Thursday, 27 January 2011

On indecision: vanilla bean pudding/custard

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Sometimes I have trouble deciding.  Which restaurant I want to eat at, what dress to wear to work, whether to do Tae Bo or yoga.  It's a curse (and, apparently, not one I face alone).  Unfortunately, this obsession with options extends to my kitchen.

The internet is a seemingly limitless resource, especially when it comes to food blogs and recipe galleries.  Which is awesome, because you can find a recipe for pretty much anything, but it's also daunting, because you can find a million recipes for the one thing you're craving.  In this case: vanilla bean pudding.

(Sidebar: by pudding, I mean pudding, not dessert.  Over here they like to say 'pudding' when they often mean cake, or crisp, or cookies.  But then what do you call pudding??  Well, according to the bf, that's custard, but I disagree because custard tends to be pourable, while pudding is firm and squishy at the same lovely time.  Moving on...)

I had a bunch of egg yolks that were planning to be leftovers from a cookie recipe I had on the to-do list (more on that later), and I figured what better way to use them up than with pudding?  I kind of miss pudding – they don't really do it over here (see above) – and anyway I've got a bunch of vanilla beans to use up.  So I went hunting for a recipe.  And I found one that I liked.  Then another.  And one more.  No one recipe had all the things I wanted, so I figured I'd adapt them all into one, perfect experiment.

And then it all went a little bit pear-shaped.  I had this amazing vision of old-fashioned custardy pudding, cream-colored and flecked with black vanilla seeds.  And I got it.  It was beautiful!  But then it didn't really set... and it was a bit grainy because somehow the sugar didn't melt... and it just generally didn't hit the spot like I'd hoped.  But the bf ate it all, so it couldn't have been that bad!

If you feel like trying what I did (incorrectly), or if you just want one more option to consider today, the recipe is below.  And the good news is, you can't really go all that wrong with vanilla beans and milk (although I do try).

Vanilla Bean Custard:
     awkwardly adapted from here, here, and here

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together:
     2c milk (this may be one place where I went wrong: I used low fat)
     1/4c sugar
     1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped

Heat until very warm, but not boiling.  Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together until light in color:
     4 egg yolks
     1/4c sugar

Then whisk in:
     1.5 Tbsp cornstarch
     pinch of salt

Take the bean pod out of the hot milk and whisk in egg mixture, making sure to whisk quickly so the egg doesn't cook in little scramble-chunks.  Whisk 5 minutes or so over the heat, until the mixture is thick and just beginning to bubble, then use a spatula to stir constantly, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan.  Do this until the custard is thick enough to leave a line when you pull your finger through it on the back of the spatula.

Take it off the heat and pour through a sieve into a bowl with 3 Tbsp of butter in it.  Stir in the butter, then press plastic wrap to the top of the pudding to keep a skin from forming and place the bowl in the fridge to set, 2 hours minimum.


  1. I'm sorry to hear that your pudding didn't set! It looks really tasty.

  2. Thanks, Sally! It was tasty enough for the bf to eat it, but too grainy for me. Oh well, though, we live and learn, eh?

  3. I had the same problem when I made chocolate pudding recently. I didn't let the mixture get hot enough after adding the cornstarch. Fortunately heating it up again the next day slowly while stirring worked. Love homemade pudding!

  4. thanks for the tip, Diana– i'm terrible at rescuing recipes in distress, so i usually just consider them failures before really trying. but if i try pudding again and it refuses to set, i'll definitely keep in mind that all is not lost!


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