butterscotch pudding (with salted dark chocolate and pretzels)

So, when I went to wordpress.com to log in this afternoon, it didn’t remember me.  Yes, it’s been so long since I even checked in on the blog that I’ve been cleared by my own cache.

But much like that friend who only calls with marriage and birth announcements, here I am to say, “Hey, check this out … this is BIG.”  And by big, I mean delicious, and easy.  And able to be served either simply, as a comforting childhood favorite, or as something different and pretty to cap off a dinner with friends.

Homemade puddings seem to be a rare treat these days – it’s so easy to whisk together the packet of instant mix and some milk and serve it up to the kids.  But homemade puddings – especially the ones that don’t require too much fussiness around the eggs – are so much more delicious (not to mention that you know and control what goes into them.)  This particular butterscotch pudding requires little more to achieve its rich, sweet, buttery flavor than butter, brown sugar, and milk.  Cornstarch and eggs, usually separate and single thickening agents, team up in this recipe to provide the easily-attained creamy smoothness of a cornstarch-thickened pudding and the rich mouth-feel of an egg-thickened pudding, all without making a cook nervous about the eggs curdling.  (And, if it does happen to “break,” you can use an immersion blender to set it back to rights.)

The butterscotch pudding could easily stand on its own and just be an indulgence for you, or an after-school treat for the little people in your life.  But I like to make a salted dark chocolate ganache to cap the pudding off, and serve it with whipped cream and some crumbled pretzels.  It might be gilding the lily, but it does make the dessert a bit more grown-up friendly, and goes wonderfully with and after-dinner coffee or whiskey.

Butterscotch Pudding
(serves 4-6, adapted David Lebovitz’s Ripe For Dessert)

4 tablespoons butter (this is one place where salted butter can shine)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt (preferably sea salt)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2½ cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons whiskey (optional but nice to do)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the sugar and salt, and stir until the sugar is well-moistened, then remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup milk until smooth, then whisk in the eggs.  Slowly pour the remaining milk into the melted brown sugar, whisking constantly, and then whisk in the cornstarch mixture.

Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for one minute, whisking the whole time.  Once the pudding is about the consistency of hot fudge, remove the pan from from the heat and stir in the whiskey and vanilla.

Pour into 4-6 serving glasses or custard cups and chill thoroughly, at least four hours, before serving.

About an hour before serving, prepare the dark chocolate layer:


Salted Dark Chocolate Ganache
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped fine
8 ounces heavy cream
Sea Salt to taste

Put the chopped chocolate into a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan, heat the cream to scalding (small bubbles should just form around the edge of the pan – do not bring the cream to a full boil.)

Pour the scalded cream into the chopped chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted, smooth and shiny.  Season with a pinch of salt, or more to taste.  Let cool briefly, but make sure the chocolate remains pourable.

Pour a 1/2-inch layer of ganache over each set butterscotch pudding, then chill til set – at least a half hour.  When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and crumbled pretzels, if you like.




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