Recipe: Vanilla Pudding
Bearing very little resemblance to its bastard sibling, boxed instant pudding mix, this pudding is as rich and decadent a good crème bruleè. Perfect for filling cream puffs, napoleons, Boston cream pie and a base for sweet soufflés. Also turns out fantastic cream pie filling if the amount of milk is reduced by ½ cup. But the best way to enjoy this is all by itself
2 1/2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Put 2 cups of half-and-half or milk, sugar and salt in a small or medium saucepot over medium-low heat. If using a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into milk or half-and-half using small sharp knife, then add pod. Cook just until mixture begins to steam.
Combine cornstarch and remaining milk or half-and-half in a bowl and blend; there should be no lumps. Fish pod from pot and discard. Add cornstarch mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Gently whisk in butter and vanilla extract.
Pour mixture into a 1-quart dish or 4 smaller bowls. Put plastic wrap directly on the pudding to prevent formation of a skin. Refrigerate until chilled.
Serve plain, with whipped cream or fresh sliced fruit.