I recently saw the pudding episode of Good Eats. It was followed by an episode which featured custards. The technique & ingredients for these two dishes seemed quite similar. So I wonder, did I miss something or are custard & pudding somehow related. What IS the difference between custard & pudding?
According to Chowhound.com: ‘The classic American dessert known as pudding is a sweetened milk mixture thickened with cornstarch, then cooked. It has no eggs in it, and is also known as blancmange in fancy cooking terminology.’
It is important to note that there are other culinary creations withing various cultures which are also defined by the word ‘pudding’. Examples of this include Yorkshire, bread, and blood pudding; most of which are savory dishes.
My favorite culinary reference book, an encyclopedia of all things culinary, The New Food Lover’s Companion defines custard as, “a dessert made with a sweetened mixture of milk and eggs that can be either baked or stirred using gentle heat.”
So basically does all of this mean that pudding is a custard without eggs? If you take the eggs out of a custard recipe, will it turn out as a pudding? Not quite . . . because sometimes there’s an overlap. The article on Chowhound.com shows examples of cream puddings which use a custard base and are thickened by starch. An example of a cream pudding is pastry cream; the filling used in eclairs & Boston Cream Pie. From the description on BakingBites.com it sounds like pastry cream is similar to a tiramisu filling that I made recently. That’s a whole different rabbit hole though.
So, has the understanding of this quest been achieved? Kind of. I’ve eaten pudding on many occasions, so I understand the texture and taste. Crème brûlée is a dessert which I’ve eaten a couple times. It is more decadent than pudding and has a completely different mouth feel. Compared to pudding, which is smooth, fluid, & kind of squishy; custard is thick & firm with a gelatin-like structure.The structure of custard is due to the eggs. Strong proteins within the eggs allow custard to take shape in a way that pudding cannot.
So in a way, pudding & custard are cousins. They share a resemblance yet come from different families.
*After writing this conclusion I checked one more site & found a summary similar to my own. It is also important to note that I have tried my best to give proper credit to the research which I referenced as I understand the bad manners of plagiarism.