Monday, November 26, 2012

Let's Go WAY South of the Border: Brazilian Pudim

Hi everybody! Jan here, with a dessert so marvelous and easy, you'll be famous!

Giselle's Perfect Pudim
This is Pudim (pronounced "pud-jeen", with the accent on the second syllable). It's a favorite dessert in Brazil.

We call this wonderful concoction "flan", like in Mindy's post here, but there are some differences that take us from Texas to Brazil.

My friend, Giselle, who grew up in Brazil, wanted to share her recipe for Pudim with us, so she invited a group of us to her house last week to learn to make her favorite dessert, and it was so much fun, we decided to do it more often!

The secret, like most recipes, is in the method....

First, Giselle starts the caramel. She pours one cup of sugar into a pan and turns her stove on to medium heat.

"How long?" we ask.

"Until it makes caramel."

"Don't you have to stir it?" We all shift uncomfortably. We know what burned sugar smells like.

"No, you don't mess with it. If you stir it, it just sticks to the spoon. Once in awhile lift and twist the pan, but don't stir it."

Nervous laughter.

"Oh, and you don't walk away."

Sighs of relief. The sugar wouldn't be abandoned. It wouldn't suffer the ignoble death of burning.

And then Giselle walks away.

"While it's heating, you make the batter." On the other side of Giselle's spacious kitchen. Leaving sugar on the stove.

More nervous laughter.

"In your blender, put in one can of sweetened condensed milk." Giselle opens the can and poured it into her blender. "Not the evaporated milk. You need to use the sweetened condensed."

We make notes.

"Now add one and a half cans of milk."

Giselle measures whole milk into the empty condensed milk can.

"You can use skim milk and other low-fat ingredients, but I like the rich taste of the real milk."

Giselle is my kind of cook :)

"Now add four eggs, one half teaspoon vanilla, and one teaspoon cornstarch."

"Real vanilla?" someone asks.

"Oh, yes. Real vanilla."

Giselle hesitates.

"The cornstarch is not necessary. It's optional. I like to add it as insurance so the batter isn't runny. My mother says no."

(That is the first hint of Pudim culture. More later.)

Now, all the time Giselle is opening cans and measuring, we've been taking turns hovering over the sugar on the stove.

Giselle comes over to take a look.

"Oh yes," she says, not touching it, "it's beginning to melt."

Back at the blender, Giselle turns on the switch.

"Blend it for a couple minutes. Maybe three or four, until it's well blended. Then you wait for the caramel to be done."

"When will you know it's done?" we ask.

"When it is brown. Very dark brown. You can do it lighter, but I like it very dark."

Giselle lifts the pan and twists it a little, letting the dark brown liquid mix with the yet unmelted sugar.

"It has to be all liquid, though. If you don't leave it long enough, it will be separate and grainy."

She abandons the sugar again and it bubbles in protest.

Giselle reaches into her cupboard for her pan.

"When I first moved here, I couldn't find a pudim pan, so I used a bundt cake pan."

She shows us a cake pan.

"See how the middle is high enough so the pudim won't spill into it as it bakes."

Then she shows us her pudim pan.

"The pudim pan has a closed center, see? I bought this one on a trip home."

Once the caramel is completely dark brown, she pours it into the pudim pan.

"Swirl the caramel around to coat the sides of the pan."

And then Giselle pours the batter that has been resting in the blender into the pudim pan.

"Now you cook it."

There are several ways to cook the pudim, but they all share a most important step: the pudim must be covered tightly with foil to keep water vapor from getting in and spoiling the pudim.

Cooking method one: Set the covered pudim pan in a 9"x13" pan of hot water in a 350 degree oven. Bake it for one and a half hours.

Cooking method two: Find a large pot that your pudim pan can rest in like a double boiler. Put plenty of water in the bottom pan so it doesn't boil dry, and keep it boiling. This method takes thirty minutes.

Cooking method three: If you have a pan with a lid, it only takes twenty minutes on top of the stove.

I did some research on-line and found an official pudim double boiler with a lid. It's expensive enough that I think I'll stick to Giselle's method, but if you're interested, here's the link.

 How do you know if the pudim is done?

Insert a knife halfway between the edge and center of the pan. If it comes out clean, the pudim is done.

