Easy Egg-Free Vanilla Pudding

This recipe is my modified version of Mark Bittman’s Vanilla Pudding.

You might find it easy to believe that egg-thickened custards are vastly superior to puddings made with corn starch ( I use tapioca starch). But while they are generally richer and — if made well — considerably more delicate, there are few desserts more enjoyable than a good panna cotta or chocolate pudding, neither of which contains eggs.

Yield 4 servings
Time
20 minutes, plus chilling (but it tastes great warm too)

Puddings thickened with cornstarch are dead easy — practically foolproof, in fact — and fairly quick. Start with half-and-half (or even cream), or at least whole milk. You can thicken skim milk if you like, but that’s like thickening water. Dessert, after all, is supposed to be a luxury.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups half-and-half or whole organic milk
1/3 cup organic sugar (rapudura or honey) or even a little less and it will still be sweet enough
Pinch of sea salt
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons organic tapioca starch
2 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, softened (optional but really it makes it delicious)

  1. Put 2 cups of half-and-half or milk, sugar and salt in a small or medium sauce pot over medium-low heat. If using a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into milk or half-and-half using small sharp knife, then add pod. Cook just until mixture begins to steam.
  2. Combine tapioca and remaining milk or half-and-half in a bowl and blend; there should be no lumps. Fish pod from pot and discard. Add tapioca  mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in butter and vanilla extract, if using.
  3. Pour mixture into a 1-quart dish or 4 to 6 small ramekins or bowls. Put plastic wrap directly on the pudding to prevent formation of a skin, or do not cover if you like skin. Refrigerate until chilled, and serve within a day, with whipped cream if you like.
Variations

To make chocolate pudding, shave or finely chop 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate. Stir into pudding with the butter.

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