve the pudding.

Now...begin!  Heat the butter in a medium-large saucepan over low heat until melted. Add brown sugar and vanilla bean and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring every so often, to let the flavor develop and the color darken.

Heat milk and half and half in a medium saucepan, preferably one with a pour spout. Bring to a very low simmer.

Pour a little of the hot milk over the cornstarch and stir until smooth. Reserve.

Slowly add the remaining hot milk to the butter and sugar, whisking well to combine. If it separates, don't fret - just remove the pan from the heat and continue to whisk until it comes together.

Add the cornstarch to the saucepan, whisking in well.

Carefully ladle some of the hot pudding into the egg yolks, whisking well. Add another ladle of pudding and whisk. Then return that mixture to the pot and combine all together.

Add the vanilla extract and continue to cook for another minute. Strain thru the mesh strainer into a clean bowl or pitcher and immediately transfer the pudding to individual glasses.

I can't comment on the difference between beet and cane sugar or molasses. For sugar I do always purchase C&H or Domino which are labeled Pure Cane. And for molasses, I only ever buy Grandmother's, which is also a pure cane product. 

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