Vanilla beans are great, aren’t they? They smell great, they make things taste great, and they have these teeny little seeds in there (vanilla “caviar”) that create those beautiful little black flecks in ice creams, frostings, puddings, etc. Those beautiful little black flecks that make the vanilla flavor deeper, and let the person who’s about to dive into whatever it is know that yes, you most certainly are eating something VANILLA.
Basically, in no uncertain terms: vanilla beans rock.
And let’s face it. It’s a new year, tons of people are making good on their resolutions (for now) and most of that means healthy eating & working out. But I have to be honest… that just isn’t me. I’m all for healthy eating, sure. I love salads, I love vegetables. I love whole grain breads. But I can’t get as excited about kale as I do about vanilla cake. And that just won’t change. EVER. I like stuff that “isn’t so good for you.” I can’t help it, and I won’t apologize for it.
A few weeks ago I got that little care package from Rodelle Vanilla. Two vials of beans and one bottle of pure Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract. I couldn’t wait to use them! And to be fair, I wanted to use something that let the true flavor of the beans come through. A simple, vanilla something-or-other that would really just explode with vanillaness.
(Nope, it’s not a real word.)
And so I decided I wanted to make something that was really easy. Minimal ingredients, minimal fanfare. Just something really basic, yet delicious. And that’s when I decided on making some vanilla bean custard. A thick, soft, billowy dessert that will show off those beautiful little beans the way they were meant to be. Straightforward. No nonsense. And maybe some delicious curd to go along with it… HOWEVER… true to form, my custard didn’t quite turn out right. I tried three times; once I screwed up with adding the butter. The second time I have no idea what happened and finally on the third try I got it. But it wasn’t quite perfect visually, so I just gobbled it up- attempting to be neat at first but by the last one it was just a matter of not getting it all over my MacBook keyboard… & decided to do something else to showcase my vanilla beans.
Something not so very different from custard: pudding.
Pudding is safe, easy & basically a guaranteed success. But this is no ordinary vanilla pudding, oh no. It’s an amped up, über vanilla pudding, with both vanilla beans & vanilla extract.
This ain’t yo’ momma’s instant pudding.
This ain’t that pre-packaged stuff that comes in a little plastic cup.
This ain’t the crap they serve in schools or hospitals as “dessert.” Nope. This is some serious vanilla pudding, here, people.
ÜBER VANILLA BEAN PUDDING
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract*
- Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium heatproof bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, vanilla “caviar” and egg yolks. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the cream mixture to the saucepan.
- Whisking constantly, cook over medium-high until mixture thickens and is bubbling, 8 to 12 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, whisking, 1 minute.
- Remove pan from heat and pour mixture through sieve into bowl. Stir in vanilla extract until combined.
- Press plastic wrap directly against surface of pudding to prevent skin from forming and refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 3 days). To serve, whisk until smooth and divide among four small bowls. You can also pour it into serving dishes before you refrigerate it and wrap each one in plastic wrap.
*DO NOT SKIMP OUT HERE. Go big or go home. No imitation extract allowed.
Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.
And this pudding is divine. I’m talking about DIVINE. With a capital D. Mothereffin’ perfection. The best vanilla flavor I’ve ever tasted in my life. The thing about vanilla pudding is that it’s a terrific vehicle for other toppings or sauces or compotes. With some Meyer lemon curd, it’s a burst of sunshine on a cold January day. With some figs in brandy, it’s a rich & decadent treat. My mother makes a roasted persimmon/vanilla bean/cardamom thingy to put on her yogurt & I bet that that would be great on this pudding too. And alone, with just some fresh whipped cream? Oh, well, then it’s the best, most simplest, most comforting & quick dessert there is. And it makes a great cake filling, or cupcake filling, too.
And the gingerbread cookies just made it more fun to eat.
LOOK AT ALL THOSE LITTLE FLECKS. Each one imparting a rich, vanilla flavor. Yum.