Rich puddings, velvety mousses, and creamy custards have a double personality: They can easily serve as either comfort food or a silky, luxurious dessert that's fully worthy of company. Even if you're not intent on sharing, it requires hardly any extra effort to turn a simple custard into something complexly flavorful. Whether you're planning a fancy dinner party or just a binge-watching marathon, one (or more) of these 10 puddings, mousses, and custards will do the trick.
This probably isn't the dessert that comes to mind when someone mentions "banana pudding." No instant vanilla pudding, no sliced bananas mixed in, no Nilla wafers—instead, we steep banana and vanilla bean in milk for several hours to extract maximum flavor from the fruit, then whisk the milk with eggs to make a custard. The result is a dessert that's smooth, glossy, and intensely banana-flavored.
Craving the iconic, wafer-loaded banana pudding instead? This recipe, adapted from Magnolia Bakery's famous take on the classic, incorporates sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream for a particularly rich vanilla pudding. Alternating layers of vanilla pudding, ripe bananas, and Nilla wafers produces a nice interplay between the creaminess of the pudding and the soft bite of the cookies and sliced banana.
Don't be intimidated by the name. Crémeux is just a fancy word used by pastry chefs to describe any dessert that falls somewhere in the no-man's-land between mousse and pudding—a bit denser and creamier than mousse, but nowhere near as heavy as pudding. This banana crémeux is a perfect example of the balancing of textures—it's rich, creamy, and thick, yet simultaneously light and soft. Simmering the milk and banana low and slow ensures the deepest fruit flavor; as in the banana pudding recipe at the top, we also add a pinch of clove to the custard, which amplifies the banana flavor even further.
This eggless chocolate mousse manages to be both lighter and more flavorful than a classic mousse made with eggs, in part thanks to the creamy toffee notes of a homemade condensed milk. Before serving, we fold airy whipped cream—gently, so as not to deflate it—into the intensely chocolaty custard, leaving it perfectly light and creamy.
This rich, nutty, caramel-drenched flan is the ultimate treat for custard lovers. A higher-than-usual quantity of both cream and egg yolks yields an especially rich dessert. If you want to go the extra mile, take the optional (but highly recommended) step of toasting the dairy before making the custard, adding pleasantly nutty notes of toffee and toast to the final product. We also recommend baking this flan in a shallow dish, which helps ensure the perfect ratio of saucy caramel to creamy custard.
Though panna cotta is a timeless dessert that's hard to mess up, it can still definitely be improved upon. We keep our recipe nice and simple, but make sure to use a high-quality Tahitian vanilla bean, and give it a long steep in the milk and cream so that they absorb as much vanilla flavor as possible. Try adding to or replacing the vanilla with other aromatics as well—cinnamon stick, dried lavender, lemon zest, and fresh ginger are just a few possibilities.
This butterscotch pudding is exactly what you want to eat when you're snuggled up on the couch in your PJs, watching endless episodes of your favorite show. Pairing the softer sweetness of toasted sugar with malted milk powder and white chocolate, it also comes together in just 15 minutes on the stovetop. Though it's best eaten warm, we're not opposed to having a few cold spoonfuls straight from the fridge, either.
The nutty, toasted, chestnut-like flavor in this rich, silky custard comes from Japanese roasted-buckwheat tea (soba-cha), which we steep briefly in the heavy cream. We temper the eggs here by adding the hot cream to them while whisking constantly, so they won't scramble, and fine-strain the custard base to ensure the smoothest possible texture.
A perfect tiramisu balances the mild creaminess of the mascarpone filling and the slightly bitter kick brought by cocoa powder, espresso, and dark liqueur. Our version is less eggy than typical recipes, putting the creamy mascarpone front and center. For a truly knockout tiramisu, assemble it with Homemade Ladyfingers, and spring for quality booze—we favor a mixture of good crème de cacao and Cardamaro.
This airy, egg-free mousse gets richness and body from white chocolate, but fresh basil is the real star. It adds a lovely herbal note that's a strong complement to creamy dairy, and it tints the mousse a natural, mellow shade of green. A topping of fresh seasonal fruit, macerated with sugar if you like, makes this an ideal warm-weather dessert.
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