Ultimate Salted Caramel Pudding

IMG_3120 (575x575)Who doesn’t like pudding?  Even though I’m lactose intolerant, I’ll pull out the box of Lactaid capsules lickety split for a dish of the creamy stuff—and it hardly matters what flavor it is.  It’s all about the sweet texture, baby!

A few weeks ago, Roger and I stopped in for lunch at a local California Pizza Kitchen.  On the table was a little sign spotlighting a featured dessert—salted caramel pudding with a chocolate cookie crumb base.  Once I saw that, I made sure to save room for it.  Since I’m always counting calories, I decided to order just one so that Roger and I could split it.  Boy, was that ever a bad decision!  We finished it in record time with both of us wanting more.  The waitress noticed how quickly we finished it and commented that she was going to be sad when it came off the menu because it wasn’t a permanent menu item.  I knew I wasn’t going to be sad because the pudding was especially easy to deconstruct.

Salted caramel pudding recipe?  No problem.  Chocolate cookie crumb base?  No sweat.  Knowing I would be prone to eating the entire batch myself, I decided it would be safer to wait until my son visited so he could save me some calories.  One of the first words John spoke as a very young toddler after “mama” was “ging,” his abbreviation for pudding.

I can mix up a batch of pudding pretty quickly, but this pudding is definitely more labor-intensive than ordinary pudding because you have to make a caramel base.  You also have to make a cookie crumb base although that is really simple.  Let me assure you that the final outcome is worth every single extra moment of effort.  I could sing rhapsodies about the toffee notes of the caramel pudding and its thick, luscious texture.  The touches of sea salt in the cookie crumbs and the pudding perfectly balanced the sweetness of it all.  Mmm, mmmm…it was so good!

The recipe states that it makes six 1/2-cup servings.  Puhl-eeze!  You’ve got to be kidding me—who eats half-cup servings of pudding?  I divvied the pudding up into three 1-cup servings, and it almost satisfied three pudding-loving people.  Almost.

One year ago:  Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake

Two years ago:  Rapture Brownies

Ultimate Salted Caramel Pudding

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Ingredients for the Cookie Crust

  • 1/2 cup finely crushed chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (such as Nabisco Chocolate Wafers), about 10 cookies
  • 1 tbl. butter, melted
  • Pinch of sea salt

Ingredients for Pudding

  • 3 cups whole milk, room temperature (or 2 cups whole milk and 1 cup heavy cream)
  • 3 tbl. cornstarch
  • 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbl. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 12 chunks
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • Whipped cream for garnish
  • Caramel for drizzling, optional

Directions for the Cookie Crust

In a small bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs, butter and salt.  Press 2 tablespoons of the crumbs into the bottoms of each of six clear custard/parfait dishes (you can use mason jars or whatever other pretty containers you have on hand).  Reserve the remaining crumbs for sprinkling on top of pudding before serving.

Directions for Pudding

In a large measuring cup with a pour spout, add 3 cups milk.  Set milk and a silicon spatula next to the stovetop.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the milk until well combined.  Set next to the stovetop.

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch with 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth.  Set next to the stovetop.

Make the caramel:  In a light colored (stainless steel), 3-quart saucepan, add the sugar and set over medium heat.  Swirl the pan as the sugar begins to melt.  Use a silicon spatula to move the sugar from side to side as necessary to help it melt and caramelize evenly.  When the sugar melts entirely and is a medium-dark caramel color, quickly remove from the heat.

Stand back and CAREFULLY stir in the remaining milk.  The mixture will boil and sputter furiously.  The caramel may seize into a solid sugary mass.  No worries!  When the mixture stops sputtering, put it over medium heat and bring to a simmer while stirring to melt the seized caramel.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the saucepan with a silicon (heatproof) to make sure all seized caramel dissolves.

Stir, and then add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and bring the pudding to a very slow simmer.  Simmer, stirring or whisking for 2 minutes to thicken.  Decrease heat to medium-low so that pudding is no longer simmering.

Ladle 1/2 cup of the hot pudding into the egg yolk mixture and whisk rapidly.  Repeat two times.  Now add the egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan.  This tempers the egg and helps to prevent curdling.

Raise the heat slightly, and continue stirring the pudding until it thickens to the point that it thickly coats the back of the spatula, from 2-4 minutes.  Don’t boil.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, and salt until the butter is melted.

Immediately pour the pudding through a single mesh strainer into a medium mixing bowl or 4-cup glass measuring cup.  Alternatively, you can pour pudding directly into six (or fewer if you want larger servings) 1/2-cup serving dishes.

Quickly press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.

Let cool, and then refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.

To serve, spoon pudding into six, 1/2-cup ramekins (if you didn’t do this earlier).

Top each serving with a generous mound of whipped cream and sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs  Drizzle with caramel if using.  Serve immediately.

Makes 3 cups, or six 1/2-cup servings OR three 1-cup servings.  If you’re my son John, it would make ONE 3-cup serving!

IMG_3121 (575x437)Fran’s Notes

In case you didn’t catch my drift, the quantity of pudding this recipe made was nowhere near enough to satisfy the pudding aficionados in my family.  I’m not sure, however, if this pudding recipe lends itself to doubling easily.  Just thought I’d mention…

Source:  Pudding recipe from The Luna Café and cookie crust from Good Life Eats

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