I've been eating a lot of vegetables in the past month since my farm share began. But one can only eat so many leafy greens before they get a hankering for sweets. Actually, I can get a hankering for sweets without ANY eating of vegetables, but that's beside the point.
I was craving something simple, unfussy, and of course sweet - and I recalled this article from Smitten Kitchen on caramel pudding. Perfect!
Only five ingredients. Even I can handle that. You start by caramelizing the sugar, which I've never done before. What a concept - you can make your own caramel, instead of buying the ice cream topping jar that says "caramel"! Sugar and water is all it takes (shown above).
Then you let it boil. You have to watch it carefully during this stage (does that slow down the boiling process...?). It boils, and nothing happens, and it boils some more, and still nothing happens, and then suddenly you have:
Toasted sugar! And then you have to quickly move along, before it burns. There is a thin line between caramel and burned sugar, and that line is somewhere between "toasted toffee" tan and "roasted coffee" black. So I had to stand there on my toes, pot holder at the ready. Navigating that small window of opportunity was nerve-wracking. They should make a reference Pantone color card for this purpose.
My mother tells a story of herself when she was small and making no-bake cookies, which harden quickly after they boil. Apparently, my mother as a child was very stressed about the hardening process. Must. Spoon. Onto. Waxpaper. QUICK before the cookies are RUINED!
I am of the opinion that you cannot ruin no-bake cookies. I think the stress was just a useful excuse to eat another cookie to calm down. :)
These pudding cups work the same way. Caramelizing too stressful for you? Here, have another serving.
Stressful or not, they tasted fantastic! I can't promise I will never buy another jar of caramel topping, but I do look forward to trying this again. I've been informed that cane sugar is excellent for caramelizing, so I may attempt that. And hey, if it doesn't turn out, I'll just try again and have an extra serving for my trouble. :)