Pudding is a recipe term which describes various desserts that may be sweet or savory. In the U.S. the term pudding typically refers to a sweet dessert made with milk, sugar, and various flavorings such as chocolate, vanilla, tapioca and butterscotch and thickened with cornstarch. (See image at the top of this page). It's a simple dessert to make at home but there are numerous commercially available mixes including JeLL-o and Royal. The mixes are available sweetened with sugar or artificial sweetener and you can purchase versions you must cook or "instant" which just require fresh milk and time to set in the refrigerator. These are common grocery store items. Note: The nutrition information shown is for cook and serve pudding mix made with whole milk.
It is a common misconception that a pot de creme is a pudding. It is in fact a custard, not a pudding at all. Further, pudding does not use eggs but custards rely upon them. Additionally pudding is cooked on the stove top while custard are typically baked in the oven. Read more about custard.
In the oldest, most traditional sense, these puddings include plum pudding (like a steamed cake), Yorkshire pudding (similar to a popover) as well as a dish made with a suet based pastry crust filled with various chopped meats (kidney pie). See image below for a steamed pudding.
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image by nazreth
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk (whole, 2% or non-fat)
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Place all the dry ingredients in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and stir the mixture over medium heat until it is well combined and comes to boil. Allow the mixture to cook for about 2 minutes to start the thickening process.
Remove the pan from the heat. Add the vanilla and butter and stir to incorporate. Place the pudding in individual dishes or ramekins. *Refrigerate until the mixture is thick and well-chilled, at least 2-3 hours.
*You may also want to top each warm dish of pudding with a layer of plastic wrap to keep a thick skin from forming on the top of the pudding.