This was fairly simple to make. Making caramel can be intimidating when a thermometer is involved, but there is no thermometer needed here.
The first step involves combining the brown sugar, salt, and water in a saucepan and cooking it until it is really dark and nearly smoking. Then, you add in heavy cream and milk, which stops the cooking. As the mixture heats up, the cream and milk will combine with the caramel. While it cooks, you whisk together the eggs and cornstarch, which you add to the caramel mixture to temper it. This forms a custard. After the custard thickens, you add in some butter and rum, and you're done! Pour the custard into serving dishes and refrigerate, and right before serving, you can add caramel sauce and whipped cream.
The whipped cream is not sweetened, so it helps balance the rich sweetness of the budino. Additionally, it has creme fraiche in it, which adds a bit of a tang to help offset the sweetness.
To make this a little easier, I used a caramel sauce from Trader Joe's. I sprinkled a few flakes of fleur de sel (sea salt flakes) on top of the caramel before adding a dollop of the whipped cream. I think the salt helps to round out the flavor. Besides, in my opinion, salt usually makes anything taste better! :)
This was the ultimate dessert for a very successful pizza night! I added some small pistachio cookies with the budino, too. Enjoy!
Yields 10 servings
For the budino:
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1.5%)
3 egg yolks
5 tbsp. cornstarch
5 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tbsp. dark rum or pure vanilla extract
For the whipped cream:
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup creme fraiche
Fleur de sel, for garnish
10 oz. jar of caramel sauce, optional
For the budino:
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water, brown sugar, and salt. Stir often until the mixture become a smoking, dark caramel (about 10 to 12 minutes). The sugar will smell caramelized and nutty and turn into a deep brown. Once the mixture reaches the caramel state, immediately whisk the cream and milk into the caramel to stop the cooking. The mixture will steam and the caramel will bubble, but as you continue whisking, the mixture will "calm." Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolks, and cornstarch. Add a cup of caramel at a time into the egg mixture, and whisk constantly. When half of the caramel is incorporated, pour the egg mixture back into the caramel pot, and boil and whisk constantly until the custard thickens. Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the butter and rum. Divide the custard among ten 6-oz serving dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours or up to 3 days.
When ready to serve, if you are using the caramel sauce, heat the caramel sauce slightly and spoon a tablespoon of the caramel sauce onto each budino, and sprinkle a dash of flour de sel.
Then, whip the cream until it begins to thicken, and then add the creme fraiche. Spoon a dollop of whipped cream on top of the budino.
Source: Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles via the James Beard Foundation