Caramel Pudding (Non-Fiction Short Story)
Written as the second of two essays, for my final submission in a university creative writing class.
I didn’t think that I would be writing something like this, but during a feedback session with my classmates regarded an essay I wrote (which ended up being the first essay I submitted for the final submission), the only classmate that gave a negative feedback told me that she couldn’t hear my ‘voice’ in my narrative.
And so I decided to write one full of sass towards that commentator — — Naaaah, haha, I’m kidding. But those words did strike me though, so full of retaliation I wrote this with a really nonsensical tone. It was partially inspired by other recipe-like-non-recipe pieces, one particularly by Nicholson Baker, who was actually at my university at that time as a resident writer and whose reading I attended.
And, before you ask: yes, I’m a sarcastic bastard. But only in writing. Or, maybe not really. I really am sarcastic. Only when I’m in the mood for it, hehe.
Readability — 4th grade
Est. Reading Time — 00:05:15
Let’s make a caramel pudding. Take note that many things could go wrong, so be sure to follow my instructions well. Or you don’t have to, because things go wrong for me despite my close adherence to the steps. This is baking, after all. It needs precision. And we are all just patisserie-wannabes who want to make puddings either for our own consumption or just to impress someone. Yeah, don’t try to deny it. We know what it is you’re here for.
So firstly, you’ll need to get milk. Because we need precision, I have to tell you that you need two cups of milk (we are making for 4, by the way). Otherwise I would have told you to just judge by your eyes. But I’m nice, so I’ll tell you to get two cups of milk. Cook it in a pan with half a cup of sugar until the sugar melts. Make sure it doesn’t boil. If bubbles start forming on the top then you’ll have to restart it. This is also the reason why I’m telling you to do this first, for chances are if you fail at this step, you’ll burn your caramel in the next.
When making the caramel, make sure you have more than one pan. But first take your least favourite one, and boil half a cup of sugar with four tablespoons of water. Yes, boil them. Let the sugar melt and the bubbles form. Then everything will start to yellow. Don’t panic when it does and take it out too early, for it usually stays yellow for quite a while. You can try it out with a big fire first. There’ll be plenty of smoke too, so take note of that. Practically everyone burns the caramel on their first try, so I know for certain that you would too. The moment you smell something burning, take it off the fire, put it in the sink, and let water run from your tap into the pan. Enjoy the sizzling sound. Say good bye to your least favourite pan, for you now have a reason to throw it.
To make proper caramel, I’ll suggest you don’t use too big a heat or the yellowing process would speed into black before you even notice it. Boil the sugar and water until they turn brown. It can be hard to judge the colour if your pan is black, so use a silver or a white pan if you can. Otherwise you’ll have to use a transparent spoon or ladle (or a white one, if the transparent ones are impossible to find), take a scoop and hold it up to the light. It’s like holding the baby cub in The Lion King. Make sure the caramel is slightly darker than the cub in your imagination.
(By the way, you’re to mix the caramel by swirling it around the pan. You’re not supposed to stir the caramel with a spoon while boiling it — Huh? You already did that? Oh well, it’s not that important I guess. It’ll still taste great, don’t worry about it. Actually, I don’t even know why we can’t use a spoon. I doubt it would make a difference.)
Once you’ve boiled the caramel, it’s time for the tricky bit. If you can get through this stage you can get through the rest of it. Now, pour the caramel that you have cooked into four different pudding moulds. I have no idea what kind you have with you, but usually ceramic or glass would do. Please don’t get metal or plastic or wood. I doubt any crazy person would manufacture bowls with those materials and call them pudding moulds. The material is important because the wrong one could make your pudding collapse into an unrecognisable heap, and instead of a pudding you’ll be getting a valley… or something. What do you call something with a ditch? Oh yeah, a ditch. You’ll be getting a ditch.
Anyway, where was I? Yes, the caramel. Caramel hardens when it cools and it cools really fast so make sure you do this faster. Pour them into the four moulds you have prepared — What, I’ve already said that? Okay then… Have I mentioned that you need to spread it around, to make sure the caramel covers the entire base? That should be common sense!
Grab six eggs, crack them into a bowl and then beat them till they are nicely mixed. Add two teaspoons of vanilla extract while you’re at it too. We are not making a cake, so no need to beat the eggs too thoroughly; just enough till you’ve cracked all the yokes and can no longer see any whites.
Now, remember the milk that you were not supposed to boil before? By this time it should be cool, so pour it in with the eggs. If you’re wondering why you can’t pour it while it is hot, it’s because it would cook your eggs, and we don’t want that. If you cook your eggs before it goes into the oven you’ll be getting overcooked pudding. And who in the world likes overcooked pudding?
Mix the milk and the eggs well to get your custard, and then you can pour it into your caramel-coated pudding moulds. Cover the top of the moulds with small pieces of plastic wraps. Put your moulds onto a baking tray and pour two cups of hot water into it. Into the tray, I mean. Of course you don’t pour water into your pudding. Which nutter does that?
Now is the easy bit, where you put the baking tray (with all your pudding stuff on top, of course) into the oven and bake it as it heats itself to 150 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. It’s kind of like preheating an oven, but with something inside it. Yes, 40 minutes. Well, most pastries need a lot of baking time, and 40 minutes is pretty average. I mean, yeah it’s pudding and not a pastry but the idea is the same. You can go ahead and sit in front of the oven to watch your little puddings expand and contract in the dim orange lights as your tongue salivates to taste it.
Oh, you’re just going to watch TV? Seriously? I spent over a thousand words guiding you through each step and you’re just going to leave it here to watch TV? Really?
Fine, okay. Don’t blame me when your puddings explode into volcanoes. You’ll have puddings with great gaping holes in the middle, and poor you will have to redo it all over and not be able to satisfy your own taste buds or impress whoever it is you want to impress…
Once the 40 minutes are up, take the tray out (don’t spill the water!). I mean, sure you can keep it in there if you want omelettes. Or caramel chawanmushi. We’re making a pudding, but it doesn’t matter if you prefer something else.
Otherwise, take it out of the oven and remove the plastic wrap. Grab a fork and try to peel the edges of the pudding off the mould — gently! You don’t want to ruin your pudding after staring at it for 40 minutes, do you? Okay, now take a nice looking plate, put it over your pudding mould, then flip the whole thing over. Give your mould a little shake before lifting it up and… Voila! Your caramel pudding is done!
Now, I have no idea if you want to eat this warm or cold, but either way is fine. I mean, now that you’ve overturned this one you’ll have to eat it. The other three, you’re free to cool them and pop them into the fridge for a cold snack later or tomorrow. Make sure you don’t remove those plastic wraps when you keep them. Who knows what can get into your fridge.
Caramel Pudding :: END::