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By the Book: Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino

January 3rd 04:01pm, 2012

010212_bookblogsizeWelcome to By the Book, a new weekly online column in which we try our hand at recipes from some of the many amazing cookbooks that come across our desks. We thumb through, pick a dish and then get cooking – revealing the recipe we chose and the results of our culinary journey. Scroll to the bottom of the post to find out how you can win a copy of the featured book and to see last week’s By the Book winner.

Me and my finacé love the Lakers, so as a gift to him last year, I bought him a pair of tickets to a game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. That’s the kind of gift you give with the knowledge that you’ll get to enjoy half of it. Selfish? Perhaps. But I had been waiting for a great excuse to visit LA and this was it.

Our first night there we went to Nancy Silverton’s Pizzeria Mozza. The meal was a memorable one, from the arancine alla bolognese to the fennel-sausage pizza with whipped cream. That’s right, whipped cream. But dessert is what I remember most fondly: We had butterscotch budino. Budino is Italian for “pudding,” and this budino was divine, so divine that former New York Times dining editor Frank Bruni called it “a pudding to shame all other puddings …” It was velvety and had layered sweetness with hints of whisky. It arrived hidden under a cap of dark, salted caramel sauce and a fluffy mound of creme fraiche whipped cream. It was a classic dessert invigorated with Silverton’s creativity. She is a pastry chef after all.

When I saw that she was coming out with a cookbook, I knew her budino recipe would be in there. (Turn to page 31 of the January issue of Sauce to see our review of the book.) And after making it out of that book, I’m happy to report that it tastes just as good at home as it did that day. Silverton gives clear, easy-to-follow and detailed instructions. This recipe is long but not difficult to execute; you just have to follow it. I did make one minor change: I substituted a teaspoon of vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, because I didn’t feel like spending an extra 6 dollars when I had extract in the fridge. (Forgive me. It was still delicious.) I would not overlook Silverton’s suggestion to use large saucepans to make the pudding and the caramel … especially the caramel. For that, I used a 5-quart dutch oven. I’m glad I did; otherwise I would have been in for a gigantic mess.


One thing that surprised me in Silverton’s instructions was her suggestion to use sour cream or creme fraiche in the whipped cream topping. This unexpected ingredient adds tang and offsets the sweetness of the pudding and caramel. It also stabilizes the whipped cream so, even though I refrigerated it overnight, the topping was still light and airy the next day.

Although this recipe is extremely long (Bless those fancy chefs’ hearts!), it’s something you can make in stages in advance if you so choose. You could, say, make the caramel two weeks before (It’s good for a month.), the budino 2 to 3 days before (It keeps well for 3 days in the fridge.), and then the whipped cream the day of. It may be lengthy, but it also allows you to be flexible. That, plus the insanely delicious final product, makes the extra effort oh-so worth it.

Butterscotch Budino With Caramel Sauce Maldon Sea Salt
12 Servings

Before we opened either restaurant, Dahlia and I scoured our favorite Italian cookbooks to get ideas for desserts we might want to offer. The one that seemed to be in every book was budino, or pudding. We decided to serve butterscotch pudding because we both love American butterscotch pudding. It immediately became our signature dessert in the Pizzeria. And it still is the most talked about, written about, dreamed about, and ordered dessert we offer— at either restaurant. Two things to keep in mind for the success of the pudding are, first, that you heat the sugar in a heavy- bottomed saucepan so you can cook it sufficiently without it burning. But the real “secret,” which our intrepid recipe tester Lyn Root taught us, is that if the smoke alarm in your house doesn’t go off while you’re cooking the sugar, chances are you haven’t cooked the caramel long enough. We serve these in glasses, such as highball glasses, which look really pretty because you can see the different layers of ingredients. It’s also convenient in that you probably have plenty of such glasses at home. You will need twelve heat-resistant 8-ounce glasses or 7-ounce ramekins to make this. (I used high ball drinking glasses because it’s what I had in my cabinet.)

For the budino:

3 cups heavy whipping cream
1½ cups whole milk
3 extra-large egg yolks plus 1 extra-large egg
5 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1½ tsp. kosher salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. Scotch whiskey

For serving the budino:

¾ cup caramel sauce (recipe below)
Maldon sea salt or another flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel
Whipped cream (recipe below)
24 1¼-inch rosemary pine nut cookies (optional) I didn’t make these.


Fill a large bowl with ice water and set a smaller bowl inside. Set a fine-mesh strainer in the smaller bowl.

To make the budino, stir the cream and milk together in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, egg and cornstarch together. Combine the brown sugar, salt and ½ cup of water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Cook the sugar, without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally for even cooking, until the sugar is smoking, nutty smelling and a very dark caramel color, 10 to 12 minutes. (Don’t be alarmed: The sugar will become foamy and lava-like with slow-bursting bubbles.) Reduce the heat to low and immediately add the cream-milk mixture in a thin, steady stream, stirring with a whisk as you add it. This stops the cooking process and prevents the sugar from burning. This will cause the sugar to seize, or harden. Increase the heat to high and cook until the seized sugar has dissolved and the mixture is liquid again, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat. Ladle out 1 cup of the hot cream and sugar mixture and gradually add it to the bowl with the eggs, whisking constantly to prevent the cream mixture from cooking the eggs. Continue adding the cream to the eggs until you have added half of the cream mixture. Gradually add the contents of the bowls to the saucepan with the remaining caramel, stirring constantly with a whisk, and cook the custard over medium heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the butter and whiskey.

Pour the custard through the strainer into the bowl set in the ice, and ladle it into the glasses or ramekins, leaving at least 1 inch of space at the top of each budino. Place the budini on a baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours to chill. (The budini can be prepared to this point up to 3 days in advance.) Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator, cover each budino with plastic wrap, and return the budini to the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.