Cool the pudim in the pan. Set it on a cooling rack for about an hour, and then refrigerate it. Overnight is best.

When you're ready to serve it, run a knife along the edge of the pan and invert the pudim into a dish with sides. There will be caramel in the bottom of the pudim pan. Pour this over the top of your pudim. If it runs down the sides, that's good.

Now to some pudim culture.

Giselle's "fluffy" pudim
About half way through our cooking lesson, our friend Claudia joined us. Claudia is also from Brazil, but had never met Giselle before she and her family moved to our city.

Sadly, our little party was also something of a going-away party for Claudia. She and her family moved back to Brazil on Thursday after only six months with us :(

The family had moved here knowing no English (Portuguese and German, yes, but no English. Claudia's husband is from Germany).

Giselle serves us a pudim she had made earlier in the day. We can tell she isn't happy with it, but it tastes fabulous.

Claudia takes a bite.

"Mmm." She nods. "It's a bit...fluffy? No?"

We look at her.

"Fluffy? Is that the right word?" She says the word she means in Portuguese, and Giselle agrees with her. Fluffy is the word she means.

Then Giselle laughs. It's part of having pudim, she explains. Brazilians have it often, and everyone makes it a slightly different way. When it's served, it has to be critiqued, but in a friendly way.

And, of course, no one makes it as well as mother does. It doesn't matter whose mother.

Giselle and Claudia's children enjoying the feast
By the way, the next day Giselle told me she had made a mistake with that pudim - she had used baking powder instead of cornstarch. No wonder it was "fluffy"!

Now for the recipe:

Caramel Flan (Pudim)


1 cup sugar (for caramel)

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cans milk
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Make caramel out of the one cup sugar by cooking it on the stove.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the sweetened condensed milk, milk, eggs, vanilla and cornstarch. Blend for 3-4 minutes.

Pour caramel into a pudim or flan pan; swirl pan to coat bottom and sides. Pour batter into pan. Cover tightly with foil.

Set dish in a 9"x13" pan with hot water. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Or cook in a double boiler on stove for 30 minutes.


  1. I paid VERY CLOSES attention to this post.

    My husband loves flan.

    I've made flan.

    It was a giant flan fail. Grainy, flubbery, a little bit soupy.

    Ahhhhh. I think I'll try again. Wish me luck! And I if I succeed, my hubby may just turn into a happy camper!

    1. You know, Virginia, I haven't tried making it yet, but Giselle made it look sooo easy.

      Let us know how your re-attempted flan turns out!

    2. Wait, wait, wait! What is my daughter doing signed into my computer???

      That comment was from me...

  2. Jan, thanks for sharing this! What a fun time to get to watch! I was totally cracking up at your worry over the caramel. I would be the same way. :)

    This looks pretty simple! I'll have to try it. Did you grease the pan? I'll have to use my Bundt pan that has a non-stick surface. Still not sure about greasing it, though.

    1. Giselle didn't grease the pan, but it came out just fine. The Bundt pan she used before she got her pudim pan was non-stick, so either would work.

      And you should have seen us hovering over that sugar on the stove! We're just a bunch of worrywarts, that's for sure. Giselle had no worries at all :)

    2. Oh, and if you use a bundt pan, be sure to seal the hole in the center of the pan so water vapor doesn't get to the pudim that way while it's steaming.

      I'm not sure what will happen if the pudim gets wet, but it's bad.

  3. Thanks, Jan! I'll be sure to cover the hole.

  4. YUUUUM!

    That's all that needs to be said, Jan.

  5. I just read this post to my kids. We cackled at the 'bubbled in protest'!

    Too funny!

  6. hmm this might be something I can try - except I can never cook anything without the water boiling over...but at least there's no yeast and I might like to challenge myself not to burn the sugar(never burned sugar but never cooked sugar either - thought you melted brachs caramel candy to get caramel)

    seriosly though some of these recipes ya'll have reached the point of really needing to post videos instead of just photos - just sayin'!


  7. Highly entertaining, suspenseful read. The whole time I was on the edge of my seat wondering if the sugar was going to burn! LOL
    I don't know if I'd be brave enough to do that. The flan, I'd like to try though. My mum made the best flans and I've never mastered the art. The Irish topping is homemade jam and whipped cream though. That sounds safer to me. :-)