This past Christmas Eve, I had a lovely conversation with an older British woman about puddings. Pudding! I love pudding! I leaned in close to hear what she had to say. She started talking about baked puddings and molded puddings and I was intrigued. Then she said something about flour and sponges, which totally threw me off, until I remembered that pudding, in England, means the entire *dessert* category. Still, I was left with a major pudding craving, so I went home and pulled out Faith Durand’s Bakeless Sweets, in which she dedicates an entire chapter to puddings; rich puddings, delicate puddings, troubleshooting tips, variations on your favorite puddings. You name it, she’s got it covered.
With a little help from Durand and a lot of practice on my own, I’ve come to realize a few things. Pudding isn’t meant to be super-heavy. It uses just enough thickener (some combination of a few egg yolks and some cornstarch) to hold it together, and really only lasts a few days in the refrigerator (more than enough time in our household to polish off a bowl). If you’re looking for fancy and thick and super-rich, check out recipes for pot de creme or brûlée or any of the French variations of the dessert. Pudding is less frilly and heavy. It’s meant to be casual and comforting and quick to assemble. It’s sweet and creamy and the perfect family-friendly weeknight dessert.
It’s also so completely versatile. I could make it every single night of the week for a month and never make the same pudding twice. Add toppings or parfaits to the mix, and you have a year’s worth of options. So, it’s sort of surprising that I’ve been working on one recipe for weeks now. It’s a bitter and sweet chocolate pudding; a sort of dark and white chocolate layered number that I can’t get right. Turns out, it’s hard to duplicate texture when making two very different puddings that are meant to be layered in the same bowl. I’ll get back to you on this one when I finally get it right.
In the meantime, I figured since it was almost St. Patrick’s Day and all, I’d fiddle around with a Guinness pudding. I started with a variation on Durand’s recipe for rich vanilla pudding and added some malted milk powder to hype up the nutty, malty flavor of the beer. Only, I couldn’t find any at the grocery store, so I used the Classic Malt flavored Ovaltine instead. It gives this pudding a nutty, almost chocolatey flavor that, surprisingly, tastes just right. Then, I boiled the beer down to a syrup before adding it to the milk and sugar for some intense Guinness flavor. The result is a cross between a Guinness + vanilla ice cream float and a malted milk shake, in creamy, smooth pudding form.
It’s sweet and creamy and malty and nutty with only the faintest bitter beer aftertaste, which simultaneously builds up and plays down the sweetness in a pleasant, almost deceptive, whoops-i-ate-the-whole-bowl-without-sharing-any sort of way (which is why I poured it into four-ounce ramekins).
Serve it chilled, with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and maybe a sprinkling of crushed malted milk balls if you’re trying to impress someone.
- 1 cup Guinness beer [250 ml]
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch [28 grams]
- 3 tablespoons Ovaltine (classic malt flavor) or malted milk powder [20 grams]
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup heavy cream [250 ml]
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 ¼ cups milk [550 ml]
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar [150 grams]
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a small pot, reduce the Guinness to ¼ cup, about 15 minutes.
- Combine the cornstarch, malted milk powder, and salt in a small bowl. Add the cold cream in a slow and steady stream, whisking to combine, until completely smooth (count to 10 while pouring and you should be good). Add the egg yolks and whisk to combine.
- Add the milk and sugar to the pot with the reduced Guinness. Turn the burner on medium-high heat and bring the mixture up almost to a boil – until the mixture starts shivering and small bubbles appear around the perimeter (around five minutes). Pour about one cup of the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the cream and eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the cream mixture back into the pot, continuing to whisk. This is called tempering the eggs, or slowly bringing up the temperature so they don’t scramble. Bring the pot back up to a boil over medium heat. When you begin to see large bubbles bursting on the surface, whisk constantly for two minutes. The mixture will thicken considerably. When two minutes are up, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Spoon the mixture into a large bowl, or into 8 individual 4-ounce ramekins and cover the surface directly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cool. The pudding should be refrigerated for at least an hour, and up to two days before serving. It didn’t even last the evening in my house…
- Whip 1 cup of heavy cream in a large bowl until it starts to thicken. Add two tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon Baileys (optional), whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form. Serve the pudding topped with the whipped cream and crushed malted milk balls, if desired.