Butterscotch Pudding

My son is a major fan of creamy comfort food. He was obsessed with this pudding and its caramel notes. ❤ I loved all of the garnishes.

This recipe for this sweet treat was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. She was able to find the perfect ratio of milk to cornstarch to prevent grittiness. I found that the pudding had to cook a little bit longer to thicken.

I topped the chilled pudding with lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream, toasted and sweetened sliced almonds, and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Next time, I may try candied pecans instead of almonds. 🙂 The original recipe includes several other options as well.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 packed cup/165 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cups/480 milliliters whole milk
  • 1 cup/240 milliliters heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or Scotch whisky, optional (I omitted it)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • freshly whipped cream, sour cream or crème fraîche, for serving (I lightly sweetened the whipped cream with confectioners’ sugar)
  • chopped candied ginger, sliced almonds, Demerara sugar, shaved chocolate, cocoa nibs or flaky sea salt, or a combination , for garnish, optional
  1. Put egg yolks, cornstarch and salt into a large heatproof bowl (preferably with a spout), and whisk until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps. (I used a balloon whisk and a pyrex bowl with a spout.)
  2. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine brown sugar and butter, whisking, until the brown sugar melts, 1 to 2 minutes. (I used a sauce whisk so that I could get into the edges of the pan.) Let cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture starts to smell like hot caramel and darkens slightly, about 1 minute longer. (Don’t walk away, or the mixture may burn.)
  3. Immediately pour the milk and cream into the pot. (It will bubble fiercely and seize up- the sugar clumps.) Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the clumps melt, 2 to 4 minutes.
  4. Slowly whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking yolks until smooth, then whisk in the remaining hot cream mixture. Pour the egg-cream mixture back into the saucepan and place it over medium heat.
  5. Cook pudding, whisking constantly especially around the bottom and edges of the pot, until it comes to a full boil. It is important to bring the pudding to a full, vigorous boil to activate the cornstarch. Otherwise, it may not set. (If you end up with thin, runny pudding, undercooking may have been the issue.) Also- it’s okay if the eggs curdle because the mixture is strained at the end.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring the mixture constantly, until it thickens enough to mound thickly on the spoon, 4 to 10 minutes. If at any point the pudding looks curdled, whisk to help smooth it out.
  7. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a heatproof container or bowl, then stir in the Scotch or bourbon, if using, and vanilla.
  8. To prevent a skin from forming, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding. (If you like the skin, don’t cover pudding until it cools.)
  9. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
  10. If garnishing the pudding with toasted sliced almonds, evenly spread them on a parchment paper-lined rimmed sheet pan; roast in a 400 degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and place in a small frying pan. Top with granulated sugar, to taste, and cook over medium-low to medium heat just until the sugar melts and coats the almonds, about 1 to 2 minutes. Return to the lined baking sheet to cool.
  11. When serving, spoon pudding into dishes. Top with dollops of whipped cream, sour cream or crème fraîche, and any of the optional garnishes. (I incorporated some confectioners’ sugar into freshly whipped cream.)

Everyday Soft French Bread

Recently, my friend’s husband made this wonderful bread. It was so delicious, she ran over to give us a few slices to sample. Lucky me! 🙂 She also shared the recipe, of course. This bread is completely different from a classic crusty baguette. It is soft, tender, and quite dense. The dough is more manageable and it can also be made from start to finish in a single day.

The recipe was adapted from The French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Herrmann Loomis. The texture and flavor of this loaf are reminiscent of my husband’s favorite sourdough sandwich bread, which also includes milk and butter in the dough. Both this loaf and the sourdough sandwich bread seem to be resistant to becoming stale- if they’re not eaten right away. 😉

Yield: One 18 by 3-inch (45 by 7.5 cm) loaf

For the Bread:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 325 g to 360 g (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur), plus more for dusting
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the Glaze:

  • 2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp whole milk
  1. Scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, just until it has tiny bubbles around the edge of the pot.
  2. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a large bowl.
  3. When the milk is slightly cooled (and no longer feels hot), sprinkle in the yeast and sugar. Let sit until some of the yeast has bubbled up to the top of the milk, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the salt, stir, and slowly add half of the flour.
  5. Add the melted butter.
  6. Add up to 1 1/4 cups (187 g) of the remaining flour to form a fairly thick dough. If the dough is still soft and very sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get a dough that is firm, but not stiff. (I started with 325 g flour and incorporated an additional 20 g to achieve the desired consistency.)
  7. If using a stand mixer, knead the dough with the paddle attachment on low-speed for 5 minutes. Alternatively, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes.
  8. Form the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. (I used a proofing oven.)
  9. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and position a rack in the center.
  10. Gently punch down the dough down. Pull to form it into a baguette shape measuring 18-inches by 3-inches (45 cm by 7.5 cm). (I formed mine into a 16-inch long shape because of the length of my baguette pan.) Crimp the ends.
  11. Let it rise until it is about one-third larger, about 30 minutes. (I placed it on a baguette pan in a proofing oven.)
  12. To make the glaze, melt the butter and the milk together, whisk to combine. Keep warm until ready to use.
  13. Brush the loaf with the glaze. (I used about 2/3 of the glaze.) Score the top of the loaf 4 or 5 times using a sharp knife, lame, or kitchen shears.
  14. Bake until the loaf is golden and baked though, about 25 minutes.
  15. Remove from the oven, brush the loaf with any residual glaze, and let cool before slicing.

Smitten Kitchen’s Creamed Spinach

This was a belated side dish to add onto my husband’s celebratory birthday meal. We love drawn out celebrations. 😉 (We also wanted to spread out our indulgences!)

