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Mar 25, 2009 09:31 AM

vanilla pudding won't set

I've been making this vanilla pudding recipe since the Fall with excellent results. Recently, the pudding just won't set and I don't know why. It's very loose, even though it thickens in the pot and seems as if it will set once cooled. I just started using Omega-3 eggs. Could they be the problem? If so, why?

Here is the recipe, very standard.:

2 cups 2% milk
2 tbsps. cornstarch
4 tbsps sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp butter
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

In a 2 qt. saucepan, combine dry ingredients. Turn heat to medium low and slowly add milk. Stir continuously until mixture thickens (takes about 20 minutes). When mixture begins to bubble, turn down heat to low and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Take mixture off heat. Lightly beat 2 egg yolks. Add a little of the hot mixture to eggs then return egg mixture to pot. Stir till combined. Bring mixture back to low heat, wait for a gentle boil, then stir for one additional minute. Take off heat. Add vanilla and butter. Stir till combined. Let pudding cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then transfer to ramekins. Let cool some more before transferring to fridge.

If you have any thoughts about what's not working, please share. If you have a better recipe, I'm very interested. This one takes a bit of time and labor. So much stirring!! My son does not like instant pudding, of course!

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  1. No idea if the eggs are having an impact, but I did learn the hard way that if heated too high, cornstarch and arrowroot don't thicken when cooled. Possibly you are using higher heat, or a different pot which stays hotter on the same burner setting?

    1. I don't know if this is the answer, but cornstarch needs to come to a full boil in order to thicken properly.

      Barring that, maybe more cornstarch is needed...but I don't know why all of a sudden that should make a difference when your recipe was working right before.

      Could it be the eggs...? Hmmm....Don't know that one....

      1. if you've been doing everything precisely the same way, then i'm thinking it's one of two things:
        - your cornstarch is funky (new batch? possibly exposed to moisture/high humidity?)
        - the higher fatty acid content in the eggs may actually be interfering with the gelling properties of the cornstarch. (pretty darned fascinating if that's the case!)

        i'd suggest making a batch with standard, unenriched eggs. if it sets up properly, you have your answer.

        1. Thank you all for your advice and thoughts. I'm using the same pot and lowering the heat (I hate seeing burnt participles floating through the pudding). I am letting the mixture come to a gentle boil. The cornstarch is from a new box, so maybe the cornstarch is at fault. I went to the market today to buy some regular, unenriched eggs, although I could swear I've used omega 3 eggs before with no problem. I'll make another attempt at pudding some time this week and see what happens.

          1. OK. I had a little time this a.m. to do an experiment. I made 1/2 the recipe using my same cornstarch and an unenriched egg and another 1/2 recipe using same cornstarch and an omega-3 egg. I also raised the heat a bit for both batches of pudding. The batch with the unenriched egg was beginning to set up when I took it off the heat to cool. Not so with the enriched egg. The mixtrue was still soupy. I let it sit for about 15 minutes and it still wasn't setting up. So, I added 1/4 tsp. cornstarch, put it back on low heat till it came to a boil, stirred a little, and once off heat, it slowly began to set up. After another 15 minutes, it had set up just as the first batch had.

            Conclusion: The cornstarch is fine. There appears to be a difference in the eggs and their gelling capabilities. No problems with the unenriched egg. The omega-3 egg needed a little more cornstarch. I believe the omega-3 eggs in this particular carton, and not all omega-3 eggs, are not gelling as well as they should. I'll try with another carton of omega-3's at some later date, just to see if I'm on the right track. For now, I'm happy to have figured out what was causing my vanilla pudding its set up problem. Just wanted to share and to thtank you again for your interest and help.

            4 Replies
            1. re: addicted2cake

              Were you using the same pot and same burner for each, or did you do them simultaneously? To play devil's advocate, different burners may heat differently even if you put them on the same setting. Not saying that your conclusion is wrong, just that it might not be the only possible explanation. This might be a matter for Harold McGee to investigate - if you are interested in pursuing the experiment, you can contact him through

              1. re: greygarious

                Yes, I used the same pot and same burner for both batches. I washed everything after my success with the first batch, then started fresh with the second batch. You make a good point about different burners heating differently, as this is the case with my range. My largest burner (I have an electric, glass top range) takes much longer to heat than does the adjacent burner. The back burners also heat differently. I think this present carton of eggs is the culprit this time around, but thanks for the link to Harold McGee. Maybe I'll check him out. Many thanks for your input!

                1. re: addicted2cake

                  Glad you got to the yolk of the matter.... interesting.

              2. re: addicted2cake

                glad you figured it out, and thanks for reporting back! i think it's really interesting that the eggs are the issue.