French custards are as fussy as they are delicious. Thickened with eggs, they require careful tempering, constant stirring and delicate baking; too much technique for a weeknight.
When ease is of the essence, I opt for pudding, a simple, if not bastardized, version of custard. By replacing eggs with cornstarch as a thickener, the fuss is fizzled.
Homemade pudding is so simple it literally takes less time than making a boxed-brand and tastes far superior. To create your own recipe, simply start with milk, sugar, cornstarch and add the flavors of your choice, tasting as you go.
I particularly love this recipe for Mexican Chocolate Pudding because it demonstrates the possibilities of such a humble dessert. By using almond milk rather than dairy as a base, the pudding manages to feel simultaneously light and luxurious.
Mexican Chocolate Pudding
From Gourmet, February 2009
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ½ Tbs cornstarch
½ tsp cinnamon
2 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
1 ½ Tbs unsalted butter, but into small pieces
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Whisk together brown sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp salt in a heavy medium saucepan, then whisk in almond milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often, then boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Chill in a bowl, surface covered with a piece of buttered wax paper, until cold, at least 1 ½ hours.