Katie Workman's Fork-In-The-Road Butterscotch Pudding
What's a fork-in-the-road dish? This is the idea that you can separate out some of whatever you are making and make a simpler version for picky eaters, then continue on your merry way and gussy up the rest of the dish with gutsier ingredients, herbs, seasonings, etc. to give it more oomph for the grownups and adventurous eaters.
There are certain foods and certain flavors that we all seem to forget about for a while. Pudding is one of those foods, and butterscotch is one of those flavors. But a friend requested this dessert somewhat recently, and once we ate it we all experienced that "where have you been all this time?" feeling. It's like seeing an old friend who you loved but inadvertently lost touch with, and wondering why you ever let so much time go by between visits. This is a lot of significance to put upon such a homely dessert, but I think it's warranted.
The Fork-In-The-Road part here is the booze. ButterSCOTCH, right? And maybe the nuts. A splash of the hooch really turns this nursery food into something grown up, with additional warmth at the back of your throat. You may choose to skip the whipped cream, but I wouldn't advise that. If you want to dress this up, use a vegetable peeler and shave a bit of dark chocolate on top.
Fork-In-The-Road Butterscotch PuddingServes 6
For the pudding
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 tablespoon Scotch or other whiskey (optional)
For the whipped cream
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' or superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar until melted. Whisk in 2 1/2 cups of the milk, raise the heat to medium-high, and whisk frequently until little bubbles appear around the edges of the liquid in the pan.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and salt with the remaining 1/2 cup of the milk until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks.
3. Very slowly, whisking all the while, pour about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid into the egg mixture. When combined, slowly pour the warmed egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the liquid, whisking continuously until combined. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the 1/2 cup nuts if you want them to all have nuts, or save them for only some of the portions.
At this point, ladle out as many portions as you want to be non-alcoholic, pouring them into little ramekins or small bowls. Then stir the whiskey, and the nuts if desired, into the remaining pudding in the pot. The tablespoon of whiskey and 1/4 cup of chopped pecans assumes that 3 of the 6 portions will be non-alcoholic and nut-free, but adjust the amount of whiskey up or down by about a teaspoon per portion for every cup you want to be whiskey-flavored, and the nuts as you see fit.
4. Chill before serving (or if you like your pudding a bit runny and a little warm, let it sit out at room temperature for an hour to firm up).
5. To make the whipped cream, pour the cream into a large chilled bowl, preferably metal (either the bowl of a standing mixer, or a mixing bowl with a hand mixer). Beat at high speed until it starts to thicken, then add the vanilla and confectioners' or superfine sugar, and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Dollop on the pudding before serving.
Katie Workman is the author of the upcoming The Mom 100 Cookbook (May 2012), and the founding editor in chief of Cookstr.com.
More Fork-In-The-Road Recipes
Butternut Squash Soup
Marinated Chicken Kebabs
Burgers With a Kick
Farmers' Market Frittata