My mother made most of our desserts. In the winter she made lots of pies and cakes, but often we had just berries, peaches or pears she had canned the previous summer. When we were lucky she would bake a shortcake and we would have blueberry or raspberry shortcake. And if we were really lucky, she would make vanilla pudding. Once you try it, you will understand why I still love warm blancmange with strawberries or raspberries, especially when it is cold outside.
She didn’t call her pudding blancmange. To her it was vanilla pudding, but it was what we call blancmange today: A slightly sweet dessert custard thickened with cornstarch. If you research the history of blancmange you will learn that it used to be made with almond milk and in the middle ages was a bland stew that included chopped fish or poultry and various seasonings.
No matter. I did not know that until long after I had grown up and left home, but I know that Mom’s vanilla pudding deserves to be called blancmange. The name gives it a certain elegance. This pudding is simple to make and is delicious served warm topped with fresh or frozen fruit.
1/2 cup sugar
6 T cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
4 cups milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Put about an inch of water in the bottom of the double boiler. Mix the sugar, salt and cornstarch together in the the top of the boiler. Add the milk slowly and stir well to dissolve the dry ingredients. Heat the mixture over boiling water in the double boiler and stir it constantly until it begins to thicken. You can tell when it has thickened enough when it leaves a creamy gravy-like coating on the spoon. Cover the mixture and allow it to cook another ten minutes.
Beat two eggs until they are lemon yellow. Stir about a cup of the hot milk mixture one tablespoon at a time into the beaten eggs. To ensure a silky custard, dribble the hot mixture into the eggs slowly while stirring vigorously with a whisk or fork. Then beat this egg and milk combination into the milk mixture. Cook for two minutes while stirring constantly.
Remove the custard from the heat, let it cool for about a minute and stir in one teaspoon of vanilla.
You can leave the pudding in the double boiler covered with a piece of waxed paper for an hour or so. Serve it warm with one or two tablespoons of fresh or frozen fruit over each serving. Or if you wish, spoon the warm pudding into dessert cups, chill and serve them with a fruit topping.