Make This Simple, Sweet-Tart Pudding Before Citrus Season Ends

With mascarpone cream and crumbly ginger cookies.

March 16, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

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“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” T.S. Eliot famously wrote. Well, I could measure out mine in spoonfuls of pudding.

Each chapter has a pudding. As a kid, the silky smoothness of homemade crème brûlée hiding under a crackly crust of sugar. In middle school, the creamy stovetop chocolate pudding my mom would make after dinner, each bowlful drowned in cold raw cream. During my teenage years, the cloying sweetness of the packaged rice pudding I’d buy at the high school cafeteria in between math lectures. And after college, the white paper pints of Magnolia Bakery’s famous banana pudding my sister and I would eat together while watching old reruns of Friends in our New York City apartment.

Even though I’m older and more adventurous in my tastes now, I still think of pudding as the ultimate comfort food. Warm or cold, a bowl of velvety-soft pudding feels like a big hug. It can be basic or fancy, depending on your mood. And unlike other comfort foods that feel more seasonal (like wintry pot pie or summery soft-serve ice cream cones), it’s there for you all year long—just tailor it to whatever’s fresh at the market.

But don’t think that because pudding is so nostalgic that it also has to be humble or ordinary. Pudding might not sound sexy or show-stopping or elegant, but this recipe shows just how spectacular it can be—and how you can make it your own.

Photo by Rocky Luten

For starters, this pudding recipe showcases my favorite winter fruit: citrus. From December through March, I crave the brightness of fresh citrus. Like a little parcel of edible sunshine, citrus is a brief escape from the bitter cold, a splash of warmth and tart sweetness.

The world of citrus is vast. Beyond the basic varieties, there are so many types of specialty citrus to explore, each with their own unique character and flavor profile. Blood oranges have a brilliant, deep crimson color; sumo citrus, a juicy tangerine-like jewel of a fruit, has a deeply distinctive sweetness; bell-shaped Minneola tangelos are wonderfully bittersweet; and a blush-colored pink lemon looks beautiful no matter how you slice it.

To reflect that, this recipe can be adapted for pretty much any type of citrus. Simply adjust the sugar level in the curd accordingly: If you’re using a sweeter kind of citrus (like orange) dial back the sugar; if you’re using something more tart (like lemon) keep the sugar level as is. Pro tip: If you want to layer in even more flavor, add ingredients to the curd or mascarpone whipped cream (more on that in a second) that complement the fruit. Here are a few ideas:

  • A pinch of saffron + Meyer lemon
  • Jalapeño slices + grapefruit
  • Ground cardamom + lime
  • Shredded coconut + pixie tangerines
  • Muddled fresh basil + blood orange

Although this pudding looks exceptionally impressive, it breaks down into a few simple components: a basic curd (it’s easier than you think!); a luscious blend of mascarpone, whipped cream, and crème fraîche; and a crunchy layer of toasted, crushed ginger cookies drizzled in brown butter.

Each part is so good on its own that I recommend making extra of each and enjoying them in all sorts of ways. You could spoon the citrus curd over ice cream, fold the mascarpone whipped cream into tahini and freeze into a cheater’s semifreddo, or eat the cookie crumble by the spoonful. (Kidding! Sort of.) Explore the many different variations of this recipe by using all the citrus you can find, and consider this a good chapter in your very own life-through-pudding.

What's your favorite type of winter citrus? Tell us in the comments!

In partnership with FreshDirect, we're celebrating the season's best produce by whipping up recipes where the ingredients take center stage, like in this easy, endlessly riffable citrus pudding. Any citrus under the sun can star in this recipe (like regular lemons, limes, and oranges), but we love to mix things up by using FreshDirect's specialty citrus. From sweet-tart blood oranges to sour Minneola tangelos to gorgeous pink lemons, these unique citrus fruits pair up nicely with other flavors like saffron, coconut, basil, and even jalapeño—don't be afraid to order up a few different varieties and experiment to find your favorite!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.