I Tried To Invent A Pudding

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Ok, the election is over, we can all breathe a heavy sigh of relief, and move on with our lives. What better way to move on than to try to invent a pudding?

After making Elise’s foolproof recipe for chocolate pudding (click here) several times–it’s become something of a staple in our home–I began to think deeply about the process. “Ok,” I thought, ” to make chocolate pudding you put milk in a pot with sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and a pinch of salt. You heat and whisk vigorously until it gets really thick, then you add an egg and some more chocolate and put in ramekins or mugs and refrigerate. That’s all you do.”

My thoughts continued: “So why can’t I just put anything I want in milk, add cornstarch and sugar and a pinch of salt, and make whatever kind of pudding I can dream up? Why can’t I invent my own pudding?”

I found this idea captivating, enthralling even; there were so many options, so many puddings to try. Where should I start? My first thought was a Christmasy pudding with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. My second thought was a fruity pudding made somehow with jam (ya, that one sounds kind of gross.)

Finally, I settled on my third idea: burnt caramel pudding!

No, not like really burnt caramel, the good kind of burnt caramel. You know, like the kind that goes into those salted caramels you buy that are really smoky? It’s where you take the caramel just to the point of almost burning, but not quite burning. I thought it was a brilliant idea.

I started by placing 1/3rd cup of sugar in a pot and heating until it got to that deep, dark amber stage right before turning black:

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Immediately, I added 2 cups of milk (it bubbles up, be careful!), 2 Tbs of cornstarch, and a pinch of salt.

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I whisked vigorously as the milk came up to a boil. Whisking, whisking, until I was sweating, I waited for the mixture to get thick like it does with the chocolate pudding. It never did.

So I added more cornstarch: two more tablespoons.

I kept whisking and whisking and finally it got a little more thick and I poured my burnt caramel pudding into ramekins:

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The color is nice, isn’t it? It looks promising, doesn’t it?

I placed it in the refrigerator and about an hour later I took it out to see how it was doing.

I shook it a bit and it was still way too liquidy to be a pudding. I decided to give it a taste. Here’s the sound my soul made when I tasted it: “MLEKKMMMLKKKMLKKMMM.”

Meaning: ugh! Horrible! Disgusting! What the hell is this?

I think the high temperature of the caramel got the milk so hot that it curdled; there were lumps of solid protein in there. Also: there wasn’t nearly enough sugar, so it was barely sweet. Like tasting vaguely sweetened lumpy milk that’s also disturbingly smoky. How’s that for a first crack at inventing my own pudding?

So into the trash the pudding went, and now I’m back at square one. Actually, I’m at square zero: I’m not sure I want to try to invent another pudding.

But that doesn’t mean YOU shouldn’t try to invent a pudding. Theoretically, if you follow my initial formula–the milk + sugar + corn starch + whatever else you want–you can create a flavor profile that suits you and makes my sad attempt look even sadder. In fact, I urge you to do so! Please: invent a pudding? Give it a go, upload your pictures to my photo pool and e-mail me the link and your recipe. If it’s good, I’ll make it and share it with the world.

Inventing pudding is hard business, but now that the election’s over it’s just the kind of business we have time for again. I hope your business is far more successful than mine.

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