The other day I was at the grocery store, minding my own business in the Latin-American food aisle, when I spied a can of pre-made dulce de leche! I was unreasonably excited about this, but you’ve got to understand that it was the first time I’d ever actually seen it in real life– I’d always been told it was available, but I’d never seen it for myself.
Rather, I’d been reduced to making it from sweetened condensed milk, either using the highly dangerous boiling-the-can method, or the slow oven method. In any event, I was thrilled to find it ready-made, and even more thrilled that I’d finally be able to make my very favorite dulce de leche flan, which I first made about fifteen years ago and have pined after ever since.
This flan is amazingly creamy and smooth, with a nice caramelly flavor from the dulce de leche. Don’t overcook or you’ll lose the texture– the center should be jiggly when you shake the pan in the oven, and it’ll cook the rest of the way after you take it out.
After a recent grocery trip in which I bought two gallons of milk (usually necessary), I came home to discover that I already had an almost-full gallon in the refrigerator, which meant I definitely had more than we needed for the week. What to do with the extra milk? Luckily, there are a ton of recipes that are perfect for just such a situation, and one of them is rice pudding.
Not just any rice pudding– many of them use only 3-4 cups of milk per cup of rice, which hardly seems worth it– but a rice pudding that purported to be the creamiest rice pudding out there. This recipe uses a whopping 6 cups of milk to a mere (heaping) half-cup of rice, and all it takes is time. A lot of time. But hey, it was the weekend and I’d already done my grocery shopping, so I had plenty of it, right?
I was a little leery of the milk-to-rice ratio, but as directed, I brought my milk (with sugar and salt) to a boil and stirred in my rice, then dropped it to a simmer and stirred it occasionally. I did cheat a bit– after about 30 minutes the rice was tender but the milk was still liquid rather than creamy, so I didn’t see the point in gently simmering it any longer. Instead, I cranked up the heat and let it boil for the next 15 minutes, slowly thickening into a nice, creamy mixture. Once off-heat, I stirred in my flavorings, then set it out to cool.
Since I was in a bit of a hurry I poured it onto a silicone-lined baking sheet on the counter to cool faster, then once it was merely warm I put it in the refrigerator to cool even more quickly. The finished texture was perfectly creamy– not liquid-y as I’d feared– and I added some toasted coconut and chopped pistachios on top for contrast.
I think this recipe could be the base of a bunch of different variations. Cardamom and orange zest. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Lemon zest and honey. Or with coconut milk substituted for some of the milk, and maybe some crushed pineapple– the possibilities are endless!
Coconut is one of those flavors that I didn’t come to appreciate until I was an adult– I hated macaroons as a kid, along with Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars, and so coconut cream pie never appealed to me. Now, of course, I enjoy coconut on occasion (though it’s still not in my top 5)– and who can resist a pudding pie? Not me.
I had an extra refrigerated pie crust that I needed to use up, and when I saw the can of Coco Lopez in my pantry I knew that I’d hit on an idea for dessert. That being said, for some reason I really dislike making custards that require extra egg yolks (probably because then I’d have extra whites to use up), so all of the custard-based pie recipes were out. Instead I was able to find a recipe that called for instant pudding mix that was whipped up using cream of coconut instead of milk– sounded perfect!
The original recipe had a homemade crust made with coconut and coconut-flavored rum, but since the whole point was to use up a refrigerated crust I skipped that part. I ended up adding some extra coconut extract to make up for the resulting reduction in coconut flavor, and the finished pie was creamy, fluffy, decadently rich, and of course delicious.
You know, sometimes the classics are just the best. I do love making fabulous, multi-component desserts– both for the challenge and the layers of flavor and texture– but every now and then it’s great to go back to basics. Especially when you’re running around frantically to cook your first solo Thanksgiving dinner and you JUST need something good for dessert and your family insists that they HATE pumpkin pie and can’t agree on whether to have apple pie or custard pie and and you’re ready to commit the heresy of getting STORE-BOUGHT just to get it over with–
In any event, we eventually decided on this pie, and boy is it a keeper. As is so frequently the case, it’s from the incomparable Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and having had my first slice I’m fairly sure I could make one of these every week and never get tired of it. The cornstarch pudding is simple to put together and practically foolproof– a for flavor, it’s perfectly rich, not too sweet, and light enough to not weigh you down, even after a holiday dinner. I even used a pre-made crust and it still turned out fantastically… though homemade whipped cream is a must here, I have to insist on it.
