My dad has been on my mind a lot lately. We just passed his birthday at the end of August; he would have been 86. We lost him 22 years ago. Wow, it seems like yesterday and yet it also seems like a lifetime ago. He never saw my successes in business, never met my husband and missed walking me down the aisle. His mother taught me to cook and he would relish the fact that I have grown into a good cook in my own right and created this blog. And my oh my he would love how his grandchildren have grown into amazing men and women.
His great grandchild was born on his birthday and he would have loved her. She is spunky, funny and far too clever for her age, more like my dad than most of us realized. My dad was a real handful and so is Lyla. I pity her mother for the challenges that lie ahead, but I envy her too. If this little girl follows in her great-grandfather’s steps, she is bound to succeed far beyond our wildest imagination.
My father grew up in rural Indiana during the Depression. He was bright, inquisitive and quick-witted like Tom Sawyer. He had a way of getting people to do anything he wanted, even when he was a little boy. In a time when most people were struggling to put food on the table, he would go over to his neighbor’s house early in the morning, gaze at her with his huge innocent-looking blue eyes and she would make him breakfast. Then he would run home and wolf down the breakfast his own mother made for him, never telling her he had already eaten.
One of his favorite desserts was butterscotch pie. His mother was a fantastic scratch baker who would make it for him on special occasions. Fifty years later he would tell us about the creamy filling and buttery crust with longing on his face, dreaming of the flavors of his youth. I never was able to make it for him. I would bake bread, cakes, pies and cookies, but pudding was too scary. I know, that seems funny today, but at the time it was one thing I had never made, never seen made, and felt was beyond my capabilities.
Today’s recipe is from Chef Bradley Ogden, the brilliant mind behind the Lark Creek and Yankee Pier restaurants in California. He also has Root 246, Anthology, Arterra, Fish Story, Moreton Fig, One Market, Parcel 104 and his eponymous restaurants in Las Vegas. His Butterscotch Pudding is so good that patrons won’t let him take it off the menu.
This recipe is made the way Bradley’s mother used to make it for him, baked in individual ramekins. It is dense, rich and creamy, just what you want in a pudding. If you are cooking this for a large crowd you can also cook it in one huge pan and spoon it into individual bowls. At the restaurants, they strain the cooked and cooled pudding through a chinois, a conical strainer, to remove the skin that forms during baking. This also thins the pudding slightly which I still love, but you may prefer the thicker version.
If you do decide to bake it in a large container, that frees you up to use really beautiful serving dishes because they do not have to be ovenproof. Antique cups with saucers, those from your fine china or even small, lined flower pots would all be wonderful and unique ways to serve this dessert. Get creative, take pictures and let us see what you come up with!
This pudding is perfect just as is, but if you want to turn it into a creamy pie like my father loved, all you need is a pre-baked pie shell and some meringue or whipped cream for topping. Here is my pie crust, the one I always use and that is virtually fool-proof. If pie crusts scare you, just follow my directions, tips and hints and you should be fine. If you are really afraid, you can buy a pre-made crust and use that instead, but you don’t know what you are missing!
You can also choose to make mini butterscotch tarts instead of a whole pie. Sometimes making little pastries is less intimidating than tackling a big project. To make them look extra special use a piping bag with a star tip. Pipe meringue over the top and put the tarts under the broiler or use a propane torch to lightly brown the tops. Your family and friends will accuse you of stopping by the bakery on the way home and may even dig through your trash looking for a tell-tale pink box!
Every time I get this dessert at one of the Lark Creek restaurants, it reminds me of my father. Sometimes I get a little teary but I am always happy to dig into a bowl, luxuriating in every spoonful. Somehow the pudding makes everything better, even if it isn’t served as a pie. Enjoy every bite of this old-fashioned dessert!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
To keep a skin from forming on top, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding once it is cooled and store still topped with the wrap in the refrigerator.
Kitchen Skill: Creating Water Bath without Splashing
One of the worst enemies of baking in a water bath is accidentally getting some of the water in the ramekins, which can be devastating for some desserts. In a cooking class many years ago a chef showed us a trick that I have used ever since. Once you have your ramekins settled in the baking pan invert a baking sheet over them, bottom side up, tipping it up an angle with one narrow end touching the bottom of the pan. Now pour the water onto the back of the sheet allowing it to gently enter the baking pan with no splashing.
- 4 cups heavy cream, divided (plus more whipped for garnish, if desired)
- 1 vanilla bean, split, with seeds scraped and reserved
- 1 cup (5 oz) butterscotch chips
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp scotch
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Boil a full teakettle of water; set aside.
- Put 3-1/2 cups heavy cream and the vanilla bean and its seeds in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, take off heat and whisk in butterscotch chipsuntil blended smoothly.
- Place egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk well. Slowly add hot cream mixture while whisking vigorously. Set aside.
- Combine remaining 1/2 cup cream with the scotch; set aside.
- In a small, deep, heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar and water over high heat. When sugar dissolves and caramelizes, pull the pan off the heat and carefully add the cream/scotch mixture. Return to the heat and continue cooking, stirring well, until mixture is smooth and slightly thick, about 3 minutes. Whisk this caramel mixture into melted butterscotch mixture.
- Strain mixture through a fine sieve. Divide among 12 (4 oz) ramekins. Place ramekins in a large roasting pan. Place pan on oven rack, then carefully pour teakettle of hot water into roasting pan, taking care not tosplash into ramekins. Water should come halfway up the sides oframekins.
- Carefully slide roasting pan into oven. Bake for 50 minutes until puddings are set but still a little wiggly. Transfer ramekins to a rackor cookie sheet to cool for about 30 minutes. Then refrigerate, loosely covered with foil, overnight.
- Serve puddings with a dollop of unsweetened or lightly sweetened whipped cream. Or servethem brulee style by sprinkling the tops with a little granulated sugar, then caramelizing them with a blowtorch.
- The pudding needs to be made a day ahead of serving, as it needs time to chill and set up in the refrigerator. Covered with foil, the pudding will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
- Alternately: Odgen’s restaurants make their pudding in one large pan in a water bath, and then strain the bakedpudding through a chinois, before serving it in tulip glasses. By straining the pudding, you get rid of the thin, darker skin that forms on the pudding after baking. It also results in a pudding that’s a little less dense in texture.