Butterscotch is one of my favorite flavors. I mean, creamy, smooth, caramelized brown sugar plus butter? What’s not to love?! I used to eat Werther’s Originals and Lifesavers butterscotch candies like diabetes was nothing anyone had to worry about. The butterscotch budino at Redd? Definitely one of my favorite restaurant desserts. Despite all that, I’ve never made butterscotch pudding. I looked at the butterscotch budino recipe in Mozza but couldn’t justify making so many servings of a dessert I worried I would eat all by myself. Then Baked Sunday Mornings posted the recipe schedule for Baked: New Frontiers, thus encouraging me to give butterscotch pudding a try in the form of these adorable and easy little butterscotch pudding tarts.
As I (and other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers) have mentioned a few times – the first Baked cookbook is a little sparse on the details. Ingredient amounts are given only by volume, not by weight. It took me way longer than it should have, but after converting to a baking-by-weight believer, that’s the only way I want to bake now. So, I converted all the volumes in the butterscotch pudding tarts recipe to weights, according to the King Arthur conversion table. Also – strangely – the oat+wheat pie crust calls for milk, but doesn’t mention a percent milk fat. Since the butterscotch pudding calls for whole milk, I used whole milk in the crust as well.
The crust was really easy to make. Oats in the food processor are coarsely ground (not all the way to flour). To these are added the flours, brown sugar, and salt, which are pulsed together to combine. Cold cubed butter goes in next, and it is pulsed in until the mixture looks like coarse, crumbly sand. Drizzle in the (whole) milk, and pulse a few more seconds. Turn everything out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, form the dough into a large disk, and wrap the dough disk in the plastic wrap for at least an hour (I prepared mine 48 hours in advance).
Making custards always worries me (what if I scramble the eggs? what if I don’t get it thick enough? what if it tastes gummy/cornstarch-y?), but this butterscotch pudding was actually really easy. The starter caramel came together easily, and the pudding itself started thickening before it came to a boil. After coming to a boil, removing from the heat to whisk in the caramel, then tempering the egg yolks with the hot milk-caramel mixture, and finally bringing it back to a boil for 2-3 minutes, the pudding was definitely quite thick. I added vanilla extract at this point, instead of using a vanilla bean during the cooking, and I added an extra tablespoon of butter “accidentally” (plus the whiskey). Whiskey in dessert recipes always worries me. Caleb is not a big alcohol-in-dessert fan, and I worried the 2 tablespoons of whiskey in the butterscotch pudding would overpower the dessert. I thought about leaving it ought, but talked myself into trying the recipe as written at least the first time. Glenfidditch whiskey is what we had at home, so Glenfidditch whiskey is what went into the pudding. When I first tasted the butterscotch pudding, the whiskey flavor was right on the line of too much, not only for my palate but according to my friends as well. However, after the two-hour refrigeration time, the whiskey flavor had lessened substantially, so much so in fact that I really couldn’t taste the whiskey anymore, just the added richness and deep caramel flavor. The only thing I would do differently next time is to use the right brown sugar. I bought dark brown sugar specifically for making the butterscotch pudding, but I made these at a friend’s house and forgot the sugar at home, so I wound up using light brown sugar instead. I think the pudding would have been noticeably improved by the rich, molasses/caramel flavor from dark brown sugar.
Rolling out the crust dough was pretty messy. Pieces of oat flakes got everywhere and the dough itself was quite sticky. I opted to roll pieces of dough out into rough circles in between two pieces of parchment, then finagle the dough into the tartlet molds. I’m not sure whether to blame tart pan manufacturers or recipe writers, but all the tartlet recipes I’ve seen recently yield 8 4-inch tartlets, whereas all the 4-inch tartlet pans I’ve seen in cookware stores, etc hold only 6 tartlets at a time. I already have a “problem” with too much kitchen equipment; there’s no way I am going to stock two ($30+) tartlet pans in my kitchen. Instead, I opted to make 6 regular sized tartlets and make mini-tartlets out of the remaining crust dough using a muffin pan as the mold. The recipe mentions there might be some leftover crust dough. I had a total of 18.75 ounces of crust dough, so using 2 ounces of dough for each 4-inch tartlet (as specified), I had enough dough for another 6 mini-tartlets.
In hindsight, there are two things I would do differently with the tartlet crusts. First and most importantly, I should have buttered the tartlet/muffin pans. It doesn’t say to do that in the recipe, but my crust stuck rather disastrously to the pans. It required two teeny spatulas and a lot of focus to get the tartlets out without complete disaster. I did butter a few of the molds as an experiment, and these released much more easily. Secondly, I should have blind-baked the crusts for longer. I baked both the tartlet pan and the muffin pan crusts for 15 minutes, and the 4-inch tartlet crusts were not sufficiently toasted and crisped. Instead the crust was really fragile – they were difficult to extract from the tartlet pan without mangling them and they drooped when trying to eat them. I wish I had seen Dafna (Stellina Sweet)’s comment about baking the crusts at 350 F instead of 325 F earlier! On the other hand, the muffin pan-sized tartlets were the perfect size, easy to eat, with a crisped toasty crust, and an excellent pudding-to-crust ratio.
Butterfinger candy isn’t something I’ve eaten since I was really, really young and got it in my Halloween bucket, so I wasn’t planning to bother with it here. However, my friend convinced me to have the guys pick us up a bar when they went to the store and I’m really glad she/they did. The butterfinger candy added the right counterbalance to the butterscotch pudding tarts and kept the centers from being one-dimensional in texture.
All in all, I really liked these butterscotch pudding tarts from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. I will definitely be making them again in the future, albeit probably the mini-sized versions only. Head over to Baked Sunday Mornings for the recipe and to see what the other bloggers thought about these cute creamy tarts.