Is there any dessert more comforting than pudding? Of the trio of vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch flavors, the last one arguably has the most dedicated fans. But many people have tasted only the boxed kind. Here is the real deal, infused with caramel and the rich flavor of butter. Definitely not for those who are watching their weight!
Serves 4 to 6
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. cornstarch
3 cups milk
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Whipped cream for serving
In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and 1/2 cup of the milk until well blended. Set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 2 1/2 cups milk, the butter and salt and heat, stirring frequently, until the butter is melted. Set aside and cover to keep warm.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water and stir to moisten the sugar. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stop stirring and cook, brushing down any crystals that form on the inside of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water and occasionally swirling the saucepan by its handle, until the sugar turns a deep golden brown caramel. The caramel will have a toasty aroma, and you may see some wisps of smoke.
Reduce the heat to low. Gradually and very carefully stir the warm milk mixture into the caramel; the mixture will boil furiously. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and the caramel is completely dissolved. Gradually whisk the hot caramel mixture into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan, set over medium heat and heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a full boil. Strain through a coarse-mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding, and pierce the plastic a few times with a knife tip to allow the steam to escape. Let cool to lukewarm, then refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
Layer the chilled pudding and whipped cream evenly in 4 to 6 parfait glasses or footed bowls. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 8 hours before serving.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).