Book 2 is halfway done! To celebrate, we'd like a few bowls of our favorite nursery school comfort: pudding. To us, that means anything sweet and nostalgic that takes well to spooning up, whether it's thickened with egg, cornstarch, tapioca, or gelatin; boiled or baked -- but hold off on any bread, rice and steamed puddings for now.
More about our contests»
This recipe relies on just a few high-quality ingredients: heavy cream, salt, vanilla bean, egg yolk, and sugar.
photo 2 of 17
photo 3 of 17
Merrill scrapes vanilla seeds from the pod -- it's really important to use a fresh, aromatic bean here.
photo 4 of 17
Infusing the cream. Careful not to let it boil over -- as soon as you see bubbles forming around the edges, turn off the heat.
photo 5 of 17
Midge calls for a small amount of caramel (the recipe makes just 4 servings). Our pot may have been a little bigger than we needed.
photo 6 of 17
We knew it was ready when the sugar turned a deep amber, and the pot started to smoke a little.
photo 7 of 17
You need to work quickly at this stage: Amanda pours the vanilla infused cream slowly into the caramel, which stops the sugar from cooking any further.
photo 8 of 17
To thicken the pudding, you start by whisking together egg yolks and sugar.
photo 9 of 17
Whisk until it looks like this!
photo 10 of 17
It helps to have another set of hands at this stage. Merrill slowly poured a little bit of the hot milk into the eggs, while Amanda whisked. (This tempers the yolks and keeps them from scrambling.)
photo 11 of 17
Once all the milk and egg are combined and smooth, it's time to strain. All puddings using egg should be strained through a fine mesh sieve to remove any clumps of cooked egg.
photo 12 of 17
Midge has you pour the custard into ramekins for individual portions.
photo 13 of 17
No vanilla seed left behind!
photo 14 of 17
A method we found intriguing and really effective: instead of pouring boiling water around the ramekins, Midge has you start with cool water. This cooks the pudding slowly but very gently, as the water slowly warms in the oven.
photo 15 of 17
It took our puddings an hour and 15 minutes to set up in the oven. They were still a little jiggly when we took them out, but they firmed up perfectly as they cooled.
To make this pudding, you'll need: milk, half and half, butter, a vanilla bean, egg yolks, hazelnuts, dark chocolate, cornstarch and sugar.
photo 2 of 21
First step: toast the hazelnuts.
photo 3 of 21
This recipe calls for six egg yolks. Yep, 6.
photo 4 of 21
Once the nuts have cooled, you can easily rub off the skins -- use a towel, or just your fingers.
photo 5 of 21
photo 6 of 21
Amanda takes the de-skinned hazelnuts for a spin in the the food processor.
photo 7 of 21
The resulting toasted hazelnut crumble smelled amazing.
photo 8 of 21
We loved this step: Arathi has you infuse the milk and half and half with the pulverized nuts and vanilla seeds.
photo 9 of 21
While the milk steeps, it's time to fit the chocolate into the equation.
photo 10 of 21
Chocolate and butter. 3 minutes on the stove. Any questions?
photo 11 of 21
photo 12 of 21
Amanda whisks her heart out, mixing all those egg yolks with sugar, salt and cornstarch.
photo 13 of 21
This kind of reminds us of zabaglione.
photo 14 of 21
Another two-person job: straining the infused milk into the eggs, little by little, and whisking all the while so that the eggs don't scramble.
photo 15 of 21
The leftover milky, vanilla-y hazelnut meal was really pretty tasty.
photo 16 of 21
Classic technique #268: looking into the oven while we're supposed to be paying attention to the pudding thickening on the stove.
photo 17 of 21
Once the cornstarch and eggs have worked the magic, it's time to whisk in that glossy chocolate-butter combo from earlier.
photo 18 of 21
photo 19 of 21
photo 20 of 21
Merrill seems perplexed by the blender method, but it's worth the extra effort for the texture it produces. You may need to dig a spatula down around the bottom of the blender to get the pudding to fully blend.