This post is kind of dedicated to two people, and the first one is me.
At the age of, oh, about 12, I don’t think there was a single thing in the world – except perhaps, mashed potatoes – that I loved with all my heart more than butterscotch flavored Angel Delight. Pudding, to you.
(Notes – 1: Yes, we’re really big on singing made-up words like “De-smoothest” in British commercials. 2: Apparently, we like throwing maraschino cherries on top of everything, for no damn reason that I can think of. And 3: strawberry pudding is pretty foul. Other than that, 4: you get the idea.)
On as many separate occasions as I could get away with, I would steal down to the kitchen while my parents were elsewhere, mix up a bowl of Angel Delight – butterscotch only – and take it up to my room, wait for it to set, and have myself a little butterscotch pudding party for one. I’d hide the bowl under my bed behind a stash of Doctor Who books, and pig out for as long as I remembered the bowl was still there. (Sometimes I would forget. Sorry, Mum.)
The second person I want to dedicate this to is Fringe scientist Walter Bishop, because … because if you don’t love Walter Bishop loving pudding, you have a dead black heart and you probably work in politics.
I don’t know what Angel Delight did to corner the market in gelatinous butterscotch-flavored dessert, but I never found a packaged version that stood up to their original recipe. We returned from England last spring with three butterscotch pudding packets, now just a delicious memory. So I decided to make some from scratch.
This recipe from the Pizzeria Locale in Denver, described by Melissa Clark at the Times – didn’t seem too tricky – the only cautious stage is cooking the sugar to the correct temperature. She recommends a candy thermometer – I haven’t had luck with the kind that clip to the side of the pan, they tend to slip around, and with a relatively small amount of caramel, the base of the thermometer isn’t guaranteed to sit comfortably in the mix. So I prefer to use our Thermapen (made in England, don’t you know), which has a really fast digital readout with great accuracy. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it powers down after a couple of minutes unless you deactivate it by closing and re-opening it, so if you’re focused on caramelizing sugar, it can be a pain to have to wake up the thermometer at a crucial moment.
That’s all the nerdy gadgetry for this recipe; everything else is quite standard.
The heated sugar mixture will look something like this. Since you’re starting with dark brown sugar, there’s not really a change in color as you cook, so you have to rely on your thermometer and your sense of smell and knack of not-burning-things. Just keeping stirring and you’ll be okay.
We couldn’t quite wait the prescribed 4 hours for our first bowls. The original article suggests ganache; we made do with some squirty cream and grated chocolate. Emily loved it; I have to say, I still kind of prefer the packaged version. Even after chilling overnight, the texture remained like a thick custard, not the gelatin-set firmness of Angel Delight.
I know this claims to serve 8 but, ha ha, you know, pudding.
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1½ cups milk
- 150 grams dark brown sugar (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
- 5 grams fine sea salt (3/4 teaspoon)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 12 grams cornstarch (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon)
- 4½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, egg and cornstarch. Keep this to hand for later.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and milk to a simmer. Turn down very low, or off and cover, to keep warm.
- In a large saucepan (large enough for the 4-5 cups milk/cream mixture, plus eggs, plus room to whisk), bring the brown sugar, ⅓ cup water and the salt to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to keep mixture from scorching, until it reaches 240°F (115°C). Much of the water will boil off by this stage, but you’ll still have a fair amount of low-level bubbling in the mixture. Mine took about 15 minutes to get to that stage. The mixture should smell nutty and caramelized (although note that we’re not technically making caramel, which requires higher heat).
- Immediately add the cream mixture into the brown sugar, and bring to a boil while whisking constantly.
- Slowly pour one or two ladles-ful of hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to properly temper them. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the cream. Cook, whisking, for another few minutes, simmering if need be, until thickened.
- Strain the mixture into a bowl to sieve out any unmixed solids (most likely the corn starch) then whisk in the butter until smooth. Divide among 8 serving dishes and chill for at least 4 hours until fully set.