Caramel Pudding with Sweet and Salty Pecans
My friend Kelley of Mountain Mama Cooks made a bucket list for 2013 filled with great foodie goals like making homemade pasta and breaking down a chicken. On her list also was mastering real caramel. I read that and immediately volunteered to be a part of making that goal happen. I’m not an expert or anything, though I do feel pretty comfortable making caramel. Mostly, I just love the stuff.
We set a date, but had to reschedule at least a dozen times. Sick kids and snow storms got in the way and it looked like our caramel day wasn’t meant to be. Until today! We finally were able to make it work and it was a smashing success.
We each brought a caramel based recipe, and stood over the stove watching sugar melt and caramelize while catching up and swapping stories. Kelly made the most amazing caramel sauce heavily spiked with High West Whiskey. It was so incredible that we practically licked the pan clean.
I had been wanting to try Smitten Kitchen’s caramel pudding for months now and this seemed like the perfect chance. It was every bit as rich and creamy as I’d imagined. What made it even better was a little whipped cream, some candied pecans, and a sprinkling of sea salt. And you want to know what sent it all completely over the top? A little drizzle of Kelley’s caramel sauce. Oh yeah. Maybe that’s a little much, sure, but over the top never tasted so good.
Don’t let caramel intimidate you
The first time you make caramel it may seem like you’ve ruined it at more than one stage in the process, but don’t give up. First, be strong and let the sugar melt and brown without stirring it, it’ll all caramelize just fine. Swirl the pan if looks like it’s caramelizing unevenly, that will help incorporate any unmelted sugar.
Then, when you add your milk or cream, don’t freak out when it bubbles and steams violently. That’s supposed to happen. And don’t worry if some of it seizes up either. Keep whisking while you add all of the liquid and then return it to the heat. Any hardened caramel will melt again and with the help of a little whisking, you’ll end up with a smooth caramel sauce.
A rich and creamy salted caramel pudding. Serve with whipped cream and candied pecans.
- 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
- 4 cups (1 quart, 1 liter) whole milk, at room temperature
- 5 tablespoons (50 grams) cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoons salt
- Whisk together 1/2 cup of the milk with the cornstarch. Set aside.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, place the sugar over medium heat. Let the sugar melt and caramelize, swirling the pan if necessary to make sure it caramelizes evenly. Keep a close watch to make sure it doesn't burn.
- When the sugar has completely caramelized, remove from heat and slowly pour in the 3 1/2 cups of milk whisk whisking constantly. The caramel will bubble and steam violently at the beginning. Once all the milk has been added, return the pan to the medium heat and whisk to dissolve any caramel that may have hardened. Boil for a few minutes until slightly thickened.
- Slowly whisk in the milk and cornstarch mixture, vanilla, and salt and stir until pudding is thickened. Salt according to your preferences. Pour mixture through a mesh strainer (optional) and chill for at least one hour. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and sweet and salty pecans.
Candied pecans with a hint of salt.
- 3 tablespoons (40 grams) sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (80 grams) pecan halves
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, salt, and butter over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pecans and continue to cook while stirring until sugar turns golden brown, about 3 minutes.
- Immediately spoon the pecans onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan, using a fork the separate them. Sprinkle with additional coarse salt.