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This is probably one of the most versatile preparations in the world of baking. The whole thing only takes about 15 minutes or so, and it's fun! First off, gather these ingredients:

2 cups WHOLE milk
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. butter (not margarine)

Plan of Action:

1. Combine the milk and sugar, but DO NOT STIR. The sugar at the bottom will keep the milk from scalding. Bring it to a boil.
2. Mix the cornstarch, eggs, and salt together until VERY SMOOTH.
3. VERY SLOWLY, pour the boiling milk/sugar into the egg mix while stirring. This is called tempering. If you do this too fast, you get scrambled eggs.
4. Pour the mixture back into the pot, return to the stove and lower the heat.
5. Cook the mixture until the starchy taste is gone. It should have a smooth, creamy texture.
6. Mix in the vanilla and butter. It should taste like tapioca pudding... without the tapioca beads.
7. Cover with plastic wrap so the custard doesn't form a skin.

Now, you have vanilla pudding. Know what you get if you double the butter amount and use brown sugar instead of granulated? Butterscotch. Mix some melted chocolate in to get chocolate pudding. If you use water instead of milk and add ½ c. lemon juice at the end, you get lemon meringue pie filling. Add banana to get banana cream. Add coconut for coconut cream. Combining half whipped cream and half pastry cream creates bavarian cream. The possibilities of this basic formula are endless.

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