Boring food entry ahead. If culinary geekery is not your thing, and I can certainly sympathize, come back mañana.
Over at the fascinating (if unfortunately abbreviated “KKK”) cooking blog “Kool Kosher Kitchen“, hostess Dolly produced a “Fake Napoleon” for her husband recently, one which comes together in a flash and meets his particular dietary requirements.
Now a REAL Napoleon (“Mille-Feuille”) consists of layers of puff paste and “Diplomat Cream”, which is pastry cream stabilized with gelatin. Authentic Napoleons can be a bit time consuming to build, especially if you’re like me and insist on making your own puff paste. And the calorie count is…well, I can’t count that high.
Dolly’s version trims things considerably by using Phyllo instead of puff paste, and boxed sugar free vanilla pudding made with soy milk for the filling. The result is a quickly assembled dessert that looks good on the plate, and meets her hubby’s needs. Bravo, I say!
And I was just about to say “Bravo” in her Comments section too, when I spotted a thread between Dolly and the Unsinkable Judy Brown (of the aptly named “A Blog By Judy Dykstra-Brown” which focuses on all things Judy Dykstra-Brown. And something called “Lifelessons”. Lovely lady).
Judy expressed her admiration for Dolly’s creation, but lamented the fact that she wouldn’t be able to make it herself because of the lack of boxed pudding outlets in her area (Mexico). Without boxed sugar free pudding she’d be reduced to serving her husband a plate of baked Phyllo leaves. I think we can all agree that would be grounds for divorce.
Wanting to help Judy maintain harmony in her marriage, I gamely offered to send her instructions on how to make sugar free pudding from scratch. “Gasp!” she gasped. “Is that even possible??”
Of course it’s possible. I am Dangerspouse. Anything is possible.
Well ok, not anything. But homemade sugar free pudding is.
I like pudding. I like pudding a lot. Any custard, really. Even the saucelike versions, like sabayon/zabaglione. In fact I never worry about someone knocking my teeth out for something I said because then I’ll be able to eat all the pudding I want!
These days when I make pudding it’s the old fashioned Good Housekeeping/Betty Crocker/Julia Child version, stalwart standby of school cafeterias and roadside diners since cows were first invented in the 1940’s. The combination of milk, sometimes cream, sugar, lots of cornstarch, more sugar, and more cornstarch, can’t be beat. (Yeah, sometimes I fancify it. But the original is still my go-to.)
But during the year I went on Atkins (and dropped 65 pounds!) I had to switch things up. No sugar, just Splenda, and the use of alternate thickeners like egg/cream liaison, or gel. And it worked! Don’t get me wrong, you’re not gonna confuse a no-sugar, no starch pudding with the pre-disgraced Bill Cosby stuff. But for that one year it was manna from heaven.
The point is, I know how to make pudding without using sugar.
So Judy Dykstra-Brown, this one’s for you.
Ohhhhhhhhhh, alright. It’s for anyone else who wants to make their own sugar free pudding too. I guess….
Just a few words before we start. Yes, they’re manditory:
1. This may look like a lot of instructions with numerous pictures and text, but that’s only because there are a lot of instructions with numerous pictures and text. I don’t know how good a cook you are, so I’m detailing every little thing I can think of. This WHOLE PROCESS took me just under a half hour from the time I started pulling ingredients out of my cupboard until I set the final product out on my back porch to chill. It’s ridiculously easy.
2. Sugar does more than add sweetness. It’s also a thickener. Splenda is not a thickener. Therefor when you substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar, you have to bump up other thickeners to compensate. In this case, that means more cornstarch than in a sugared pudding recipe.
3. Splenda can mask some flavors, including vanilla. Add more vanilla than you’d normally use (here I went with 2t. instead of 1t.)
4. I don’t have soy milk in the house. I hate the stuff. Instead I used buttermilk, which is 1% butterfat and should be a pretty close substitute. If you find your pudding using soy is too thin following these instructions, spill a little more cornstarch in.
Alright, enough of that. Here’s what you came for:
Basic Sugar Free Vanilla Pudding
Mise en place:
Buttermilk (or whatever)…Sweetener (generic Splenda here)….salt …cornstarch …vanilla (artificial is fine)…eggs…butter.
Measure 2 cups buttermilk/other. 2T butter. 2t. vanilla. 2 egg yolks (don’t need the whites here). 1/3 c. sweetener. 4 heaping T. cornstarch (keep extra handy in case you need more). 1/8t. salt.
Whisk sweetener, cornstarch, and salt in a pot. Turn heat on medium:
Pour in milk/other, whisk to smooth:
Keep whisking til mixture really thickens up:
Here’s the classic test for doneness. Coat the back of a spoon, hold it vertically, and run your finger across the middle. If it stays clean like this, you’re aces:
Once it’s thick enough, pull the pot off the heat. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a bowl and set it next to the hot thickened mix:
Now you have to add some of the hot mix into the eggs, but very slowly at first so the eggs don’t scramble. (That looks like a giant ladle I’m using, but it’s actually the tiny 1 oz. ladle from the previous picture, held close to the camera lens.) Add just a few drops initially, whisking the whole time, and gradually increase the stream:
Keep going until you have about equal amounts in each vessel:
Now pour the yellow stuff back into the white stuff:
Return to medium heat, and keep whisking. Now the usual mantra one always reads in cookbooks is, “bring it ALMOST to a boil, but whatever you do, for the love of god, do not let it boil!” That’s a good cautionary instruction for some egg-containing mixtures (noteably crème anglaise) because at higher temps the eggs will scramble and you’ll have to…eat it for dessert! (Don’t ask me how I know.) But when you introduce this much starch, it actually protects against that happening to a fair degree. So don’t sweat it if you see some bubbles appearing:
Now pull the pan off the heat and whisk in that lump of butter:
Now pass the hot mixture through a fine strainer into a clean bowl. Although you may not have any scrambled egg, you might have small lumps of cornstarch. It’s always a good idea to pass just about any homogenized sauce through a strainer anyway. Just a little pro tip:
Stir in the vanilla:
Pour your pudding into either individual serving vessels like custard cups, or a single bowl like I did here. I used a broad, shallow bowl because I wanted it to cool down quickly for purposes of making this entry. But if you like digging into a deep serving bowl of custardy goodness, by all means. Just realize it will take longer to cool and set.
BTW, the traditional method is to smear some soft butter over the top of the pudding to keep a skin from forming, or alternately to lay a sheet of plastic wrap right on the surface for the same reason. Or both. I’ve had better, less messy, luck just giving a light spray of that canola oil can right on the pudding, then laying a sheet of plastic down. The plastic peels right back without any ropes of pudding sticking to it that way, once it’s set. You’ll see:
Ready to be set out on our back porch in 10 degree weather:
In 10 degree weather the pudding set in about as much time as it took you to read this sentence.
Check out how clean the plastic wrap stayed:
(I should mention I made this pudding more stiff than one normally would if one were serving it as I did here. You can probably tell by looking at the cut line in the bowl, above. I did that intentionally, as I was trying to come up with a version that would be appropriate for a Napoleon, which is often compressed a bit as it’s cut. As I mentioned up top, the “real” Napoleon recipe calls for a pastry cream buttressed with gelatin. That helps keep it from squirting out the sides when it’s cut (or just sitting on a plate). I wanted to mimic that without the extra step of adding gelatin, and I think this worked. If you are going to just spoon this into your face, you might want to cut the amount of cornstarch to 3 tablespoons.)
This was the first time I ever made pudding with buttermilk, and I have to say I really liked it. It’s definitely different, with a real discernible buttermilk “tang”. I don’t think everyone will fancy it, but I found it quite refreshing. I’m going to make it again in the future, probably for a summer’s lunch out on our porch (although using real sugar this time).
After the first bite I gussied it up a bit. I thought the “tang” would go well with fruit flavors, so I added some blueberries and zested a mandarin orange over it:
That worked really, really well. (I also tried drizzling honey over it after a few bites, and for those who can have sugar that elevated things even further.)
So there ya go, Judy. I hope you were able to follow along, and I hope it fits your needs (you too, Dolly, if you ever decide to try making pudding from scratch for your hubby). If you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email, or just fire away in the comments.
To all the rest of you: sorry! I’ll be funny next time.