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Mark Bittman's Pudding Recipe--Delicious!

In today's New York Times, Mark Bittman wrote about sweetened milk/cream for dessert. One of the recipes was for Vanilla/Chocolate pudding that only took 20 minutes plus chilling time. It sounded delicious and simple, so I gave it try. I now have ramekins full of pudding chilling in my fridge and I haven't been able to stop snacking on them. I made chocolate, and the pudding is rich, delicious, and creamy without being too thick, gloppy, or overly sweet like the commercial pudding I grew up with. I can't wait until dessert, when I can top the ramekins with freshly made whipped cream! So easy and so good.

Link to the recipe:

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  1. Wow, that was quick! I was thinking of making this tomorrow night. Glad to hear it's good.

    1. I used to sometimes make an even quicker and lazier version with pretty much the same exact recipe, in the microwave: get the milk hot (3-4 mins on high), then add the cornstarch and cook for about another 3-6 mins, stopping to whisk once a minute, until the mixture is thickened and has cooked a little bit. (Be sure to cook in a container that's sufficiently larger than the amount of liquid, and keep an eye on it so it doesn't boil over. A 4-cup pyrex measure is generally sufficient for the 2.5 cups milk, but it *will* boil over if you don't watch it)

      I have to admit I'm not a big cornstarch pudding fan, but I can't really tell the difference between stovetop and microwave. (Other than not having to stir constantly to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pot...)

      1. I have been thinking about the Maple Crema recipe from the same article. It looks absolutely wonderful.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Nyleve

          That's the one that caught my eye too...but it didn't seem as simple as the others.

        2. I must have measured my cornstarch wrong, because my attempt last night at the vanilla pudding from this recipe came out runny. It didn't set, it's quite liquid still in the ramekins. :(
          Flavor's good though. Will have to try again. The maple does look good, but too rich for me.

          8 Replies
          1. re: morebubbles

            Yeah, we tried it last night too, but used half skim milk and half whole: it was pretty runny, too. I think it's because we didn't use full-fat milk. Did you use whole milk?

            1. re: Jackaroo

              No, I used 2% milk- do you think that's it? only 1.3% difference... I thought that next time I'd try it using 1 T more cornstarch. I do have cream at home, but I'm iffy about fat, especially a large quantity like that. (I use cream sparingly in some recipes, like for sauces etc.) Pls let me know if you try different ways & what results you get.

              btw I used 1 T of butter instead of 2, although it says it's optional anyway, so that shouldn't be it.

              1. re: morebubbles

                Using 2% vs. whole milk is not 1.3% difference. By making that change you have in fact reduced the amount of milkfat in the recipe by almost 40%. I don't know if that would be responsible for the difference; this is just to point out that you've underestimated the effect of your alteration.

                1. re: Timowitz

                  I used full fat milk and it came out perfect. I would imagine that you would have to bump up the cornstarch quite a bit in order to compensate. Of course you could go the other way and use half and half!

            2. re: morebubbles

              My formula has always been 1/4 cup (4T) cornstarch for 2 1/4 cups milk. Cut it down to 2 cups milk if you want your spoon to be able to stand up in the ramekin.

              1. re: morebubbles

                The fat will make a difference but more likely than not it was heated long enough to fully activate the cornstarch.

                1. re: morebubbles

                  I tried to make this just last night and my attempt was the same -- seemed rather thick in the pot, but today in the ramekins (after overnight in the fridge), it is runny. I followed the instructions exactly. I appreciate the posting about common errors when using starch, but I don't think I did any of those. How thick should it be by the end? Perhaps I took it off the heat too soon...

                  1. re: MichelinStarChaser

                    I have made this quite a few more times and find that I have to leave it on the heat until it is really nice and thick. Sometimes I kept it on the heat up to 10-15 minutes until it looks glossy and thick. If I take it off too soon, the pudding is pretty runny. I usually bring a book or something into the kitchen so I don't get too bored!

                2. Below is very helpful info found at baking911.com on the sensitivities of corn starch and all the errors that can lead to runny puddings! Interestingly, it's not the fat.

                  QUESTION: My recipe using corn starch seemed perfectly thickened when it was just cooked, but thinned and was watery after it cooled. What happened?

                  ANSWER: Corn starch mixtures that don't thicken at all, or thicken during cooking, then thin out during cooling are disappointing. One or more of the following may have caused the problem.

                  Too Little Liquid: If there is not enough liquid (water, milk, juice) in the mixture, the corn starch granules will not fully swell and remain thickened when the mixture cools. Adding a little more liquid (not more corn starch) is likely to solve the problem.

                  Too Much Sugar: A higher proportion of sugar than liquid (water, milk, juice) in a mixture can interfere with the swelling of the corn starch granules and prevent thickening during cooking and/or cause thinning during cooling. Adding more liquid (not more corn starch) will often solve the problem.

                  Too Much Fat: An excessively high proportion of fat or egg yolks in a mixture can interfere with the swelling of the corn starch granules and prevent thickening during cooking and/or cause thinning during cooling. Adding more liquid (not more corn starch) will usually solve the problem.

