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Quick and Easy

Salty Butterscotch Pudding

March  8, 2024
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Photo by Food52
  • Prep time 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • makes 6-8 servings
Author Notes

Pudding is truly in my top 3 favorite desserts—and while making it homemade requires more work than a box of the instant variety, it’s still so simple. You likely have everything you need on hand to make one, and this salty butterscotch version is truly top notch. Traditional butterscotch is made by boiling brown sugar, butter, and cream together to form a thick sauce that is caramel-adjacent, but fanatics will agree it’s in a class all its own.

This recipe calls for dark brown sugar, which gives a deeper color and more butterscotch flavor. If you’ve only got light brown sugar—never fear! It works well, too—and is also quite delicious. If I’m just making pudding to have on hand in the fridge for sweet treats all week, I’ll just chill it in whatever bowl I used to make it. But when I make it for guests, I’ll ladle it into a serving bowl or even individual dessert cups—just make sure they are heat safe, since the pudding is still warm just after cooking.

I also love making pudding cups in small jars in the summer, in part because the pudding also cools down faster—and I can eat it sooner. Though warm pudding is truly an underappreciated comfort, and I’ll usually have my first serving by spooning a bite or two from the pot I cooked it in. Another underappreciated pudding byproduct? Pudding skin. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap to avoid it and make the creamiest pudding—or check out the full episode of where I discuss why I sort of love the skin that forms on the top of a pudding, which is why I’ll usually just cover the jars with the lids they came with instead.
Erin Jeanne McDowell

What You'll Need
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups (630 grams) whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (175 grams) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) vanilla bean paste, or ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 3/4 cup (160 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (28 grams) cornstarch
  • 4 large (85 grams) egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter
  • Flaky salt, for serving (optional)
  • Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Directions
  1. In a medium pot, combine the milk, cream, salt, and vanilla paste/seeds. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. In a medium, heat-safe bowl, use your fingers to rub the brown sugar and cornstarch together. When the milk mixture comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to low. Whisk in the egg yolks into the brown sugar mixture, then add about one third of the warm milk mixture to temper the custard base, and whisk well to combine.
  3. Pour the mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk, and whisk well to combine. Increase heat to medium, and cook, whisking constantly until the mixture starts to thicken. Continue to cook until fat bubbles start to break the surface of the pudding, 3 to 5 minutes. whisking the entire time to keep the pudding lump-free. Have a silicone spatula nearby to help scrape the sides and base of the pot as needed during cooking.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the butter until it’s fully melted. Strain the pudding into a heat-safe bowl, and immediately cover the surface directly with plastic wrap. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days.
  5. To serve, spoon the chilled pudding into serving dishes and top with flaky salt, and whipped cream, if using.

See what other Food52ers are saying.
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

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