But I have, indeed, come a long way from my late-February butterscotch pudding nadir. On the heels of the Valentines-timed chocolate pudding rave, it occurred to me that the world really needs more pudding recipes. They’re a great thing to master–not too difficult, not too heavy and complete and total comfort food. And while some (coughmomcough) have tried the chocolate pudding and still feel that it doesn’t have much on her beloved My-T-Fine [Deb shakes head in shame, clucks tongue] it is impossible to argue that store-bought or from-a-mix butterscotch pudding has any relation whatsoever to that which is coaxed from a brown sugar, vanilla and bourbon-hinted caramel.
Alas, both recipes I tried had it in for me. The first, from the Joy of Cooking, never set though it is entirely possible that their admonishments about not overdoing this or that when working with cornstarch puddings sent me into a tizzy whereby I did not cook the pudding long enough. Possibly, I said. I haven’t yet released Joy from my narrowed-eyed accusatory glare.
The second recipe, from Christopher Kimball’s Dessert Bible has only itself to blame for my wrath and subsequent temper-tantrum. I shouldn’t have followed his suggestions so blindly, I know, but I get into this mode when I’m hanging on a recipe’s every word and I swear, if Step 5 said “walk to window, open it and chuck bowl’s contents out over sidewalk occupants below” it is entirely possible I would do just that, pedestrians be damned. This is the only way I can explain why a seasoned (stop laughing) cook such as myself would follow his Step 3 to take a pot full of simmering ingredients right off the stove and pour them over egg yolks, creating–you guessed it–some fugly chunks of hard-boiled egg. I kid you not. The man behind Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, he whose reputation is built upon exhaustedly-tested and finely-tweaked recipes, ruined my pudding.
Hm. I don’t sound bitter, do I?
Kimball’s pudding really did have the best butterscotch flavor, however, and even though I knew it wouldn’t set, I had to try anyway. I strained out the offending yolks, left it in the fridge overnight, and, lo, it did not set, but seeing as I couldn’t keep my spoon from it just the same, I decided to run it through the ice cream maker so I could shake off the whole dismal experience with a Meant To Do That finish.
Turns out, butterscotch ice cream is amazing, amazing enough that I had to make more the following week. A recipe I found online from an old Sunset Magazine brought intentional butterscotch ice cream to our kitchen at last, the unquestionably best thing that could have come out of weeks of butterscotch aggravation. I would go as far as to argue that, given the choice, butterscotch pudding dreams of being ice cream when it grows up, which (uh, unlike the rest of this entry) sounds crazy until you try it. It is really that good.
Butterscotch Ice Cream
Adapted from Sunset Magazine
Makes one quart
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons bourbon (optional)
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 cups half-and-half (light cream)
6 large egg yolks (hint: if you make a hazelnut brown butter cake, you should have these in your fridge already!)
1. In a 1- to 2-quart pan over medium heat, stir brown sugar and butter until butter is melted, sugar is dissolved, and mixture is bubbly, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in 1/2 cup whipping cream until smooth; remove butterscotch mixture from heat. Add vanilla and bourbon, if using.
2. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over medium-high heat, combine remaining 1 cup whipping cream and the half-and-half; bring to a simmer.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat egg yolks to blend. Whisk 1/2 cup of the warm cream mixture into egg yolks, then pour egg yolk mixture into pan with cream. Stir constantly over low heat just until mixture is slightly thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Immediately remove from heat.
4. Pour through a fine strainer into a clean bowl and whisk in butterscotch mixture. Chill until cold, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours; or cover and chill up to 1 day.
5. Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve softly frozen, or transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 1 week.
Note: If you serve with espresso-chocolate shortbread cookies, your friends might never leave. Proceed with caution.