I have been wanting to make butterscotch pudding for a long time. Well, at least since January when this recipe appeared in my inbox. Or since last fall when I ate a whole giant bowlful of it at Lineage despite telling myself I should take half of it home for later (who takes desserts home?) Maybe even since Dave loaned me his beautiful cookbook With a Measure of Grace and I began drooling over the colorful pages. That cookbook has given me a reason to go to Utah. Hell’s Backbone Grill – Look it up.
I remember in middle or high school being in the kitchen of a family friend’s restaurant. He knew I was interested in food and cooking and so had asked me to come help out at his restaurant on a busy night. I helped in the “pantry” station, making salads and appetizers. At the time he was perfecting his recipe for butterscotch pudding. He said he’d been working on it for years, seven years maybe, and he’d finally gotten it just right.
“You wanna taste it?” he asked me.
Uh, yee-ah! I remember him bringing me a small, glass dessert goblet of caramel-colored pudding and I remember relishing my first spoonful with utter delight. Here I was in the kitchen of a real restaurant helping out with the food and trying this chef’s masterpiece pudding. It was one of my first behind-the-scenes look at a chef’s life, and I felt excited and alive. So finally I made the pudding! It was creamy, smooth, milky and caramelly, but to me it didn’t scream butterscotch. It was caramel. Burnt caramel at that. Maybe I remembered the fakey butterscotch Jell-o pudding boxes from my youth too fondly, but something about this pudding was not quite butterscotch-y. So I’m calling it burnt caramel (which is okay because that’s in right now.) Anyway, it’s so delicious you don’t need to worry so much about what it’s called. The recipe in With a Measure of Grace calls for topping it with a chili-spiced pine nut brittle, but I’m not too big on pine nuts or brittle so I opted for candied pecans as Lineage does with theirs. You can even skip the nuts of course, but I love a good texture contrast – a little smooth, a little crunch – and these flavors are perfect together. The best part is this recipe is pretty quick and easy. If you want to impress some family members or dinner guests, all you need is a little time for them to chill (the puddings that is). Have at it! Burnt Caramel Pudding with Candied Pecans
adapted from With a Measure of Grace
1/2 cup heavy cream (plus extra for making whipped cream!)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt 1.5 cups milk (whole recommended, I used 1%)
1 capful of Rum, Scotch or Whiskey (optional)
3 T. water
3 T. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Measure out cream and set aside within reach. Melt butter over low heat in a heavy-bottom saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and salt, and cook until completely melted and bubbling. It should look very smooth and start to have a slightly burned smell. This will take some time, but don’t wander away or you’ll end up with black caramel. When it gets to this point, gradually add the cream, stirring as you go. Keep stirring until the sugar blends into the cream. Add the milk and rum and stir. Remove from heat.
Measure out water and cornstarch and mix the two together until it is free of lumps. Stir it into the milk mixture, then cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until it begins to thicken, scraping the bottom and sides now and then. Reduce heat to a low simmer and stir vigorously for one more minute, until it thickly coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the vanilla. Pour pudding into a bowl or individual cups, then press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. Top with fresh whipped cream and candied pecans. Candied Pecans
adapted from Fifteen Spatulas
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
sprinkle of cinnamon
a splash of water (1 Tablespoon)
3/4 cup pecans, chopped if you like
Melt the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and water in a skillet on the stove over medium heat. Cook until the sugar is bubbling. Add the pecans, stir to coat and cook for an additional five minutes. Remove from the heat and pour out onto a plate lined with waxed or parchment paper. Let cool and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.