4

Recipe in question

Ingredients
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 1/4 cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation (relevant parts)

  • Place a mesh strainer over a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl with a spout and set aside.
  • (... cook the pudding ...)
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract until the butter is melted and completely incorporated. Pour the pudding through the prepared strainer. (...)

I was hoping someone could explain the methods to me, since in my eyes they are bizarre.

  • Firstly, why would one use sugar and salt together? Does the salt have some special needed properties?
  • Secondly, why cook the pudding until it is thick and then add the butter and vanilla extract? Wouldn't that make it harder for them to mix and why not add them before?
  • Lastly, why pour the pudding through a strainer at all?
  • 1
    A cornstarch-based vanilla pudding can often look lumpy right after cooking; adding the butter smooths it right out. Dunno why this happens, hence comment, not answer. (Note that the lumpiness isn't chunks of undissolved anything or bits of seized-up egg; it's just the mixture not being creamy enough to smooth itself out after the whisk has, effectively, sliced it into pieces.) – Marti Sep 10 '15 at 21:55
9

I don't know why this pudding is especially "easy" -- it's similar to other pudding I've made. Perhaps I've always taken the easy road...

  1. Salt is a flavor enhancer that makes nearly everything taste better (e.g., enhance sweetness, reduce perception of bitterness. There are many more links on that topic; that was the first reasonable one I saw.) I don't think salt is magical in any other way in this recipe.
  2. Adding ingredients after cooking: For vanilla, it loses some of its volatile taste/aroma when cooked. Common to add vanilla and ilk near the end of stuff like this (and sugarwork, other cooked confections, etc.).
  3. Sieve: For smoothness. To get out the lumps. Sometimes done for certain things like crème pât, and sauces or gravies. In this case, to ensure that no starch (etc.) lumps remain. Another question/answer suggests to use a blender (e.g., immersion blender) as a possibility also.
  • 3
    Sometimes the "easy" is just for emphasis - it's actually normal, but people have a mistaken impression that it's hard, so a recipe that says "easy" is more inviting. – Cascabel Aug 17 '15 at 3:14
  • 2
    Forgot about 2b- I'm not as sure about butter, but in general (for stuff other than pudding) it's not uncommon to add butter at the end of cooking or just before serving. This may be for may be for creaminess and mouthfeel, or so it doesn't split. – hoc_age Aug 17 '15 at 12:07
  • 1
    @mathgenius - You can certainly make pudding without vanilla extract, but it will (clearly) taste less like vanilla. You could use whole beans (scored; scrape out and use seeds and pulp) or other flavourings. Vanilla was in the original recipe you linked; why do you wish to omit it? Would you like to ask a new question? :) – hoc_age Aug 17 '15 at 20:23
  • 1
    Nice answer. Just a note on #3. Egg custards are usually strained to get out the lumps from the egg proteins that sneak in on the yolks. – Sobachatina Aug 17 '15 at 20:24
  • 1
    @mathgenius, in many places, you can buy "vanilla sugar" in little packets, instead of vanilla extract. Or if you can find and splurge on real vanilla beans, you can stick them in an airtight jar of powdered sugar, and have your own vanilla sugar in a week or so. – JPmiaou Sep 11 '15 at 0:12

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