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Posted on Tue, May 22, 2012 : noon

National Vanilla Pudding Day: Don't understimate the simple but dazzling flavor of this dessert

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

It's National Vanilla Pudding Day, an occasion which celebrates the beauty of simplicity. There are no bananas or vanilla wafers in this pudding; no chocolate or butterscotch has been stirred in. This isn't being used as a custard for trifle or for a parfait. It is glorious all on its own!

Periodically, a debate pops up between chocolate lovers and vanilla afficionados.  I adore chocolate and will almost always prefer it over what seems to be plain ol' vanilla.  But it's a matter of the quality of the vanilla.  A rich, fragrant, luscious vanilla — using beans or pure extract to impart flavor — is a truly wonderful taste not to be underestimated.

And that's the beauty of this pudding: it lets the true vanilla essence shine through in a creamy, seductive dessert.

This pudding would be perfect for Shavuot [shah-voo-OTE], the two-day holiday celebrating receipt of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which begins Saturday at sundown. It would be especially lovely served with fruit; then it would honor both the dairy and the harvest traditions of the holiday, though the former is predominantly acknowledged. (To read my article about Roman food to serve for Shavuot, scroll down to page 25 of this month's issue of the Washtenaw Jewish News.)

Because chag ([HAHG] = the holiday) follows Shabbat ([shah-BAHT] = the Sabbath) and work is prohibited on all three days, here are some recipes that can be prepared ahead of time for your upcoming holiday weekend featuring both religious and secular celebrations. The recipes are also delicious for those who are still free to cook all weekend, and who are looking for great treats for the three-day break or for a Memorial Day barbecue.

Fried Ice Cream "Torah Scrolls"

Custard with Strawberry Sauce

Ricotta Cheese Pudding

Basil Parmesan Shortbread

Brownie Ice Cream Pie

Berries with Sweetened Sour Cream

Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love Tart

Cinnamon Roll Sundae

Fruit and Cheese Tidbits

Vanilla Pudding

3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups half-and-half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten

Place the cornstarch, salt, sugar and water into a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. As soon as the mixture is translucent, turn heat down to medium-low and whisk in half-and-half, vanilla, and eggs. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 10 minutes until the pudding is thickened.  Place into a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap pressed against the surface to prevent the formation of a skin, and refrigerate until cold.

Makes 8 servings.

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Mary Bilyeu writes about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

You should visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related.  And be sure to look for her monthly articles about holiday foods and traditions in the Washtenaw Jewish News.

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.