By Midge / Serves 4
WHO: Midge lives in Boston and is a journalist specializing in travel. She says, “Cooking, especially baking, is my way of winding down after a long day.”
WHAT: A rich pudding that has just the right balance of bitter and sweet.
HOW: Starting the water bath with cool water, rather than hot, cooks the pudding very gently, giving it the most incredibly silken, glossy structure.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Puddings thickened with cornstarch make great comfort food, but Midge’s luxurious caramel custard, which uses egg yolks as its only setting agent, elevates pudding to dinner party fare. As with any egg-enriched custard, the key is careful tempering. As for the caramel, be sure to brown it as far as your nerves allow.
Midge says: “So far, one of the best parts about living in Boston is my proximity to Toscanini’s burnt caramel ice cream. I’m not even that into ice cream, but this flavor, with its slight bitter edge to cut the richness, is cracklike. I attempted to capture it in a pudding, and after incinerating a lot of sugar, I think I finally got it.”
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Fine sea salt
Whipped cream for serving
1. Heat the oven to 300°F.
2. 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 to gently warm the cream.
3. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Pour the remaining sugar and the 1½ tablespoons of water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir 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 it turns dark amber. This takes about 4 minutes, but watch closely, because it happens fast. Reduce the heat to medium.
4. Moving quickly, fish the vanilla pod out of the cream (rinse it and save for another use) and slowly stir the warm cream into the caramel. Once it comes to a boil (this will happen fast), remove from the heat and let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
5. Whisk the egg yolks with the reserved sugar and a pinch of sea salt in a medium bowl. Whisk a little of the cream-caramel mixture into the egg yolks, then gradually whisk in the rest until it’s all incorporated.
6. Strain the mixture into a pitcher or large measuring cup and pour it into four 6-ounce ramekins (see Tips and Techniques). Place the ramekins in a shallow baking pan filled halfway with cold water. If you like your caramel a bit salty, like me, sprinkle a few grains of sea salt on top of each pudding. Cook for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until just set.
7. Chill the puddings for at least 3 hours; but it’s best if you can chill them overnight. Serve with freshly whipped cream.
What the Community Said:
woodside: “Just the right amount of rich, and ultrasmooth and creamy. Simple, and definitely guest-worthy.”
panfusine: “Congratulations, Midge. . . . Such an elegant recipe, with exactly five ingredients! Awesome!”
perfectchaos: “Thank you, Midge, for this fun offering; I white-knuckled during the sugar browning, only swirling the pan now and then, but you are absolutely correct with the 4-minute time frame. All was so easy, and the custard has an amazing depth of flavor finish!”
Tips and Techniques
midge: “I used some old custard cups that hold about 5 ounces, but 6-ounce ramekins should be fine.”
From The Food52 Cookbook: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks, by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs.