Hasty Pudding

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.

Pudding 1


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.

Pudding 2


Whisk sweetener, cornstarch, and salt in a pot. Turn heat on medium:

Pudding 3

Pour in milk/other, whisk to smooth:

Pudding 4

Keep whisking til mixture really thickens up:

Pudding 5

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:

Pudding 6

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:

Pudding 7

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:

Pudding 8

Keep going until you have about equal amounts in each vessel:

Pudding 9

Now pour the yellow stuff back into the white stuff:

Pudding 10

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:

Pudding 11

Now pull the pan off the heat and whisk in that lump of butter:

Pudding 12

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:

Pudding 13

Stir in the vanilla:

Pudding 14

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:

Pudding 15

Ready to be set out on our back porch in 10 degree weather:

Pudding 16

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:

Pudding 18

(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:

Pudding 17

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.




53 thoughts on “Hasty Pudding

  1. Whew! That’s a lot of steps. That would cost me the time for at least one new poem, but of course I must try when I get home. I have a rather limited kitchen here at the beach. I certainly do appreciate greatly your giving such great instructions and the wonderful illustrations. You’re giving Dolly a run for her money here. I think you have two chefs in the family. My spouse, by the way, would have loved this but unfortunately died 16 years ago. I eat his share now, which is why I am on this diet. I love your blog, in spite of the fact that I want to spank you now and then. No doubt Mrs. Dangerspouse feels the same! Very sweet of you to do this, so I forgive you your sins.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah… another note. The hard skin on top is my favorite part. I used to skim it off and eat it, then put the hot pudding back in the fridge to form another one.. I’d do this several times if it was a lazy enough day. Would sometimes make it to the bottom of the bowl eating just skins. I have other vices, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I certainly understand that. I’m a big fan of the skin as well. Unfortunately we could never allow that to happen in the restaurants I cooked in, so I do it this way by force of habit now. I should stop doing that!! Lol. So yeah, just skip the plastic+spray step then. Enjoy!

      And I refuse to believe you have other vices.


  3. OH! I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I was under the impression that you were married. My mistake – I apologize.

    Lol. I knew that objection was coming. It only LOOKS like a lot of steps. It can actually be reduced down to: add milk to cornstarch, sweetener, and a little salt. Whisk over heat til thick. Temper egg yolks and add in. Return to heat briefly, then add butter. Strain, add vanilla, and cool. 1 pan, 7 ingredients, 5 steps, 20-ish minutes. Pudding! You can do this FASTER THAN A HAIKU!

    And…I’ll take that spanking 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dare I say that it is possible to make Napoleon cake grain, starches, dairy and sugar free, in term of sugar as sucrose. As I had only dietary limitations based on intolerances and not calories count, I could use honey. Pastry layers based on coconut flour, almond meal and flax flour are not exactly puff pastry, but they have the principal feature, they do not go soft by being exposed to cream layers. Sweetness comes from coconut flour and apple puree. The cream itself has intense flavour, but it is not vanilla one. To replace dairy I used coconut cream, but wanted to mask its flavour completely, so lemon juice does the trick. As starches were not the option chia seeds and gelatine were used as thickeners. I enjoyed very much the process, the elaborate one I have to admit, but the cake tastes amazing ( not my opinion, the opinion of the person for whom it was created)! No excuses for all those severe limitations.
    I agree with you completely when you describe in detail with plenty of step by step photos when writing about unique recipes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Now THAT’S the mark of a talented cook – being able to adapt to your needs, to work with what you’ve got, and to not be dissuaded from trying something just because you can’t find a recipe for it. Fantastic! Bravo to you, too!

      And I believe you when you say that cake was delicious. I would have loved to have tried it.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you!
        My approach for creating recipes with even dramatic limitations is very simple, I do not look at the recipe and replace ingredients. I look at the dish and threat the process as working with a black box. I select the main characteristics of the dish in terms of taste and texture and then select the ingredients mix that will create the taste and texture I need. It worked in creating bread dough from practically from nothing, with ground pumpkin seeds or sunflower kernels and flax (grond, meal or flour) as dry ingredients, and apple or vegetables puree and eggs as semi wet ingredients. The dough is very soft but very easy to work with to bake small loaf bread, baguette, buns, plain or with fillings, even savoury tarte tatin. The look might be confronting, but when the taste is that of a rye bread, only softer and without its typical sour taste.
        Being nicely arrogant and free from unquestionable respect for classics helps. Cottage cheese frangipane cream for tarts, in my humble opinion, is so much better, compared to butter loaded authentic recipe. It even tastes better.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think we need to open a cooking school together 🙂

          BTW, I’ve read in your blog that you make your own cottage cheese, but purchase your ricotta (in the pear-and-ricotta pie entry). I posted a “make your own ricotta cheese” tutorial here probably a year ago, in the same format as this entry. If you’ve never made your own ricotta, it’s just as easy as cottage cheese, and I recommend it.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. What you call ricotta cheese I call cottage cheese, as I read in your post we do practically the same thing. Acidity in warm milk curdles protein. I make it as I did cottage cheese when my son was growing up – adding the equal quantity of room temperature of buttermilk (commercial or I make my own with kefir granules) to going to boil milk. Mix the 2 liquids and cottage cheese is ready, but I leave it in the solution to cool down to room temperature, usually overnight and only then strain through the muslin cloth, with some light pressure applied for 15-20 minutes. This way warm cottage cheese has the time to take some of the whey liquid into its texture and it never becomes too stiff or too dry, unless you make it from no fat milk and no fat kefir/buttermilk.
            For recipes with cottage cheese I buy commercial ricotta to try before I publish the recipe, because who is going to be bothered to make their own? Very few people, and they usually already know how to do it. The taste of commercial ricotta cheese is not as flavoursome, it is plain and bland without any sour overtone. When baking with ricotta I add lemon juice to compensate for that, but ricotta is good for texture, especially in gluten free recipes where extra protein always improves the structural support for dry ingredients and allows to have some volume. It also allows to bake gluten free products without any thickeners.
            Thank you for conversation, it is a very rare occasion to have an opportunity to discuss the subject properly in minute detail.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Very interesting! I hadn’t realized that you used a different term for ‘ricotta’, but were actually making the same thing as mine. I love how you use the store bought stuff as a consideration for your readers. I would NEVER do that 😉

              I’ve quite enjoyed our conversation here also. Thank you so much!



    2. I forgot about chia as a thickening agent. Now that I have an actual blender again I might try grinding and sifting out some chia to use in lieu of cornstarch for this type of recipe. Otherwise, when it comes to something simple as pudding, I don’t really think about it.

      I was also going to try my hand at caramels made with honey. I assume the texture would need a bump there, and might try a touch of chia with the blend. Hmm…

      Still learning the art of smoothies, though. Haven’t figured out a fruit combo I like.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I make three ingredients honey caramels, honey, coconut cream and to make the mixture as true candies add cacao butter. I personally don’t like honey taste in sweets, but for those who love it and has to go on dairy free diet, it might be an option.


      2. I haven’t tried cooking with chia ($$$), so unfortunately any comments I have to make would be just as useless as any of my other comments 😉 Let me know how it comes out if you give that a shot!

        I’ve also never made honey caramel, so ditto. But Irena there really seems extraordinarily talented in the kitchen from what I’ve seen, so try her method!



  5. Sugarless pudding
    Dangerspouse makes it delish!
    Give it a go Jude!

    Haiku Method:
    Step 1:Think of words
    Step 2: Count syllables
    Cooking time: Two minutes, three if you need to take your socks off. Though if you do you’re counting too high; go back to step one and try again.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Lol. Yeah, I guess if you didn’t grow up with this starch laden confection it can seem a bit offputting, to say the least. I understand 🙂

      My British paternal grandmother, still one of the most brilliant cooks I ever met, used to pump out custard tarts regularly for us grandkids. She was horrified by the American version of custard with its cornstarch thickener (to be fair, she was equally appalled by Angel Delight, which first came on the market just as I was getting my first cooking lessons). Later she taught me to make my own clotted cream (“Don’t open the oven door, luv.”) So I did grow up with an abiding love for non-American glop also 🙂

      Hmmm. I certainly don’t see why that baked egg custard couldn’t be made with non-sugar sweetener. Yuo’re right, 40g is no doubt just for taste, with minimal thickening power. Nonetheless, the best option is to try it and see. If there is a structural change, you’ll know for next time so you can adjust (I would recommend using a mix of milk with some double cream perhaps).

      Hugs to you too, babe 🙂


  6. Lol. Are you comparing your self to a prostitute? Dude free is only good on that first dish…. but then we might miss out on all that wisdom… hmmm. Nevermind keep up the comparison. Ignore me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, well, well, and here I thought your only redeeming talent was to tell stories about your NewWifey(TM) eating worms? Congrats – looks delicious – I wouldn’t touch Splenda with a 10-foot pole, but then again, I’m not into sweets that much.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey you – it’s me. I read all the time but I don’t comment.

    I have lost your email address many iPhones ago – and I wanted to share with you about our beloved Paula (poola). But you may already know. Feel to reach out to my email xo – Marna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my GOD! Marna! Holy crap, I can’t believe it’s you!

      Yes, I heard the awful news about Poolie last night. It absolutely flattened me. Thanks for leaving the message in case I hadn’t heard, I really appreciate you thinking of me here.

      You know, my guess is that I don’t have your email addy anywhere on file any more (considering what passes for my filing system, such as it is). Feel free to drop me a line at notepad101(at)hotmail if you’re so inclined, and I’ll respond back whenever I’m sober. Thanks!




        1. Alas, I’ll have to click the link later this afternoon. My shift just ended, and I’ve gotta vacate the studio so the next announcer can start their show. But I *will* check it out later when I’m home. Promise! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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