To celebrate, here's a quick recipe for a refreshing summer dessert that goes well with all the wonderful fruit that's in season now. I took my favorite chocolate pudding recipe, removed the chocolate, and added some nice touches. I'm calling it Vanilla + pudding because it's got a wonderful blend of flavors, much more nuanced than your average vanilla pudding! Enjoy.
1/6 to 1/4 C corn starch*
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C evaporated cane juice (sugar)**
1 tsp cinnamon
2 3/4 C whole milk (preferably that yummy non-homogenized grassfed stuff)
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 TBSP butter
1 ripe banana
flaked coconut for garnish
fresh raspberries or other fruit for garnish
Before making, assemble all your ingredients, 6 custard bowls, and slice up a banana into medium-thin rounds.
Sift corn starch, salt, sugar, and cinnamon into milk. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat this mixture gently over a medium heat, stirring regularly with a whisk.
When the pudding gets hot and starts to steam, it will begin to thicken and stick to the back of a spoon or whisk. Keep stirring as it thickens, but don't let it boil. Remove from heat. Add butter, vanilla, and almond extract. Once the butter is melted, stir it all together.
Put a banana slice or two into the bottom of each bowl. Pour the hot pudding into the bowls. Add another banana slice or two to the top. The banana will soften just enough to be delicious but not soggy. Sprinkle the top with coconut flakes.
Let cool at room temperature until no longer hot, then refrigerate 4-6 hours. The flavors in this pudding are subtle and while it's delicious warm, you'll have the most flavor when it's had a chance to chill and flavor. It's fabulous with fresh raspberries.
*Corn starch is probably not the healthiest thickener: processed, GMO, etc. Egg yolks are a great thickener for pudding, and there are many recipes that explain how to use them. However, I spend hours cooking already and dealing with eggs is the last thing I want to do when making an "easy" dessert. I figure that if we eat clean/organic 90% of the time, that's good enough! Bob's Red Mill cornstarch is great, but tends to be stronger than more conventional brands, so use a bit less.
**Jon and I rarely have sweets, so we've sort of lost our taste for sugar. With 1/2 C sugar, this recipe is sweet but not overwhelming. I thought I'd like it less sweet, so I tried it again with only 1/4 C sugar, but the pudding didn't set as well - it was a little runnier but still definitely still "pudding." Both tasted great.