It seems as though many of us grew up on pudding. Whether your childhood memory consists of grandma whipping up a batch over the stove or preparing the box variety, pudding is a dessert many of us consider to be one of our favorite desserts. After all, what can beat a sweet, creamy and velvety dessert that is so simple to prepare.
There are several types of pudding. Among our favorites are cornstarch puddings, rice puddings and tapioca puddings. Fortunately, all of these delicious desserts are naturally gluten-free! And for those of you who are casein free as well — simply substitute soy milk for the milk or half and half….you won’t be able to tell the difference — it is equally as delicious!
In reality pudding is nothing more than milk, sugar and cornstarch. This magical mixture is cooked together until the starch molecules bond, thickening the pudding into a creamy, velvety cream. To prevent lumps from forming prepare the pudding in a heavy bottomed saucepan, which will provide even, gentle heat. Stir the pudding with a large, heatproof semi-flexible spatula — which easily reaches the sides, bottom and corners of the saucepan. When mixing the pudding, be sure to dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of liquid (usually milk or half and half), forming a lump-free paste, before adding the remaining liquid.
Cooking the pudding is actually completed in two phases; first, over medium-high heat and the second over low heat. During the high heat phase be sure to mix the pudding in slow sweeping circles, keeping the bottom and sides of the pan scraped clean (it is very easy for the pudding to burn on the bottom of the pan). When the pudding begins to thicken turn the heat down to low — if using an electric stove, slide the pan off the burner completely to let the burner cool. Continue to stir over the low heat, stirring in quick little circles. The pudding may look lumpy at this point but if you stir fast enough the lumps will dissipate. Bring the pudding to a low simmer and let cook for 1 minute. Pour the pudding into individual serving cups or a large bowl. To prevent a skin from forming place plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days.
Many people wonder why sometimes their puddings thickened appropriately in the saucepan and then suddenly thin out. The answer lies in the bonds of the cornstarch. These cornstarch bonds are actually very fragile. If you break the bonds, your pudding will turn into a runny, thin mess. In order to avoid this do not beat, strain or blend the pudding after you remove it from the stove. Just pour it quickly before it has a chance to stiffen and let it sit undisturbed.
For a basic pudding try our Vanilla Pudding.
Many people use long-grain rice, particularly leftovers for rice pudding, however, traditionally short-grain rice was the actual preferred rice for rice pudding simply because it they are high in starch and give the pudding a richer, creamier texture. Unfortunately short grain rice is sometimes hard to find in American supermarkets. If you can only find long grain rice it will still make great pudding as long as you don’t use the pre-cooked variety such as "minute rice" or "instant rice". Experiment with different long-grain rice such as jasmine, basmati or popcorn rice — they will all impart a different flavor.
To make delicious rice pudding follow this simple recipe:
- 3/4 cup long-grain white rice
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups 1% milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon gf vanilla
- Cinnamon or Nutmeg (optional)
Place rice, water and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer until all the water has been absorbed. Stir in cream, milk and sugar. Cook uncovered for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture is similar to a thick porridge. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Spoon into ramekins or custard cups. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent any skin from forming. Sprinkle tops with freshly ground nutmeg or cinnamon. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tapioca comes from the tropical cassava plant. Most grocery stores carry only quick-cooking tapioca which is not only used to make tapioca pudding but is also used to thicken sauces and fillings.
- 2-1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- Dash of salt
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk together the milk, sugar, tapioca and salt in a heavy saucepan. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes. Slowly bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk half of the milk mixture into the egg. Thoroughly mix the egg mixture into the remaining pudding (milk mixture). Reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, until the pudding starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool in the saucepan for 30 minutes. Pour the mixture into individual bowls. Serve warm or chill until you are ready to serve.
So as you can see there is not much to creating a wonderful pudding. In fact, after you have made it a few times you will wonder why people use the box variety. It is not difficult to make and once you taste homemade pudding you will discover that it is far better than store-bought puddings.