From an outsider's perspective, I act like the typical Virgo -- meticulous about filing every single work email into the correct folder and subfolder in Outlook, fastidious about prepping and dividing my work lunches for the week into individual BPA-free tupperware, obsessive about the grammatical composition of every type of correspondence I author in the office.
You know, all the things that make me perilously close to losing my mind over a comma or hand-torn, homemade crouton being out of place.
As soon as I leave the office or the kitchen, however, a different side to my personality emerges -- a lazy, disorganized side that can't even be bothered to take in the mail for an entire week. And only then because it's so jam-packed that the mailman can't even fit the Trader Joe's "Frequent Flyer" newsletter in.
I can't stand sorting the mail, can't stand dealing with excess paper I have to recycle ("Frequent Flyer" included), and can't stand the impending clutter the non-recyclable papers will inevitably make on my coffee table because I'm "too tired" to actually file or shred it. I simply can't be bothered to do things like read the statement from my bank that is likely just there to inform me that I'm pre-approved for a loan, or open the Valentine's Day card my mom sent me lest I have to "deal" with the stray envelope.
My disorganization and procrastination extends far beyond the mail. I put off paying bills until the day before they are due, I shy away from calling to schedule personal appointments until they are forced upon me, and I do everything in my power to avoid doing my taxes every year.
Which brings me to budino.
A month ago, my brother and sister-in-law Amy went to the Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach for his birthday dinner. I was worried I'd hyped it up too much -- been too ecstatic about the sea salt-kissed crust, or the way the crackly skin of the squash blossoms gives way to a pillowy tuft of molten ricotta -- but my concerns were quickly put to rest. The next day, my brother called gushing about every aspect of their dinner -- from the burratta to the bianca to the famed butterscotch budino.
"And those cookies..." He said, his voice ensconced with reverie.
I asserted my agreement -- I too am a big fan of the rosemary pine nut cookies that come on the side of the budino.
"You want to make it for us?" He interjected, barely disguising what was clearly a serious request under a thin veneer of laughter.
"Do you know how complicated that recipe is?!" I scoffed, immediately dismissing the possibility that I would ever spend three hours making a dessert that, in its entirety, calls for 4+ cups of heavy whipping cream.
Two weeks after our phone conversation, however, faced with the impending arrival of tax day, I wasn't quite as quick to dismiss the possibility -- or the excess amounts of whipping cream.
"I'll make the budino and the cookies for Easter if you do my taxes for me again this year." I emailed my brother, no longer concerned that it would take me an entire afternoon between the grocery shopping, rosemary-foraging and component-prepping.
"It's a deal... and Amy is pregnant so requests an extra large serving!" He responded, his words instantly driving fear into my heart as I realized the enormity of what I'd just offered.
"Can I do it?" I wondered for the next two weeks, unsure whether my mere mortal self could replicate something the Nancy Silverton had perfected without a single red curl falling out of place. Clearly I was doomed to fail -- doomed to a fate of curdled, burnt pudding, dry cookies with black bottoms, and a pile of tax documents I didn't have the motivation to open, let alone file.
Yet as I began to break down the recipes into their various parts, the fear slowly dissolved. Instead of shying away from the steps like I shy away from the mail that is still stuffed inside my at-capacity mailbox, I felt energized by the prospect of the project -- and the prospect of eating the iconic Mozza dessert in the comfort of home.
As I ladled the caramel sauce over each budino, finishing it off with a tuft of whipped cream and flourish of salt, I felt satisfied in a way I never am when I'm pressured into taking care of the business matters that clutter my world outside the office. It wasn't drudgery -- it was worth every step, every twist of the wrist, every dirty dish.
Particularly when I slid my spoon through the glossy puddle of caramel and took that first Mozza-perfected bite. I knew without a single doubt that I'd truly scored the sweet end of the deal.
Butterscotch Budino with Caramel Sauce and Maldon Sea Salt
Makes 12 servings
Lightly adapted from The Mozza Cookbook
Adaptations: I used dark Rum instead of Scotch whiskey, and used good quality vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean so the procedural directions below differ a bit from the recipe in the book. I also halved the quantity of the caramel sauce and played around a bit with the proportions in the whipped cream based on a different version of the same recipe I found online.
