This recipe is simple, delicious, and easy to execute. Measure some a few basic ingredients, mix, simmer, and chill. Pudding is pretty straightforward. So what makes this recipe special? Vanilla bean! This was my first experience cooking with an actual vanilla bean, and I absolutely loved it. The pod itself is sticky, leathery, and pliable, sort of like a raisin with finer wrinkles. And it smells amazing. To release all of the lovely seeds, slice it down the middle the long way with a paring knife. Then, using the tip of the knife, scrape all of the seeds out of the pod. The seeds have the texture of very fine sand. Overall, it’s a pretty amazing sensory experience.
For this recipe, the vanilla seeds are added to milk, sugar, and cornstarch, which are slowly heated and combined with an egg for richness. The result is a lovely yellow pudding, dotted with adorable vanilla seeds. I ate the pudding with raspberries and fresh whipped cream. It was delicious. I burned mine ever so slightly, which was a happy mistake because the whole thing ended up tasting sort of like crème brulée. I wouldn’t necessary recommend purposely burning the pudding, but it’s pretty forgiving recipe. Do make sure you let it chill in the refrigerator uncovered because otherwise the steam will condense on your pudding. I included the recipe exactly as written by its author (Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman), and that is exactly how I made it. Next time, I might reduce the sugar by a tablespoon or two, but I think most people would enjoy it just as it is.
Vanilla Bean Pudding (recipe from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 6 half-cup servings
2 2/3 cups whole milk, divided
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
Seeds from ½ vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract)
1 large egg
Bring 2 cups of the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. While it is heating, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and vanilla bean (if you’re replacing it with extract, don’t add it yet; if you’d like to toss the leftover vanilla bean pods in the pot with the simmering milk for an extra vanilla boost, go for it) in the bottom of a medium, heatproof bowl. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2/3 cup whole milk, a little at a time so lumps do not form, then whisk in the egg. Once milk is boiling, very gradually add it to the cornstarch mixture in the bowl, whisking the whole time.
Return the mixture back to the saucepan, stirring constantly with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon. Once it comes to a simmer, cook it for one minute longer (which will cook the cornstarch and egg fully). Stir in vanilla extract, if you’re using it and divide pudding among 6 dishes. Chill in refrigerator until fully set, about 2 hours.