I can't believe I'm about to say this, but there is just too much good food in the world.
Every day I seem to add to my list of recipes to try – some pulled from magazines, others clipped from favorite websites. There are some recipes that I've had in my "to cook" queue for years now and I am starting to wonder "will I ever get to them?"
Like this recipe which was originally submitted to a Food52 contest by my friend Peggy and went on to win the contest for "Best Pudding" on the site in February of 2011. That was when I first printed a copy of the recipe and vowed to make it SOON. It was later showcased in an article Amanda Hesser wrote for Bon Appetit Magazine in October of last year, and her piece on "stress-free entertaining" prompted me to dig through my pile of recipes and finally give this pudding a try.
That was 6 MONTHS ago!
What finally yanked me off my @$$ and got me to whip up this creamy wonder of a dessert, you ask?
An invitation to dinner at a neighbor's, a request for a contribution for dessert, and a pint of heavy cream in my fridge looking forlorn and begging for sweet redemption. Now, it may have taken me 3 years to finally get around to making this amazing treat but I can promise you this, it won't be another 3 years before I make it again. This pudding is SO good, SO easy, and SO impressive for company that I can see making it over and over…..well, at least until my cardiologist begs me to stop!
The key to making this pudding sing like Idina Menzel and not Miley Cyrus is to cook the caramel to a DEEP amber color before adding the cream. The word "burnt" in the name of this dish is only a slight misnomer. You don't want to burn the caramel, but you want to get awfully close before you arrest the cooking with the addition of cream…..think the color of an Irish Setter dog, that deep red-brown, as your target. The line between a perfectly cooked "almost burnt" amber, and a fully burnt- black caramel is a thin one so pay attention. Making a good, rich caramel is like playing a game of culinary chicken. Flinch too soon and you end up with weak, blond caramel with hardly any flavor, wait to long and it'll turn black as tar in the bottom of your pan. Don't panic if you see a few wisps of smoke curl from the pan before you pull the trigger and add the cream, that is normal and good. You don't want black smoke billowing through your kitchen, but if you add the cream before you see any smoke you've jumped the gun.
Do be careful when you finally add the cream, and do so a little at a time. It will churn, splatter, and steam when you first add the liquid so keep your face and hands back from the pot. If you freak out and dump all the cream in at once it WILL boil up and overflow the pan leaving an unbelievable mess on your stove top, so keep your cool.
Don't be a fool like I was and wait 3 years to try this awesome pudding….go make some NOW!
Cheers – Steve
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
- fine sea salt
- Heat the oven to 300℉
- Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the cream; toss the scraped pod in there too. Turn the heat to low and gently warm the cream.
- Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sugar; pour the remaining sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of water into a heavy-bottomed (high sided) saucepan set over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then crank the heat to high and let the liquid bubble away - don't stir, just swirl the pan occasionally - until the caramel turns a dark amber. This takes about 4-5 minutes, but watch closely because once the syrup starts taking color it happens fast. Drop the heat to medium.
- Moving quickly, remove the vanilla pod from the cream (rinse and save for another use). Slowly stir the warm cream into the caramel over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
- While the caramel is cooling, whisk the egg yolks with the reserves sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Whisk a little of the cream / caramel mixture into the egg yolks to temper. Gradually add the rest, until it's all incorporated. Stir gently with a heat proof spatula (do not whisk) as you don't want to introduce too much air and make the custard foamy.
- Strain the mixture into a large liquid measuring cup and pour into 4 - 6 oz. ramekins. Place the ramekins in a shallow pan half filled with cold water. If you like you caramel a bit salty like me, sprinkle a few extra grains of salt on top of each one. Cook at 300 ℉ for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes (I cooked mine 1 hour and 10 minutes) until set but still slightly jiggly in the center. Chill for at least 3 hours, or even better overnight. Let come to room temperature before serving and serve topped with whipped heavy cream.