I don’t want to come out of the gate making excuses, but what a week. I’m not complaining – it’s been ‘the good kind of busy’ with visits from out-of-town friends, menu planning meetings, cat care-giving, dropping in on the Preserve Swap, a cooking class at Calphalon, a friend’s gallery show opening, and a good old fashioned rock concert with FIVER and The Wooden Sky last night. It’s been hard to find enough time to write with so much going on. I feel bad for sitting on three drafts I’ve written about collaborative consumption projects but I want to make sure they are the best they can be before sending them out to you fine people.
Reading between the lines of the past week, I realized some cozy comfort food was in order – something to dig in to during a night at home. While I tend to opt for savoury dishes, I wanted to make something sweet to try out some vanilla bean paste that I recently purchased. As well, I get a free litre of milk with my Fresh City Farms food box every other week, and I have to think of ways to use it all as I don’t use much milk in my normal diet.
I decided to give vanilla pudding a go, as I had never made it before yet it is often listed as one of those culinary basics that everyone should know how to make. As you can surmise, the inclusion of milk means that this ain’t a vegan pudding (not to mention the two eggs and butter in this recipe). I used the Joy of Baking vanilla pudding recipe as my guide with minor modifications. Result: VERY TASTY. The pudding is a smooth, not-too-rich (thank you, 1%MF milk), vanilla-speckled delight. I didn’t have many appropriate dishes on hand, so I simply poured the pudding into small jars to set. The pictures you see are not the suggested serving size (though I won’t judge).
Once cool, I topped the pudding off with splashes of thyme syrup that I made last week. I prepared the syrup as I had some fresh thyme that I wanted to make use of. My first inclination was to get some vodka and infuse it to eventually make some thyme liqueur, a favourite of mine. However, my goal was to see if I could make something that I could swap at the Preserve Swap which was only days away at the time. The syrup is a winner in the flavour category, but as you can see, this batch looks like swamp water. I didn’t bring any to the swap though I told Joel about it there. He pointed out that the bar was dark enough that the colour wouldn’t have been such a negative play, and that the crowd often liked the little ‘defects’ that may keep other products from going commercial. So I know for next time: bring the syrup no matter what bog it reminds me of.
Vanilla Pudding (based off of The Joy of Baking recipe)
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3.5 cups (840 mL) milk (I used organic, 1% MF)
1/3 cup (65 grams) plus 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter or margarine
1. In a large stainless steel (or heatproof) bowl whisk together 1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar, cornstarch, salt, and eggs. Whisk in 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the milk. Set aside while you heat the rest of the milk and sugar.
2. Take a medium-sized heavy saucepan and rinse it with cold water, shaking out the excess water. Joy of Baking taught me that this step prevents the milk from scorching. Then pour the remaining 3 cups (720 ml) of milk, along with the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar, into the saucepan, stir well, and bring the mixture to a very light boil. Remove the saucepan from heat and gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth.
3. Transfer the pudding mixture to a clean, large heavy bottomed saucepan and place it over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly, cook the pudding until the mixture’s texture changes, thickening to the consistency of mayonnaise. This process will take from 3-7 minutes.
4. Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the margarine or butter as well as the vanilla. If necessary, pour through the strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed during cooking.
5. Pour the pudding into individual jars or serving vessels of your choice. Cover with lids or plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled through (though it was also delicious served warm right off the stove too).
6. EAT! Or wait a little bit extra and garnish with thyme syrup (see recipe below).
This is a simple syrup recipe so the ratios are completely up to you and your own taste preferences. You can use the syrup in desserts, in drinks, or drink it as a shot to dramatically boost your blood sugar.
1 bunch fresh thyme (I used about 15 sprigs)
3 cups granulated white sugar
2 cups water
1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Generally, this will take about 5 minutes. However, I kept it going for about 20 minutes to get all the flavour I could out of the thyme (which also contributed to the murky colour, though, as I said before, it’s still delicious!).
2. Remove from heat and let cool. Store the syrup in an air-tight bottle or container in the fridge.