During a recent visit to the King Arthur Flour bakery in Vermont I purchased a loaf of challah, fully intending to pull pieces off of it for the next several hours and devour most of the loaf that way. Isn’t that the best way to eat fresh bread? Sadly, I ended up getting distracted and by the time I got back to my loaf it was partly stale and didn’t lend itself well to nibbling on.
However, stale bread is still good for plenty of things– not least of which is bread pudding. Not just any bread pudding– chocolate bread pudding. DARK chocolate bread pudding, which makes it that much more decadent. I pulled this recipe from King Arthur Flour’s own website and have been eating the results for breakfast for the past week. Superb.
One of my enduring memories of childhood is sitting with my brother in our living room, watching old Donald Duck cartoons and eating Jello pudding pops. Only the chocolate ones, because the vanilla ones weren’t nearly as good. And when Jello stopped making them (sad!), I moved on to my next favorite frozen pudding-based treat, which involved freezing chocolate (never vanilla) pudding cups solid, then letting them thaw slightly on the counter for that signature slightly-chewy mouthfeel that you can only get from frozen pudding. It was always iffy, though, whether you’d end up with icy crystals or overly-thawed pudding, so that method was never fully satisfactory.
Well, I may not be able to get Jello-brand pudding pops anymore, but I’ve at last found the perfect replacement– homemade pudding pops. I got the recipe for the butterscotch pops from Smitten Kitchen (I swear, I should just rename this blog “Stuff from Smitten Kitchen”), and I’m going to start making these on a regular basis.
I admit to loving the idea of portable desserts in mason jars– it’s hopelessly hipster-ish, but they’re just so darned cute! Even better if they have distinct layers so they have extra flair from the outside. So when Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a new “extra-luxe” recipe for butterscotch pudding the same week I had plans to bring dessert over to a friend’s house, it was as if the fates had spoken and decreed that I must make this pudding.
I assembled my mason jars and got to work– I ended up doubling the pudding recipe, which supposedly made six “petite” servings, and ended up with eight more generous servings, though the caramel sauce that accompanied it was enough for all eight without being doubled. The finished puddings were quite tasty– the sweet-saltiness of the caramel was a nice accent to the relatively mild butterscotch pudding (I used the recommended smaller amount of sugar you’ll see in Deb’s notes), and the texture was perfect.
I will note at the outset that this is “Indian Pudding” as it’s made in New England– basically an enriched and sweetened cornmeal mush, baked in the oven until thick– rather than a pudding of the style made in India (which can include pumpkin). I basically decided to make it on a whim during a recent snowstorm, figuring it would help combat the cold, wintry weather outside.
I’ve never actually liked Indian Pudding in its original form– it’s not really sweet enough for me and it’s kind of one-dimensional. I decided to make it more interesting by the addition of pumpkin purée, as I love pumpkin pie and figured the pumpkin would go well with the flavor profile of the standard pudding recipe. The resulting pudding is (for me at least) the ideal breakfast food– it’s warm and comforting, with more heft than regular pumpkin pie (and all the flavor) so you don’t feel guilty about eating it for breakfast!
It’s become kind of a family tradition to go peach picking every summer, since my preschooler is fully capable of devouring up to four peaches a day and adores picking fruit of all kinds. However, due to an early frost this year the entire local peach crop was destroyed, so we decided to go blueberry picking instead. She had a great time, eating them right off the bush and “looking out for bears.” (because we’ve read Blueberries for Sal)
Once we arrived home with our giant 5-lb bucket of blueberries, I was informed by my daughter that we would be making pudding. Blueberry pudding. With chocolate. I’d never really heard of a chocolate blueberry pudding before, but hey, we had five pounds of berries, we could afford to give it a shot. I decided to go really simple, with a basic cornstarch-thickened pudding poured over whole blueberries– I could’ve made an egg-yolk-thickened custard with real chocolate and a berry coulis, but we’re talking about a four-year-old here, she wasn’t going to appreciate the finer details and would probably prefer the basic dessert.
I was prompted to make this by sheer necessity– I had a bunch of leftover rice that was starting to harden in the refrigerator, and a cupful of coconut milk left from a tom kha gai recipe that I had no other plans for. It was really inevitable that I’d end up making rice pudding out of the two items.
I really love kheer, which is a coconut-cardamom rice pudding that I’ve only ever had in Indian restaurants. Sadly, I didn’t have any cardamom in the house and it was 12 degrees F outside, so I wasn’t about to go out just to buy some. Instead, I decided to make a plain coconut rice pudding and see what I could do with it later.