For whatever reason, Snack Pack pudding cups were always a real treat to me as a kid. We never had them in our house but I loved having them at my grandparents’ or friends’ houses. Peeling back that soft foil lid, seeing the neon brown butterscotch pudding inside (how did they even invent neon brown? because that is so what it was!). A big bite with a plastic spoon; thick, globby, super sweet. Heaven to a kid. And adult, c’mon now. File Snack Packs under: I know this is chemicals but I love it anyway.
But, now that I am 30+ and endeavor to scratch make everything at least once, I made homemade pudding take#2 with butterscotch pudding (take #1 was this chocolate pudding recipe and boy was it delicious). When I say that making homemade pudding is stupidly easy, I mean that. Truly.
Butterscotch Pudding (original recipe by Smitten Kitchen)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
A pinch of salt (kosher, sea salt, or whatever)
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 cups milk (I used 2%), warmed
2 tsp. vanilla
Over medium heat, begin by melting the butter. Add the brown sugar and reduce the heat to medium-low. Here is the only tricky part of this recipe: baaaasically you’re making caramel. I know, it seems complicated and it’s easy to burn and really high maintenance. But a lot of caramel making is just practice and experience. If that’s already your jam, my advice is to use your nose first and eyes second. Your nose will immediately detect when the sugars are right on the cusp of going from amazing to burned. Your eyes will help too: amber-brown is good, chocolate brown is bad. If you’re a caramel newb, just know that underdone is better than overdone (because it’s still sugar and butter, and not in the trash). Cook the butter and sugar together, letting it bubble but stirring it a bunch, no more than 2-3 minutes. And just practice, practice, practice.
When the butter and sugar have come together, add in the salt and cornstarch. Stir into a paste quickly, like 10-15 seconds. You don’t want the butter and sugar to burn in this tiny window. Sidenote: this is so my new favorite way to incorporate in cornstarch. It guarantees no lumps!
When the paste is lump-free, quickly, but carefully, whisk in the milk. A note about the milk here: If you pour in cold milk directly from the fridge, the caramel is immediately going to seize up into hard candy. This is totally fine, it will melt into the milk as the milk warms up, but if you want to avoid scratching your head like I did, gently warm the milk up in the microwave first (30-45 seconds should be fine).
Stir the entire mixture over medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes until the cornstarch has thickened the whole thing and it’s nice and tight. Like pudding, you know.
Pour the pudding into a bowl or tupperware and cool to room temperature. Don’t put it in the fridge screaming hot, it’ll get all weird. When the pudding is room temp, cover with plastic wrap or a lid, and put in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Serve immediately once it’s chilled or use within 3-4 days.
This pudding is definitely sweet and creamy, with a slight warm caramel taste to it. It’s not overpowering, and it’s subtler than a Snack Pack, but it’s definitely good. Even better with chocolate sprinkles on top.