Makes 4 cups, or 4 to 6 servings
This recipe is from "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (revised edition)," by the Editors at America's Test Kitchen.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 1/2 cups half-and-half
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
Instructions:Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in half-and-half and then yolks.
Bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking gently but constantly and scraping bottom and sides of pan. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until pudding is thick and coats the back of a spoon, one to two minutes. Strain pudding through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, scraping the inside of the strainer with a rubber spatula to pass the pudding through. Stir butter and vanilla into pudding until butter is melted. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until set, about three hours. (Pudding can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to two days, but stir briskly before serving.) Serve topped with whipped cream, if desired.
Butterscotch pudding: Increase the cornstarch to 3 tablespoons. Substitute ½ cup packed dark-brown sugar for granulated sugar.
Reduce vanilla to 2 teaspoons.
Stir ½ cup butterscotch or caramel sauce (store-bought is fine) into the pudding with butter and vanilla.
Double-chocolate pudding: Reduce the cornstarch to 4 teaspoons. Add 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder with the cornstarch.
Add 6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted, to the mixture after the yolks and reduce vanilla to 2 teaspoons. (The chocolate may form clumps but will smooth out during cooking.)
Coconut pudding: Substitute 1½ teaspoons coconut extract for vanilla.