Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Pudding

(Chocolate pudding and vanilla bean pudding with berries. I admit, the chocolate custard was slightly less than perfect in texture (technical error), but you couldn't tell when you tasted it!)

Last night we had a few friends over, and I made crème brûlée for dessert for the adults (the original version, of course) and pudding for the kids. And by pudding I mean custard. Two varieties: chocolate and vanilla bean. And enough to have leftovers for sure.

Often pudding by itself really means cornstarch pudding, a cooked concoction of milk or milk and cream, sugar, cornstarch, and whatever flavor you're looking for. A dessert custard may or may not have cornstarch in it (crème anglaise, for example, does not), but includes eggs or egg yolks, milk and/or cream, sugar, and whatever else gets tossed into the pot, depending on the recipe. Custard has a richer flavor than cornstarch pudding and is one of my favorite treats (though I do have a lot). To most people, I just called it pudding. If I gather kids in for dessert and tell them they're having custard, half of them will walk away. Well, depending on the kid, obviously.

Anyhow, I've used different recipes here and there, trying to get the thickness just right, the sweetness just right, and the creaminess just right, and I was pretty pleased with yesterday's result. So pleased, in fact, that not only am I writing down these recipes to resource them later, but I'm posting for the first time in nearly two weeks. I haven't been a great poster lately, but don't worry...it's just a phase. A very busy phase.

If you haven't made a stirred custard before (that just means the stovetop kind), never fear! It's not difficult. The only thing to be careful about is making sure you heat the custard low and slow. Well, fairly low and slow. If you go too fast and don't stir enough, you'll heat some of it enough to cause curdling of your egg yolks. Should this be a concern, just pass your custard through a fine-mesh strainer when you're finished cooking to help remove (at least some of) the curdled egg. This caveat aside, there's no reason to be afraid of making homemade custard, and there are really delicious reasons for attempting it. Good luck!

For a printable version of these recipes, click here.


Vanilla Bean Custard

1 1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. cream
1 vanilla bean, split
4 egg yolks
3 1/2 T. corn starch
2/3 c. sugar
2 T. unsalted butter, cut into 3-4 pats

Set the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Scrape the seeds out of the bean and add the seeds and bean to the milk and cream.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, corn starch, and about half of the sugar, stirring the other half of the sugar into the milk. The egg yolk mixture will be quite thick.

When the milk is getting very hot (but not boiling, 5-10 minutes), remove the bean pod and scrape down the center, adding the additional seeds into the milk. Whisk the milk and cream to stir the vanilla seeds in, then slowly add half of the milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking the yolks constantly, to temper them. Add the egg mixture back to the saucepan.

Stir, alternating between a rubber spatula and a whisk, until the custard is significantly thicker (it will thicken more when cooled) and is starting to boil just a bit. Taste to make sure the cornstarch doesn't leave a strong aftertaste in your mouth; if it does, continue to stir and cook for another minute or two until that flavor has cooked out, keeping the heat low enough to prevent a full rolling boil.

Pour the custard into a bowl, passing it through a fine-mesh sieve if you feel you may have any coagulation of eggs, and stir in the butter until melted and consistent throughout. Cover with plastic wrap, setting the wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Cool at room temperature about 20 minutes, then in a refrigerator for about 6 hours. If you don't have that much time, you can freeze it for about an hour or two, stirring it every twenty minutes, then refrigerate it when cool, before it freezes.

Two notes: 1. Don't double dip into the main bowl; the cornstarch will break down from the enzymes on your spoon (from your mouth), and the pudding will just be crème anglaise.
2. If you don't have a vanilla bean around, you can stir in 1-2 t. vanilla extract with the butter at the end.


Chocolate Custard

1 1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. cream
1 vanilla bean, split
4 egg yolks
2 1/2 T. corn starch
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. unsalted butter, cut into 3-4 pats
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, in small pieces

Set the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Scrape the seeds out of the bean and add the seeds and bean to the milk and cream.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, corn starch, and sugar. The mixture will be quite thick.

When the milk is getting very hot (but not boiling, 5-10 minutes), remove the bean pod and scrape down the center, adding the additional seeds into the milk. Whisk the milk and cream to stir the vanilla seeds in, then slowly add half of the milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking the yolks constantly, to temper them. Add the egg mixture back to the saucepan.

Stir, alternating between a rubber spatula and a whisk, until the custard is significantly thicker (it will thicken more when cooled) and is starting to boil just a bit. Taste to make sure the cornstarch doesn't leave a strong aftertaste in your mouth; if it does, continue to stir and cook for another minute or two until that flavor has cooked out, keeping the heat low enough to prevent a full rolling boil.

Set the chocolate and butter in the bottom of a bowl. Pour the custard into the bowl, passing it through a fine-mesh sieve if you feel you may have any coagulation of eggs, and stir until the butter and chocolate are completely melted and consistent throughout. (If you stop stirring, the chocolate will never fully melt and incorporate, and you'll have small pieces of chocolate in your custard.) Cover with plastic wrap, setting the wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Cool at room temperature about 20 minutes, then in a refrigerator for about 6 hours. If you don't have that much time, you can freeze it for about an hour or two, stirring it every twenty minutes, then refrigerate it when cool, before it freezes.

Two notes: 1. Don't double dip into the main bowl; the cornstarch will break down from the enzymes on your spoon (from your mouth), and the pudding will be softer.
2. If you don't have a vanilla bean around, you can stir in 1-2 t. vanilla extract with the butter at the end.

2 comments:

Caprice said...

It was delicious - and this morning Sophie wished she had some for breakfast.

The Luke Family said...

That looks fantastic!!

We can come over whenever and eat that with you. We'll bring OUR Sophie! ; )