Butterscotch-flavored treats were one of my childhood loves. They mostly came in the form of hard candies and instant jello pudding. As an adult, I tend to stay away from artificially-flavored butterscotch, since I prefer the real flavor that comes from brown sugar and butter. The past few years I’ve been trying different recipes for butterscotch pudding, but it isn’t easy to find a good balance. This recipe, adapted from Jean Anderson’s wonderful book Crisps, Cobblers, Custards & Creams, seems to hit all the right notes for me. It’s a lovely cold weather comfort dessert. You can eat a bowl of it on its own, use it as a pie filling, or, if you reduce the cornstarch to 1/4 cup, it becomes a light butterscotch drinking custard that would work well drizzled over poached fruit or warm apple pie. It can be incorporated into layered desserts such as trifle with caramel and cream, and would be an easy yet elegant dessert for Thanksgiving or a holiday party.
3 cups whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
1-1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch (use 1/4 cup for thinner custard)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a 4-quart saucepan combine milk, cream, brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk well to combine. Whisk in egg yolks and beat until smooth. Turn the heat to medium low. Cook, whisking often for about 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to boil. Whisk constantly at this point until the pudding has thickened. You will need to cook it about 2 minutes after it boils. Remove from the heat and whisk in butter, mixing until the butter melts and is fully incorporated. Strain pudding, then add vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Pour into a serving bowl. Cover with plastic directly on the pudding surface. Chill overnight until cold. Serves 4.