To serve, if the caramel sauce cooled, warm it over medium heat until it returns to a loose sauce-like consistency and is barely warm but not hot. Remove the budini from the refrigerator and spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce on each budino. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and top each with a big dollop (about 2 tablespoons) of the whipped cream. Place each budino on a small plate, ideally lined with a small napkin or doily, and place two rosemary pine nut cookies, if you are using them, alongside each glass on the plate.

For the caramel sauce:
Makes about 2 cups

This recipe makes far more than you will need … but caramel is something you can’t make in small batches.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 whole vanilla bean I used a teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 Tbsp, unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup


Pour the cream into a medium saucepan. Using a small, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Use the back of the knife to scrape out the pulp and seeds and add the scrapings and the bean to the saucepan with the cream. Heat the cream over high heat until it just begins to boil. Turn off the heat and add the butter, stirring until it melts.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup and ¼ cup of water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook without stirring, swirling the pan for even cooking and brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush to remove the sugar crystals until the sugar becomes a medium amber color, about 10 minutes. (See note below)

Remove the caramel from the heat. Remove the vanilla bean from the cream mixture and discard the bean. Gradually add the cream mixture to the caramel, whisking constantly to thoroughly combine, taking care as the mixture will steam and bubble. Serve the caramel sauce, or set it aside to cool to room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Before serving, warm the sauce in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to melt it.

Note: I let mine go a little bit longer, around 14 minutes.

For the whipped cream:

Silverton adds creme fraiche or sour cream when serving whipped cream on desserts because she loves the tang that it adds. It also guarantees a smooth, dense and shiny cream.

1 cup very cold heavy whipping cream
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. creme fraiche or sour cream

Pour the whipping cream into a chilled bowl and whip it with a chilled whisk until it thickens to soft peaks. (See note below) Do not over whip the cream, as it will become curdled. Add the creme fraiche and gently beat it until the whipped cream is thick and mousse-like. (Use the cream or cover the bowl and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve it or for up to several hours. Before serving, whip gently to stiffen if it separated.)

Note: I did not chill the bowl and whisk and it was fine.


Excerpted from THE MOZZA COOKBOOK by Nancy Silverton with Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreno.  Copyright © 2011 by Nancy Silverton.  Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House.  All rights reserved.  No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

For a chance to win a copy of The Mozza Cookbook, tell us about a memorable dish you enjoyed at a local restaurant that you have tried to replicate at home in the comments section below.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Gwen whose explanation of her weekend cooking projects had us lusting for a snowy Sunday in the kitchen. It’s also won her a free copy of The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Weekends. Gwen, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew regarding your prize!

By Meera Nagarajan

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9 Responses to “By the Book: Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino

  1. matt Says:
    January 3rd, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I had these great stuffed little red pimiento peppers during the soft opening of The Civil Life Brewing Company. I think they had ham, provolone, and basil inside. It was great because it was an unexpected item on a short menu when they were really just focused on bigger things at the time, but that’s one of the great things about the place. Sure, a few things were rough around the edges but delighting their friends and soon-to-be-loyal clientelle was always top of mind. I know the dish is pretty simple and not all that difficult to replicate, but it inspired me to step it up with some prociutto, buffalo mozzarella, and basil stuffed inside. I topped it with a balsamic vinegar reduction for a little pop. It turned out great but would have been better paired with the American Brown I had the night I tasted the original!

  2. Kimberly Says:
    January 4th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I rarely try to recreate restaurant dishes at home, but the one I did attempt was the “Pla Song Kruang” from Basil Spice on South Grand. It’s a fillet of whole trout, deep-fried until outside is crispy, then topped with sliced green apples, red onions, carrots, cashews, cilantro, and lime juice.

    I was blown away the first time I had this dish; the flavors were so vibrant and there was this brilliant tang from the lime juice … it’s pretty much the only thing I order there now!

    I made it at home using local trout from Troutdale Farm and pan-fried the fish instead of deep frying it … the topping was quick and easy to make … and together, it was a winning combination!

  3. Lindsay Says:
    January 4th, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    I had a delicious bruschetta at Acero with blue cheese and honey. Very simple, but now I often put some blue cheese on a slice of good, crusty bread and top it with honey and warm it a bit.

  4. April Says:
    January 6th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Years ago I tasted fresh spring rolls for the first time at Lemongrass on South Grand. After dinner I ran down the street to Jay International and got all the ingredients to make my own. Now they are a staple at get togethers!

  5. Lauren Turner Says:
    January 6th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Banh Mi So……we ate the best, most flavorful Banh mi sandwich I just had to try at home. I made ground chicken meatballs with lots of fish sauce , garlic and thai basil, pickled carrots and onions, since I had no daikon, siracha mayo and cilantro on a crispy baguette..a really great sandwich.

  6. Sauce Magazine Blog » Blog Archive » By the Book: Jacob Kennedy’s Oyster and Prosecco Risotto Says:
    January 10th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    [...] now, we’d like to congratulate Kimberly whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won her a free copy of The Mozza Cookbook. Kimberly, keep an eye out for an email from [...]

  7. Michael Says:
    January 29th, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    2/3 cup cornstarch??????????? No way! Completely killed the flavor of the budino- made it so boring after it was fabulous before egg cornstarch was mixed in. This recipe is not correct.

  8. Kimberly Says:
    February 15th, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Saw this receipe in another location and it was 5T of constarch which makes a bit more sense

  9. Jane Says:
    February 17th, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    I was wondering why my budino was tasting kind of bland so I went searching in comments to find that the amount of cornstarch is double what the recipe calls for anywhere else its printed. I’m really disappointed after all that work that I now have to give these to my coworkers with a disclaimer.

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