Friday, March 18, 2005
SHF 6 – A Tale of Two Puddings
It’s Sugar High Friday once again. This time it is hosted by Debbie of words to eat by and the theme is Stuck on You (Caramel). Up until today I had never caramelized sugar. It was one of those things I was sort of afraid to do. If nothing else, at least I have cleared that hurdle.
I somehow got in my head I wanted to make caramel pudding. I was googling about and came across an old Fanny Farmer recipe for Caramel Junket. I’d heard of Junket before but wasn’t really sure what it was. While the term is commonly used to refer to the dessert itself, it is actually the brand name of the rennet tablets used to create the desserts. According to the maker of the tablets, desserts made by adding rennet tablets to milk are more properly called rennet-custards.
I managed to find Junket tablets at Whole Foods, so I gave the Caramel Junket (or should I say Caramel Rennet-Custard?) a try. Melting the sugar to make the caramel was easy enough, though I had some trouble when I added the boiling water. The caramel seized and I ended up with a couple of chunks that never did dissolve back into the syrup. Warmed milk, the crushed junket tablet, a little salt and vanilla are then added to the caramel syrup. The junket must be left in a warm place until it sets and then it is chilled.
It’s possible that I rushed the process – I was in a hurry to have a taste and get my photos. Or maybe using skim milk was not a good idea. In any case, I’m pretty sure something went wrong. My guess is that junket doesn’t have a firm set. It also doesn’t feel thick and creamy in your mouth. But I don’t think it should have been separating as badly as it was after I spooned some out of the dish. The caramel flavor was barely noticeable and I found the thin, jiggly texture totally unappealing.
So, back to the drawing board. I decided to combine the junket recipe with my favorite chocolate pudding recipe (a recipe that Debbie is also a fan of) to create my own caramel pudding. I followed the same procedure for making the caramel and had better luck this time around with getting the caramel completely dissolved after adding the boiling water. While the end result was much better than the junket, the caramel flavor was still a little weak. One thing I forgot to do that might help is to add a pinch of salt. I’ve included that in the recipe below. I was pleased to find out that the Moosewood chocolate pudding recipe from which my recipe is derived is very resilient and can probably tolerate quite a bit of fiddling. I’m thinking butterscotch, then maybe lemon …
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
2 cups skim milk, warmed
3 tbs cornstarch
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
Put the sugar in a heavy pan over medium-high heat and caramelize the sugar. Add boiling water (careful – it will bubble and steam ferociously when you first add it) and continue cooking until reduced to 1/3 cup. The caramel will seize when you add the water, but keep stirring and it should dissolve back into the syrup. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add a ladleful of the warmed milk and stir, then add the rest of the milk, the cornstarch and the salt. Put the pudding back over medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, until it starts to simmer. Reduce the heat and continue cooking and stirring for another three or four minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into serving dish(es) and chill.