My trip to the Kraft kitchens really got me thinking about what it means to cook from scratch. Is it really that time consuming? Does the food laden with chemical stuff really taste better? Or are we conditioned to think it does? The only pudding that I have ever had usually has come from a box that you add milk to. The difference is that the boxed version of vanilla pudding has high amounts of sugar and salt, there's artificial colors and flavors, along with things I can't pronounce. If you add milk, is that considered scratch?
I don't think so. This vanilla pudding, adapted from a recipe over at Smitten Kitchen, doesn't take that long to make and is really delicious. I really love the little black specks of vanilla and if you don't have real vanilla pods, that's ok-just use a good quality vanilla extract. Is it hard? No way. If you can stir, you can make this. Time consuming? I had it from saucepan to cooling in the fridge in less than 10 minutes.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
2 2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
1 large egg
Pour 2 cups of the milk into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a large, heatproof bowl whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds.
Tip: You can either submerge the leftover pod in the milk heating on the stove to give it extra vanilla flavor, or put it in a jar and fill with white sugar. Put a lid on, leave it overnight, and the next day you will have vanilla sugar! It's delicious in whipping cream.
Once the milk has come to a simmer, remove from the heat. Now stir the reserved 2/3 cup of milk into the cornstarch and sugar a little at a time so you don't end up with lumps, and add the egg. Continue to whisk it well.
The next step is called tempering. You want to heat up and effectively cook the egg, but not so that you have chunky bits of egg floating around in your pudding. Dumping in the hot milk will cause the egg to cook in clumps, but adding it gradually and whisking as you go will prevent this.
Add the hot milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly. It may seem like a lot of work but if you do this correctly, you'll have a smooth pudding. Eventually you'll have added all the hot milk. Pour the whole thing back into a saucepan and continue to heat until it starts to bubble, all the while stirring with a silicon spatula. In that time your pudding with thicken up dramatically, but don't panic-once it bubbles, let it cook for about a minute longer and then remove from the heat. Don't stop stirring or it will burn!
Spoon into small dishes and cover with plastic film.
Makes about 6 half cup servings.