One of my favorite restaurants here in Reno, Campo, serves a wonderful dessert called “Caramel Budino”. It’s essentially a layered dessert with chocolate cookie crumbs, vanilla pudding, and a wonderful sea salt caramel topping, all served up in a cute mason jar. It’s to die for!
For our wedding anniversary this year I thought it would be fun to try to recreate this dessert. I already knew which pudding recipe I would use: the “Vanilla Layer” from the Split-Level Pudding recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. It’s my favorite vanilla pudding recipe!
Next, I had to find a worthy caramel sauce recipe. I found it when She Makes and Bakes published a Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce recipe earlier this year. This recipe made the rounds on the internet and was originally inspired by The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz. It was just what I wanted for this dessert.
Finally, the cookie crumbs. Why buy them when you can make your own? Actually, I probably would have bought some chocolate wafer cookies if I hadn’t recently made the Bouchon Bakery TKOs. I saved the scraps so I could turn them into cookie crumbs. Perfect!
Now, you could easily simplify this recipe by buying a high-quality caramel sauce and using a favorite vanilla pudding recipe, but I have to say that using all homemade, from scratch, ingredients really took this over the top. It was delicious!
Even if you don’t make the whole dessert, I encourage you to try the Sea Salt Vanilla Caramel Sauce. It is so good that I have eaten all the leftovers by the spoonful!
A quick shout-out to the Dorista’s favorite cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan. Her birthday is tomorrow (October 24). Happy Birthday Dorie!
- ¾ cup chocolate cookie crumbs (purchased or homemade)
- heavy cream, lightly sweetened and whipped
SEA SALT VANILLA CARAMEL SAUCE:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 ¼ cups heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cups whole milk
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
- 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Caramel Sauce:
Combine the 1 ¼ cups heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract and set aside.
Place the sugar in a heavy saucepan and spread in an even layer. Heat the pan on medium-low without stirring the sugar. When the edges of the sugar begin to liquify, gently stir with a silicone spatula until all the sugar melts and liquifies. If you are overeager like I was and stir too often or too vigorously, your sugar may clump. If this happens, stop stirring so much, and wait for the sugar to melt again.
Once the sugar is melted and is a deep amber color, remove it from the heat. Slowly whisk in the cream. Be careful! The caramel will bubble violently! Again you may see some clumping (I did). If you do, return the caramel to the heat and gently (and patiently!) stir until all the sugar is melted and you have a nice, smooth sauce.
Remove from the heat and stir in the sea salt and remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Allow the caramel sauce to cool for a few minutes, then place it in a heat-proof container for storage. A mason jar works well. Stores for several weeks in the refrigerator.
For the Vanilla Pudding:
Bring 2 cups of milk and 3 tablespoons of sugar to boil in a medium saucepan.
While the milk is heating, place the cornstarch and salt into a food processor and pulse to blend. Remove to a small bowl or piece of wax paper. Put the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and the egg yolks into the processor and blend for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, then add the remaining ¼ cup milk. Pulse a few times just to mix, then add the cornstarch mixture and pulse again.
With the food processor running, slowing pour in the hot milk. When the milk is blended in, pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until the pudding thickens and you see a few bubbles come up to the surface.
Pour the pudding back into the food processor. Add the butter and vanilla and pulse a few times until the pudding is smooth and everything is blended in.
Have ready 5 half-pint mason jars or 5 dessert bowls (clear is best to see the layers).
Place 2 tablespoons cookie crumbs in the bottom of each jar or bowl (you will have some left over; set aside). Divide the vanilla pudding evenly between each dish. Cover well and chill for at least 4 hours. If you wish to prevent a skin from forming on the pudding, press plastic wrap against the surface.
When ready to serve, drizzle a tablespoon or two of the Caramel Sauce on top of each serving (if the sauce is too stiff to drizzle, you may need to warm it up slightly). Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of cookie crumbs.
Note: You can top the budino with the caramel sauce a couple of hours in advance, but not longer.