Even if you're usually more of a chocolate pudding person, this recipe will make you a believe because when you use good quality ingredients, vanilla flavor is anything but boring.
And, having a recipe up your sleeve for a perfectly simple and delicious vanilla pudding is, I think, rather important.
Creating a classic vanilla flavor
Reading through the ingredient list you’ll notice that there are very few of them and the one that really lends the flavor to this classic dish is the vanilla so we really shouldn’t skimp. Vanilla extract is indeed fine and will give you a creamy pudding with a soft vanilla flavor.
If you can avoid the imitation vanilla I would, although having said that that I have the smell of imitation vanilla tucked deep inside of me and I love it. It’s what my mom used and it instantly brings me back to my beige kitchen of my youth.
Using vanilla beans
Back to the vanilla, if at all possible I’d recommend a vanilla bean here. You can usually find them in the bulk section or spice section of your grocery store but the best way (read: cheapest) is to buy them in bulk. You can order them online in quantity.
When I place my order I always order vanilla extract as well because I learned that storing vanilla beans in vanilla extract keeps them fresh and plump — which is exactly what you want in a vanilla bean. You want them to feel soft and pliable. The added bonus to storing your beans in this way is that your vanilla extract becomes even more permeated with vanilla flavor. The beans will keep like this for several months.
To use a vanilla bean simply run a knife or scissors down the middle of the bean and scrape out the thousands of tiny black seeds. Add that to the cream and milk in this case along with the bean itself as there is quite a bit more flavor in there.
Storing and using the leftover vanilla beans
After I’ve finished with the bean in the recipe I pluck it from the pot, give it a good rinse to remove any lingering dairy and dry it on my counter until it is brittle. From there I’ll grind it up and add it to sugar for a very fragrant vanilla sugar (great in coffee) or I’ll toss the dried bean into my sugar container. After a bit of time you’ll notice a floral vanilla scent each time you remove the lid.
Every bit of the vanilla bean is edible and because they are so expensive I try not to let any part of it go to waste.
The other option, which is what I’ve been using lately is to buy ground of vanilla beans. It is a whole vanilla bean that has been dried and then finely ground and it great to use wherever you would use vanilla extract.
Whatever vanilla route you choose to take I’m sure it’ll shine in this recipe.
A recipe for classic vanilla pudding
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
1. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat combine the milk, cream and vanilla. Bring to a simmer.
2. In a bowl whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. This will help prevent lumps in the final pudding.
3. When the milk has come to a simmer add the sugar mixture and mix very well. Let the pudding simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until thickened. It will still appear quite loose but will set up as it cools.
4. Turn off the heat and add the butter. Stir until melted.
5. You can strain the pudding through a sieve if you are weary of little lumps as I tend to be or simply pour the pudding into a shallow bowl or dish (or into the serving dishes) place plastic wrap on the surface to prevent sweating and chill until the pudding is set, about four hours.
6. You can make the pudding up to three days in advance.
Serve with whipped cream.