A rich and creamy salted caramel pudding served with whipped cream and candied 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.
baking tip:How to make caramel
Caramel seems tricky, I know, but it is actually quite simple. And even though recipes may vary on exact amounts, they all follow this structure:
1. Cook the sugar (with or without water – this recipe uses it), without stirring, until it becomes a dark amber color.
2. Off heat, add heavy cream in small amounts while whisking constantly. Caramel will bubble violently.
3. Once all of the cream has been added, return to low heat and stir constantly until any lumps have been melted and mixture is smooth.
4. Whisk in vanilla, salt, and/or liquor if desired.
For more caramel-making tips and step-by-step photos, see my full caramel tutorial.
Caramel Pudding with Sweet and Salty Pecans
For the pudding:
- 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
For the pecans:
- 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
To make the pudding:
- 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.
To make the pecans:
- 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.