I should confess: I’m not much of a dessert person. Most days, I would rather have a wedge of cheese than a slice of cake at the end of a meal.
Whenever I have a chocolate dessert, I last about three spoonfuls before getting overwhelmed by its intensity. I’ll choose a plain, buttery croissant over one filled with almond paste or glazed with vanilla. But every now and then, I find myself craving something sweet – usually around this time of year, when there’s a new chill in the air and the nights are drawing in. Blame it on vestigial animal instinct, the need to consume something rib-sticking and rich as hunkering-down season approaches. This year, that craving took a specific form: old-fashioned butterscotch pudding.
The butterscotch pudding of my childhood is bronzed and fragrant, nutty and sweet, and thick enough to stand a spoon up in. I wanted to recreate it, but make it more adult – this time with plenty of sea salt and a healthy splash of whisky. And to give it that extra dose of sophistication, as well as an autumnal feel, I opted to top it with pumpkin spiced caramel sauce and crème fraîche.
There’s no getting around it: This is a somewhat laborious dish – both pudding and topping require making a base of caramel, so you’ll want to be ready with your whisk – but it’s also astonishingly good: creamy, silken, nostalgic and novel all at once. Think of it as an ideal alternative to pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and befitting any seasonal occasion you’ve got coming up.
If desserts aren’t normally my thing, then neither are pastry stouts – usually, I like my stouts dry and roasty, not sticky and saccharine. But Yonder Brewing’s Coconut Florentine is one to change my mind. With a reasonable 5% ABV and a coffee-like bitter roastiness to balance out its almond, caramel and coconut notes, it’s an excellent pairing for and foil to the butterscotch pudding – both sweet enough not to be washed out by it and bitter enough to temper it.
Whether or not your sweet tooth is perpetual or only seasonal, this pudding pairing should please it.
Butterscotch Pudding Pots with Pumpkin Caramel
Adapted from Melissa Clark
For the butterscotch pudding:
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
600ml heavy cream
450ml whole milk
200g soft brown sugar
45g unsalted butter
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tbs whisky
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the pumpkin caramel:
200g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
300ml double cream
150g tinned puréed pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg
1. In a large bowl, add the egg yolks, egg and cornflour, and whisk until uniform. Set aside.
2. In a separate large bowl, add the heavy cream and whole milk, and stir until combined.
3. Place a large saucepan over high heat and add the brown sugar, butter, water and fine sea salt. Whisk until the sugar melts. Cook, whisking frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the caramel mixture darkens, smells nutty and is thickly bubbling; pay close attention to avoid the mixture burning.
4. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and pour the milk and cream mixture into the caramel in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly. The mixture will bubble up and the sugar may seize up. Once all the cream has been added, raise the heat to medium-high and continue to whisk until any hardened sugar has melted and the mixture is uniform. Turn the heat off.
5. Carefully ladle half the hot cream mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks and cornflour, whisking constantly and working in small increments so the eggs don’t scramble. Return the egg-and-cream mixture back to the saucepan with the rest of the cream, whisking constantly to incorporate.
6. Turn the heat on to medium-low and cook, whisking constantly, until the pudding has thickened. Turn off the heat and whisk through the whisky and vanilla. Pour through a fine-meshed sieve into a heat-proof bowl. Press plastic cling-film onto the surface of the pudding (this will prevent it forming a skin as it cools) and transfer to the fridge. Chill for at least 3-4 hours, or until completely cold and set.
7. To make the pumpkin caramel, add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar melts, then put the spoon aside and swirl to mix (use a wet pastry brush to brush any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan). Watch the pan carefully as the caramel begins to darken; caramel can burn quickly, so give it your undivided attention.
8. As soon as it is a deep brown colour, turn the heat all the way down. Add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking constantly to combine. Next, pour in the cream in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly, until uniform; take care, as the mixture will bubble up. Turn off the heat and then add the remaining ingredients, whisking until uniform. Leave to cool slightly.
9. Divide the butterscotch pudding between 8-10 glasses or ramekins (depending on their size) and smooth the tops. Divide the pumpkin caramel between them, gently pouring over the top of the pudding so it forms its own separate layer. Return to the fridge and chill until cool and firmed up.
10. To serve, top each glass of pudding with a spoonful of crème fraiche. Grate over the nutmeg and serve.
Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus expert tasting notes, with 10 world-class beers like this one every month.