First, what sort of difference are we dealing with here? Puddings are often made on the stovetop with whole milk and a bit of cornstarch whereas custards are most often baked and are generally firmer and creamier. Clark notes that "baked pots de crème, or custards, are superior to the stove-top-made cornstarch pudding in every way but one. The baked stuff does not form the same kind of slippery, sticky skin as the cornstarch kind."
So yes, we've learned that Melissa Clark is a lover of pudding skin. But other than that, she'll take a custard any day although she'll be the first to admit they have their quirks in terms or preparation. In her article, she de-bunks a few commonly held notions about baking custards, making the process easier for us all:
1. Custards usually require a water bath and recipes often call for a roasting pan. Clark says you don't need it and a 9 x 13 pan is just fine.
2. Forget boiling the water for your hot water bath. If it's hot, that'll do just fine.
3. Baking time for custard depends on how large your pan is, how full your ramekins are, the exact temperature of your oven and so many other factors. So use the cooking time on your recipe as a loose guide, and get to know the way a custard looks when it's finished: solidified but still jiggly in the center.
Process aside, which do you gravitate to? Are you a pudding skin lover like Melissa Clark or are you drawn to the often creamier, more substantial texture of a custard?
Our Favorite Pudding and Custard Recipes:
• Possets: The Simplest Custards Ever?
• Holiday Recipe: Baked Eggnog Custards
• DIY Chocolate Pudding
• Layered Lemon and Black Tea Pudding
• Lemon Rice Pudding
• DIY Vanilla Pudding
Related: Steamed Chocolate Pudding Cakes
(Image: Megan Gordon)