For the Budino:
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 extra-large egg
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dark Rum
Combine the heavy whipping cream and milk in a medium bowl with a lip and set aside. In another medium bowl (yes, a second bowl - the amount of dishes you'll dirty in this recipe is daunting in itself), whisk together the egg yolks, egg and cornstarch until well integrated and frothy. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and cook the sugar, salt and 1/2 cup of water until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat up to medium-high and continue cooking without stirring for 10 or so minutes, swirling occasionally to ensure it cooks evenly. The mixture will look a bit lava like, bubbling up and what not, but this is totally normal -- just let it keep doing its bubbling, lava-like thing until it turns a deep, dark caramel color. Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the cream/milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly to integrate with the caramelized sugar. Take caution to not add it too quickly -- the pan will be very hot and the mixture can very easily bubble over. (I know this because it bubbled over a bit for me... oops!) Continue whisking and cooking for a few more minutes over medium heat (again, attending closely to it so it doesn't boil over and make a horrible mess all over the stove and possibly the floor.) Turn off the heat, and ladle out 1 cup off the hot cream and sugar mixture and gradually add to the eggs, whisking constantly so the eggs don't scramble. Continue adding the cream until half the mixture has been incorporated, then gradually add the egg/cream back to the saucepan, continuing to whisk constantly to keep the texture smooth. (This is especially important if you plan not to strain the pudding like some of us lazy folk. Ahem, me.) Cook the custard over medium heat for a couple more minutes until it start to bubble a bit and takes on a consistency that's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the butter and rum.
Here, the recipe suggests straining the custard into a bowl set in ice to hasten the cooling process and remove any lumps. I skipped both steps and instead directly ladled the budino into deep glasses. Per the instructions, I transfered them to the fridge and let them chill, uncovered, for 3-4 hours before covering with pastic wrap. (Note: Budino can be stored like this for 3 days.)
For the Caramel Sauce:
Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Pour the cream into a medium saucepan and heat the cream over high heat until it just begins to boil. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla and butter, whisking until it melts.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, light corn syrup and 2 tablespoons water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over low heat, until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, without stirring, only swirling the pan from time to time so it cooks evenly, until the sugar mixture turns a deep amber color (about 7-10 minutes).
Remove the caramel from the heat and gradually whisk in the cream mixture until it is thoroughly integrated. Place hot pan in an ice bath to cool then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. Before serving, gently warm the sauce in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
For the Whipped Cream:
1/2 cup very cold heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream (may also use creme fraiche
Pour the whipping cream into a medium sized bowl with tall sides. Whip it with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Do not over whip as it will take on a stiff, buttery like texture (undesirable for this here budino). Add the sour cream and gently beat it for another minute or until the whipped cream is thick, but still soft and mousse-like.
For Budino Assembly:
Fleur de sel/Maldon sea salt
Rosemary Pine Nut Cookies (see below)
Pour a couple tablespoons of the gently warmed caramel sauce over the top of each budino. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt. Serve 1-2 cookies on the side.
Rosemary Pine Nut Cookies
Lightly adapted from The Mozza Cookbook
Notes: Because pine nuts are $27 a pound at my local Whole Foods, I opted to use slivered almonds instead. I also used good quality vanilla instead of a vanilla bean in the nougatine. Finally, I rolled the dough into a log to "slice and bake" the cookies rather than rolling it out and going the cookie-cutter method.
For the Nougatine Topping:
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons mild-flavored honey (I used clover)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup lightly toasted slivered almonds, chopped
1 sprig rosemary
In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, combine the cream, sugar, honey, and butter. Cook over high heat, stirring once or twice, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat, quickly add the vanilla, then whisk in the sifted flour. Pour the mixture into a bowl and fold in the almonds and rosemary. Let sit for 15 minutes, infusing with the rosemary, before removing the sprig. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. (Can be kept up to a week.)
For the Dough:
1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal (polenta)
2 heaping tablespoons rosemary tufts
Combine the butter and sugar in a standing mixer bowl (or large mixing bowl). Beat with the paddle attachment (or an electric handheld mixer if you don't own a standing one) on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl if it starts to crawl up the edges. Once the batter is smooth and creamy and looks slightly like peanut butter in texture (approximately 5 minutes), add the vanilla and salt and mix to incorporate. Add the flour and polenta and mix on the lowest setting until thoroughly combined. Do not over stir.
Lightly flour your hands and a work surface. Knead the dough together into a ball, then roll out into a 2-inch thick log. Wrap in parchment paper or press and seal wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a slip pad.
Remove the dough from the fridge and slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Evenly distribute approximately an inch a part on the baking sheet, then place two rosemary tufts radiating out from the center of each cookie.
Work the nougatine into thin disks about the size of a nickel and place in the center of the cookie, on top of the point where the rosemary tufts meet.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown around the edges and the nougatine has darkened. (My nougatine didn't get particularly dark so I just removed when the edges of the cookies looked toasty enough for my tastes.) Let cool for a minute on the sheet, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.