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 …

Caramel Pudding

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.


Cerebrum said...

OMG - I never heard of junket, so I clicked the link you provided Cathy - turns out it was invented by a Dane! LOL! It's a small world!

The caramel pudding sounds like a real comforting thing and who could go wrong with banana and caramel?!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you pushed through the failure and moved on to success! I was too tired and exhausted by my efforts to bother trying a second recipe. The caramel pudding sounds really good...mmm, pudding. :)

Nic said...

Cathy, you have no idea how close I was to doing this exact same thing! Ok, not with Junket, but based on seeing Debbie's post on the Moosewood chocolate pudding (which is excellent). I'm glad it turned out. And lemon pudding sounds wonderful!

Cathy said...

Hi Emily - thanks! Actually the strawberry/banana thing was a last minute garnish (the strawberries were on sale and I couldn't resist!), but it did taste good!

Hi Zarah - I know! I was wondering if you'd be familiar with it. I think of it as something kind of old-fashioned. I enjoyed the pudding and think I'll be trying it again sometime (maybe I can find a way to boost the flavor a little).

Alice - Thanks! Had I been making mine after a long workday (I had the day off), I'm sure I would have stopped after the junket.

Nic - I love the chocolate pudding recipe. I haven't bought pudding mix in years! I recently made the chocolate pudding with soy milk that I had made (and which was unsweetened) - I increased the sugar and the cocoa to 3 tbs each. It was really good! The soymilk makes it taste a little different, but I liked it.

debbie koenig said...

Add me to the list of people who thought about adapting that chocolate pudding recipe for SHF! I'm so glad ONE of us did it--this looks yummy.

pinkcocoa said...

hiya Cathy
Your caramel pudding looks delicious! And even more so clever to make it with soymilk. *yum* I am going to try it out one of these days when I have a huge craving on chocolate!

Robyn said...

Mmmmm! I am glad you got the bugs out so I don't have to! Puddings are such a forgotten treat! A great addition to my reciep file!

Reid said...

Hi Cathy,

I love pudding, but haven't made it in a while. Lemon and butterscotch puddings sound wonderful.

The "dry" method of making caramel is quite difficult as you should be using a candy thermometer to watch the temperature.

Next time, try the "wet" method where the sugar is dissolved in water first. You'll find it much easier to control the flavor of the finished product.

Cathy said...

Hi Debbie - Thanks! It hadn't occurred to me to try other flavors with this pudding until this SHF, so thanks for the inspiration and thanks for hosting!

Hi pinkcocoa - Thank you! I'm not yet a big soymilk drinker, so after making it I was looking for ways to use it. The pudding is definitely something I'll do again.

Hi chonicler - I had to chuckle when I read your comment (having just posted "Meet the Cookie Panel"), though I know no pun was intended on your part. Anyway, I love pudding too and rightly or wrongly look upon it as a healthy dessert when made with skim milk. Which means I can eat more...right?

Hi Reid - thanks for the caramel tips! I read up on the wet and dry methods (hadn't heard those terms before, but they make perfect sense) after reading your comment. I guess the advantage of the dry method is that it is less likely to form sugar crystals. I removed the caramel from the heat as soon as all the sugar had melted - this was such a small amount that it would have been difficult to use a thermometer. I didn't have any trouble the second time around, but may try the wet method next time just to compare.

Niki said...

I remember junket; they always used to make it on Playschool episodes on TV. Seems it's a good recipe for kids to try...whets their appetites for more fun in the kitchen!

Cathy said...

Hi Heather - Thanks! Debbie seems to have made that pudding recipe quite popular!

Hi Niki - I guess junket is (or should be) easier than pudding. The mixture pretty much thickens by itself with no need to stir or anything. Not sure what happened with mine, though!

Carolyn said...

Cathy, bravo for trying junket--I never would have thought of it. Your moosewood pudding looks delicious!

Cathy said...

Carolyn - thanks! I confess it was really just that I stumbled on that recipe and not that I sought out something unusual. I'll have to ask my parents what they thought of junket, I know I remember my mom talking about it. I'm afraid junket is not something I'm inclined to try again.

Jennifer - ha ha! ;) Fortunately I had lots of milk on hand and neither recipe was terribly labor intensive! You're right about the mistakes in the kitchen though, wish I had time to make more! I think it would be loads of fun to try a recipe over and over again with small changes (sort of like Cooks Illustrated). Maybe someday when I have lots of time on my hands!

Anonymous said...

Debbie -- Rennet is an enzyme. If you put it in when your milk /caramel mixture was too hot, you probably denatured the enzyme and it wouldn't work. Rennet is used to coagulate (thicken) milk for cheese, too -- it's put in when the temperature is about 90-100 degrees F., and doesn't have to be cooked to thicken. It just takes a few minutes for it to work.

Anonymous said...

Rennet is an enzyme, and would be denatured by too much heat. If your milk/caramel mixture was too hot when you added it, it wouldn't work right. Rennet is what they use to coagulate milk to make cheese -- it's stirred in when the milk is at about 90-100 degrees F.,then allowed to sit for a few minutes to thicken.