This classic recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com; I modified the proportions and method. I may add shallots instead of yellow onion next time. It was fabulously rich and delicious.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds fresh baby spinach or regular spinach, tough stems discarded (I used baby spinach)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk and/or heavy cream (I used 1 cup whole milk & 3/4 cup heavy cream)
  • 1/2 of a large onion or 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Wash your spinach well but no need to spin or pat it dry.
  2. Place spinach in a large pot over high heat. (I used a pasta pot without the insert.) Cook, covered, with just the water clinging to leaves, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes for baby spinach and 4 to 6 minutes for regular spinach.
  3. Press or squeeze out the excess liquid any number of ways, either by using a potato ricer (my favorite method), wringing it out in cheesecloth, putting it in a mesh strainer and pressing the moisture out with a spatula or large spoon or letting it cool long enough to grab small handfuls and squeezing them to remove as much water as possible.
  4. Coarsely chop the wrung-out spinach.
  5. Wipe out large pot so you can use it again. (I actually used a medium saucepan instead.)
  6. Heat milk or cream in a measuring cup in the microwave or in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until warm. Keep warm. (If using the microwave, heat the mixture immediately before using.)
  7. Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic in butter in your wiped-out large pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about six minutes.
  8. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, about three minutes.
  9. Add warm milk or cream in a slow stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking, until thickened, three to four minutes.
  10. Stir in nutmeg, chopped spinach, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until heated through.

Do ahead: Creamed spinach can be made one day ahead and chilled, covered then reheated over moderately low heat until hot. However, it really tastes best eaten immediately.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Speaking of strawberry cocktails… the added bonus of this amazing fresh strawberry ice cream is that the sweetened vodka-based macerating liquid makes a wonderful base for a celebratory summer cocktail. Nice! 🙂

The texture and color of this ice cream was absolutely incredible. It was the perfect use for my precious, freshly-picked strawberries. The ice cream recipe is from Martha Stewart Living; I included a recipe for the bonus cocktail below.

For the Ice Cream:

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved (about 3 cups), plus 8 ounces more, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup more for macerating
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup vodka or silver tequila
  1. In a blender or Vitamix, puree halved strawberries with lemon juice and salt. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. (You should have 1 1/2 cups of puree; reserve any excess for another use.)
  2. Combine milk, cream, 2/3 cup sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes.
  3. Strain mixture into a bowl set in an ice bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in strawberry puree. Refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  5. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and vodka. Add chopped strawberries and macerate at room temperature at least 2 hours, or in the refrigerator, covered, up to 12 hours.
  6. Process puree mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it has the texture of soft serve, drain macerated berries (reserving syrup for another use) and fold into ice cream.
  7. Transfer to a loaf pan and freeze, wrapped in plastic, at least 4 hours and up to 1 week.
  8. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

For the Bonus Cocktail:

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • fresh juice from 1/4 large lime
  • 3 oz strawberry-vodka-sugar macerating syrup
  • tonic (for a sweeter cocktail) or seltzer (less sweet), as desired
  1. Combine lime juice and macerated strawberry syrup in a glass.
  2. Fill with ice and top with tonic or seltzer, as desired.

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves garlic, skins left on
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 handful of fresh sage, leaves picked — around 15-20 leaves
  • 2 lemons
  1. Heat oven to 375, preferably on convection.
  2. Season the chicken aggressively with the salt and pepper.
  3. Place a pot that will fit the chicken snugly (I used a deep 4-quart pot) over medium-high heat on the stove, and add to it the butter and olive oil.
  4. When the butter has melted and is starting to foam, add the chicken to the pot and fry it, turning every few minutes, until it has browned all over.
  5. Turn the heat down to low, remove the chicken from the pot and place it onto a plate, then drain off all but a few tablespoons of the fat from the pot. (I left more fat than recommended but would reduce the amount next time.)
  6. Add the cinnamon stick and garlic to the pot, and allow them to sizzle in the oil for a minute or 2, then return the chicken to the pot (preferably breast-side down) along with the milk and sage leaves.
  7. Use a vegetable peeler to cut wide strips of skin off the two lemons, and add them to the pot as well.
  8. Slide the pot into the oven, and bake for approximately 1½ hours, basting the chicken occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and tender and the sauce has reduced into a thick, curdled sauce. (If the sauce is reducing too quickly, put a cover halfway onto the pot.)
  9. To serve, use a spoon to divide the chicken onto plates. Spoon sauce over each serving.

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Easter Paska

Happy Belated Easter! We had unseasonably warm weather and bright sunshine on Easter Sunday in New York. 🙂 In the afternoon, we visited a local swan to admire her impressive nest.

I made this buttery and eggy Eastern European Paska to enjoy for breakfast over Easter weekend. My daughter braided the dough for the decorative cross. She did such a great job! 🙂 It was such a light and fluffy loaf- really delicious. We ate it topped with butter and jam. It was also recommended to eat with kielbasa or leftover Easter ham.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I used a bread machine to knead the dough and omitted the sugar topping. It could have been used as a beautiful centerpiece as well.

Yield: 1 large loaf

For the Bread:

  • 1 cup (8 oz) lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups (21.25 oz) all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the Topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • coarse sugar, like turbinado, optional (I omitted the sugar)
  1. To make the dough: Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough. (I used a bread machine.)
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I placed it in a warming drawer on the “proof” setting.)
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other. Take the larger piece, roll into a ball, and place it into a well-greased 9″ x 2″ round pan.
  4. Divide the other piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20″ strand; use the three strands to create one long braid. 
  5. Place the braid around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough. 
  6. Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. (I used a proofing oven.)
  7. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection, with a rack in the center.
  8. To make the topping: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the mixture gently over the top of the risen loaf, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.
  9. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it’s a rich golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool before cutting.

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