A Forgiving Dessert

I had an epic fail. On New Year's Eve! And it was, in spite of my good intentions, a truly dreadful and disappointing way to end the year.

When I was a kid, my mother made these scrumptious kahlua parfaits for special occasions and dinner parties. This classic, mid-to-late 70's and early 80's dessert calls for a 10 oz. bag of sugar-laden and corn syrup marshmallows! Since I have been kicking around this memory lately, I decided to try and remake it as a healthy dessert--one that did not require using a bag of uber-sweet marshmallows. 

So what did I do? I made my own sugar-free marshmallows. And they were good. Really good, but they did not work with my dessert. (I find that anytime I try and replace sugar substitutes in a recipe that calls for egg white meringue, the result is neither ideal nor edible.)

What should have been a smooth, rich and creamy, mousse-like parfait ended up being clumpy, lumpy, sticky and simply an inedible dessert. After exerting excessive effort to try and get just a single bite and then taking another stab at it and failing again, we looked at each other, laughed hysterically and agreed that this was "not the best idea"...though I did get points for trying. Sadly, we closed the book on 2012 still desperately wanting dessert.

When I woke up on New Year's Day, I was compelled to right this dessert disaster, because you know how important desserts are in my world. One of David's favorite things ever is butterscotch pudding and, in almost 20 years, I had never made it for him from scratch.

But the first day of 2013 is when I changed that. Fortunately, all is forgiven and he has now forgotten the epic fail of 2012.

Buen provecho!

Butterscotch Pudding
The Cowgirl Gourmet adapted this recipe from Simply Recipes

Print recipe

A butterscotch pudding that calls for just 2 tablespoons of butter? Really? You bet. I scaled the sugar back quite a bit by using brown sugar Splenda, which means I only used half of what is called for. The next time I make this dessert, I will scale it back a little more to 2/3 cup brown sugar Splenda or a heaping 1/2 cup. Other than that, it is perfect. Just sorry I waited 20 years to make butterscotch pudding from scratch.

Serves 5

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, though I opted for 3/4 cups brown sugar Splenda (I did think it was a bit too sweet, so I will use 2/3 or a heaping 1/2 cup brown sugar Splenda next time)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cream
1 cup whole milk
3 pastured egg yolks
1 1/2 Tablespoons pure vanilla or vanilla bean paste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and set a kettle of water to boil. Place five ceramic ramekins or glass custard cups in a large baking dish, about 9" x 13".

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Once the butter melts, add the brown sugar and salt and stir well to combine. Carefully add the cream and milk to the sugar mixture, stirring everything together. Bring the mixture to a boil and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, separate the whites from the egg yolks and place the yolks in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the yolks well.

Slowly, in a thin stream, pour 1 cup of the heated sugar-dairy mixture into the yolks--while whisking the whole time. You may need a friend to pour the mixture into the yolks while you whisk. This will temper the egg yolks rather than cook them. Once tempered, continue adding the rest of the sugar-dairy mixture while whisking the whole time. Stir in the vanilla.

To remove any small bits of cooked egg, pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan.

This is why straining is so important...

Ladle the mixture evenly into the ramekins or custard cups. Pour just enough hot water from the kettle into the baking dish until the water rises just half an inch or so from the top of the ramekins.

Take a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the baking dish and slit it a few times with a sharp knife. Carefully place the baking dish in the oven, tent the foil in the center and place it over the baking dish and bake for 50-65 minutes or until set. After cooking 30 minutes, rotate the pan a half turn. The pudding is ready when the sides are firm and the center still a little wobbly.

When it's ready, remove the baking dish from the oven and allow the pudding to cool 10 minutes in the pan. Carefully remove the pudding cups from the baking dish and water and continue to cool for one hour. Refrigerate to chill before serving, about 3-4 hours.

Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

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