Adventures in Ratio Baking: Turning Custard Into Pudding

So, a while ago, one of my bloggy friends (hi, Lisa!) asked something about pudding. I didn’t have an answer then about the difference between custard and pudding as they sound a lot alike. Since then, I’ve ended up with egg yolks on my hands and no good idea of what to use them for. I decided to finally look into what, exactly, pudding is.

It’s so simple it almost made me want to roll my eyes. Add a thickener, like flour or cornstarch, and you get pudding. Yes, that’s right. Pudding is little more than custard with a bit of starch mixed in (the eggs are actually optional though my research tells me adding them is an old-fashioned thing. Well, I do tend to be old-fashioned!). Oh, and you can’t forget the sugar. Unless you’re going for unsweetened pudding.

Custard calls for a 2:1 ratio of dairy to eggs. Pudding, as I mentioned, does not require eggs. But I had eggs, so I used eggs. Non-eggy pudding uses dairy, sugar, and a thickener (eggs are considered a thickener, so, you see, fits perfectly with the custard ratio).

Now, I make custard by dumping the eggs and dairy into the bowl and heating them together. Pudding takes a different approach, which I screwed up the first time, of course.

The first time, I made it like custard and added some sugar, vanilla extract, and some cornstarch at the same time. It wasn’t bad, but I could tell something was off.

The second time around, I followed the proper method. I had 3 egg yolks, so doubled their weight to get the weight of my milk. The recipes I looked through indicated about a quarter cup of cornstarch and sugar for a bit more egg than that, so I cut down the cornstarch, hoping that it would be okay to add it later on. I do like sweet, so I went with the full quarter cup. Maybe a bit more. And maybe I did add some chocolate kisses at the end. Maybe.

Anyways, here’s the proper way to making pudding by using the custard ratio.

The sugar and cornstarch are whisked together first.

Then the dairy is added and it’s all heated double boiler style (mixing bowl settled on top of a pot of boiling water) until hot. At this time, the eggs are just hanging out, but, once the dairy mixture is hot, add a tablespoon or so to the eggs and whisk it in. This will help temper the eggs and help ensure no cooked eggy bits in the pudding.

Now the tempered eggs can be added to the bowl and whisked until thick. I like chocolate pudding, of course. So, before it reached my desired thickness, I added in some cocoa powder, just a few tablespoons, and some vanilla extract. And maybe two or three chocolate kisses. Then I cooked it to my desired thickness.

I don’t trust myself to cook this perfectly and not have any cooked eggy bits, so I strained it into a bowl before transferring it to an 8 ounce glass jar. As you can see, only about half of it was filled. Yeah, 3 egg yolks doesn’t yield much pudding. But, gosh, was it good!

Chocolate Pudding - making pudding using the ratio for making custard

So, there you have it. Custard and pudding are related and use the same ratio, but differ in preparations. Oh, and pudding uses a thickener like flour or cornstarch or gelatin.

  1. Lisa R. Howeler

    Thanks, Kat! Now I now the difference! I suppose I could have googled it but I forgot to do that after we chatted about it the last time and this was much more entertaining to read! Growing up we always just dumped the jello brand pudding mix in a couple cups of milk and my mom brought the milk to a boil and stirred it on the stove. That’s one thing she didn’t make homemade!

  2. Autumn

    Chocolate pudding is the one thing I go hardcore lazy with, and I use the boxed instant mix — probably doesn’t taste as good as homemade, but its nice having easy treats every now and then. One time I added gummy worms and topped it with crushed oreos, and the kids thought I was a weirdo for doing that.

    • kat

      Box mix is probably a lot easier. If my kids actually liked chocolate pudding, I’d probably do the same. Come to think of it, they’d probably think gummy worms and oreos would be gross (they’re weird purists when it comes to food – no toppings of any kind allowed), but my brother would have thought you were really cool.

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