Oscar Buzz & Salted Caramel Pudding

My girlfriend and I made a pact to see all the Oscar nominees for Best Picture before the show on Sunday. We’ve been working our way through the nine nominees — laughing, crying and yep, sometimes sleeping through them. Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

Argo
Zero Dark Thirty
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Les Miserables
Silver Linings Playbook

And here’s what we have left:
Django Unchained
Amour
Beasts of the Southern Wild

So far, we’ve loved Les Mis and Silver Linings. We both snoozed through Lincoln. Thought Life of Pi was visually stunning. Not in love with Zero Dark Thirty. And we’re split on Argo — I enjoyed and she didn’t.

But we both agree that this Salted Caramel Pudding would make an Oscar-worthy dessert. It’s golden and visually stunning, just like Oscar himself. You do have to make the caramel yourself, but as long as you watch carefully — don’t try to leave the stove and say, balance your checkbook — you’ll be just fine.

Salted Caramel Pudding

Salted Caramel Pudding

Ingredients

4 cups milk, divided

6 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

sea salt for garnish

Instructions

Whisk 1/2 cup of the milk with the cornstarch, vanilla and salt until smooth. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar with 6 tablespoons of water and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, NO STIRRING, until a deep amber caramel forms, about 8 minutes. Be patient but watch the stove like a hawk as caramel changes color quickly, and only burns when you think you are safe leave the room for a second. Remove from the heat. Very gradually whisk in the remaining 3 1/2 cups of milk. As you begin whisking it in, the caramel will get very dark, and likely make you nervous that you’ve burnt it. Don't panic...that darkness is FLAVOR!

Return the pot to the stove and whisk over moderate heat until the caramel has dissolved again. Once again, watch this closely as the milk will foam up quickly as it comes to a simmer. Simmer over moderately low heat until the mixture thickens slightly and deepens in color, about 10 minutes.

Gradually whisk the cornstarch mixture into the caramel. Cook again over moderate heat, stirring, until the pudding thickens, about one minute. If you want silky smooth pudding, pour the mixture through a strainer. (I skip this unless I'm serving for something special.) Scrape the pudding into eight 1/2-cup ramekins and refrigerate until chilled and set, about 2 hours. If you don't like the "skin" that forms on pudding, press plastic wrap directly on top of the puddings as they chill.

Just before serving, sprinkle sea salt over top.

Makes 8 small servings (or 4 large, if you're like me!)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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