I'm always intrigued when comments to a recipe vary wildly from "loved it" to "hated it." So I was instantly curious to try Epicurious' Watermelon Pudding. Plus, you know, I have all this watermelon to eat up.
I read all the reviews and printed them with the recipe, and then promptly forgot to read them again while I was making it. So I sweated a bit over whether or not to add lemon, since one reviewer claimed it would prevent the pudding from jelling (though another refuted that claim).
After making it, I understand some of the agita. The mixture can behave a little oddly while boiling, appearing to separate. The cornstarch can clump up into a rock-hard lump and seem impossible to break through. The mixture can jell early on—so much so that it's hard to get it through the sieve at the end (which is a crucial step)—but then appear more liquidy later. It's one of those recipes where you have to calmly proceed as if you know what you're doing and hope that it all works out in the end (a good philosophy for any kind of cooking).
A few tips to help ensure your chance of success:
- It is important to make sure the mixture comes to a rollicking boil and continues to boil for a few minutes.
- The cornstarch MUST be completely dissolved before adding; even if it is stubborn at first it will mix in if you keep at it.
- At first I was tempted to skip the final sieving step because the mixture was so thick that I literally had to beat it through the sieve with surprising force, but I was glad I didn't: not only did it strain out the anise seeds, but there were strange gelatinous clumps that would have been most unappetizing in the finished product.
- I served these in shallow 4-ounce crème brûlée dishes, which I think is a portion size more appropriate for this texture—any bigger and it might just be a big ol' cup of goo.
Adapted from Epicurious.com
4 cups cubed watermelon
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
1 stalk of rosemary
Pinch of kosher salt
Squeeze of lemon juice
Garnish: plain yogurt, Watermelon Pickles, and mini dark-chocolate chunks or chocolate shavings
Puree watermelon in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a saucepan, pressing on pulp to extract all juice. Discard pulp.
Mix roughly 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of watermelon juice with cornstarch in a separate bowl until cornstarch is fully dissolved.
Add sugar, anise seeds, and rosemary stalk to pan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Whisk cornstarch mixture again and add to pan. Boil for at least 2 minutes, whisking occasionally (don't worry if mixture starts to separate—whisk again to combine). Remove from heat and add pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Pour gelée through a clean sieve—whisk if necessary to help it pass through sieve—into a glass measuring cup with a spout (you should have about 1 2/3 cup liquid). Pour evenly into 4-ounce crème brûlée dishes or shallow ramekins.
Chill, uncovered, until cold, at least 30 minutes. Cover loosely and chill until set, at least 3 hours.
Makes four 4-ounce servings.
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