                  Too Much Acid: Acid ingredients such as lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar will reduce the thickening ability of the starch or prevent the mixture from thickening. Add them after the recipe is made. Increase the starch level slightly or stir acid ingredients in after cooking.

                  Too Much Stirring: Excessive or rough stirring with a wire whisk or even a spoon may break the starch cells and cause the mixture to thin out.

                  Too Much Heat: Use medium of medium-low heat when thickening a recipe with cornstarch. When reheating a cornstarch-based recipe, use a double-boiler and don't overheat the mixture, otherwise it will thin.

                  Excessive Cooking: Simmering or boiling a corn starch thickened mixture for an extended period of time may cause the starch cells to rupture and the mixture to thin.

                  Tasting: The digestive enzymes in a person's mouth will cause a properly thickened mixture to thin dramatically in just a few minutes. Be sure to use a clean spoon when tasting a corn starch thickened mixture to correct the seasoning.

                  Freezing: Freezing corn-starch thickened mixtures will rupture the starch cells and cause the mixture to thin out. adapted from argostarch.com

                  1. I tried the pudding recipe, too. (I used combo of whole milk and half-and-half.) I let it thicken just a tad too much at the end, and my cornstarch started forming little balls -- almost like tapioca. It still tasted pretty good, but I would try it again to see how it is when I don't let the cornstarch overcook..

                    By the way, I've found it almost impossible in my area (Stamford, CT -- close to northern Westchester, NY and NYC) to find cream of any kind that is NOT ultra-pasturized. Many recipes, including this Bittman one, pleads for you to find such a beast. Any leads?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pixellle

                      If you have any natural food stores like Whole Foods or any health food-type stores, check in there for cream that has not been ultra-pasturized. In California (where I live), it is relatively easy to find thanks to Whole Foods and Trader Joes. But I have seen non ultra pasturized milk at a variety of health food stores.

                    2. The link isn't good anymore unless you're a subscriber -- can anyone post a version of the recipe here? TIA

                      1. I copy/pasted the whole article a couple days ago but that was a violation of the rules & it got taken down. I think/hope this is within the rules: exact ingredients, paraphrased instructions....

                        Part One: Vanilla Pudding
                        Time: 20 minutes, plus chilling

                        2 1/2cups half-and-half or whole milk
                        2/3 cup sugar
                        Pinch of salt
                        1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                        3 tablespoons cornstarch
                        2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (optional).

                        Combine milk (hold back 1/2 cup), sugar & salt in a smallish pot on medium or low heat. If using vanilla bean, add it now. Cook just until it begins to steam.

                        Combine cornstarch and remaining milk in a bowl & blend until smooth. If using vanilla bean, take the pod out of the pot now. Add cornstarch mixture and cook , stirring, until it barely reaches a boil. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir until thick. Stir in butter and vanilla extract if you're using it.

                        Pour mixture into a 1-quart dish or 4-6 small bowls. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming; or don't, if you like skin.
                        To make chocolate pudding, stir in 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate along with the butter.

                        1. Part Two:
                          Indian Cornmeal Pudding
                          Time: 3 1/2 hours

                          4 cups whole milk
                          1/2 cup molasses
                          3/4 cup sugar
                          1/2 cup cornmeal
                          1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
                          1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
                          1/2 teaspoon salt
                          3 tablespoons butter, more for greasing pan.

                          Milk (hold back 1/2 cup), sugar and molasses in a pan. Medium heat -- stir until incorporated, turn heat to low. Turn oven on to 300F.

                          Slowly sprinkle in cornmeal, whisking constantly. Prevent lumps. When mixture thickens (~10 min.), stir in all remaining ingredients except the 1/2 cup milk, and turn off heat.
                          Pour into a greased 8" or 9" square baking dish. Top with remaining milk; do not stir. Bake 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until set. Wrapped well, keeps in the fridge for several days.

                          1. Part Three:
                            Maple Crema
                            Adapted from Gina DePalma of Babbo
                            Time: 1 1/2 hours, plus chilling

                            2 cups pure maple syrup
                            2 cups heavy cream
                            1/2 cup whole milk
                            6 large egg yolks
                            2 teaspoons granulated sugar
                            Pinch kosher salt.

                            Preheat oven to 325. Put syrup in a FOUR-QUART saucepan (it will bubble up high)
                            and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and reduce to 2/3.
                            Remove from heat and whisk in cream & milk. Return to heat and simmer.
                            Whisk yolks well with sugar & salt in a large bowl. Remove maple mixture from heat & let cool for 5 minutes. Slowly whisk it into the yolks, straining through a fine-meshed sieve to remove any lumps of yolk.
                            Arrange 8 4-oz. ramekins in a flat-bottomed roasting pan big enough to put some space between the cups. Pour the custard into the cups, but do not fill to the top. Add hot tap water to 1/3 up the sides of the cups. Cover the pan with foil, making sure the foil will not touch the top of the cups.
                            Bake on middle rack for 35 minutes; rotate and bake 15 more, then check for doneness. They are done when the centers are somewhat set and jiggly like Jell-O. Total baking time = 50-60 min.
                            Remove pan from oven; remove foil; let the cups cool in the water until they're safe to touch, then cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.