Thursday, May 12, 2011

Butterscotch Puddings

I had been looking for a good butterscotch or caramel pudding recipe for a long time. I had tried a few, but of course, I have to make substitutions to make them lactose-free. This affects consistency, of course, but the main problem seemed to be the caramel taste: it was easy to over-cook the sugar and end up with a burnt taste, which wasn’t what I was after. Then I tried Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for butterscotch pots de crème, using coconut creamer instead of heavy cream. The taste blew me away. This was exactly the caramel taste for which I been looking! The use of different kinds of sugar here is not negotiable.

The consistency, however, was a bit off. I attribute this entirely to my substitution, not to the original recipe (though I should mention that I forgot to cover the pots with tin foil for the first 10 minutes of baking time). It felt more like flan that wasn’t completely set than like pudding. I thought perhaps I could use canned coconut milk instead of coconut creamer, but then I remembered a Smitten Kitchen recipe for caramel pudding that called for cornstarch, and I decided to use that here. So I persevered and added cornstarch to the butterscotch pots de crème recipe, and got the consistency right. I used soy creamer that time, and forgot about the foil completely; I left the puddings in the oven an extra 20 minutes. The recipe below reflects the changes I’ve made.

1 ½ cups lactose-free creamer
6 Tbsp dark muscovado sugar
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp demerara sugar
3 Tbsp corn starch
4 large egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract

Set an oven rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 300 °F.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine creamer, muscovado sugar, and salt. Place over medium heat and bring just to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside ½ cup.

Meanwhile, combine water and demerara sugar in a medium (2-quart) light-colored heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and bubbly, about 5 minutes. (To gauge the color of the mixture, it may help to tilt the pan a little, so that the liquid pools on one side. This is why it’s important to use a light-colored pan, otherwise you can’t gauge the color properly.) Remove from the heat and carefully add the cream mixture, whisking until combined.

To the reserved ½ cup cream mixture, add the corn starch and mix well. Add to the pan and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly .
In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and vanilla. Add hot cream mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a 1-quart glass measuring cup, and pour the custard through the sieve. Skim off any foam with a spoon.

Divide the custard among four (4-oz) ramekins or other oven-safe vessels. Select a baking dish, one large enough to hold the ramekins without any of them touching. (I used a 9” x 13.”) Fold a dish towel to line the bottom of the baking dish; this will protect the delicate custards from touching the hot bottom of the pan. Arrange the ramekins in the pan. Seal the top of each ramekin with a piece of aluminum foil to prevent a skin from forming as they bake. (I forgot to do this, but didn’t really have a problem with skins forming.)

Slide the pan into the oven, and immediately pour hot tap water into the pan to reach halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake until the custards are set around the edges but still jiggle lightly in the centers when shaken, like firm gelatin, about 60 minutes – but start checking at 45 minutes. (You’ll have to move the foil to see this.) Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack. Discard foil tops and cool to room temperature. The custards will continue to set as they cool. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, or until you’re ready to serve them.

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