Caramel Budino with Salted Caramel Sauce

makes 8 servings

For the Cookie Crust

1 cup finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs (about 20 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers)

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Budino

3 cups whole milk, divided

1/4 cup cornstarch

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

3/4 cup water

5 extra large egg yolks

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons Scotch Whiskey or dark rum

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Salted Caramel

3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

2 Tablespoons water

4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Lightly sweetened whipped cream

For the Cookie Crust

Mix cookie crumbs, butter, and salt in a medium bowl.  Reserve 2 tablespoons of the mixture in a small bowl; cover and chill for garnish.  Press 2 tablespoons of the remaining cookie mixture into the bottom of eight (8-ounce) jars or ramekins; set aside.

For the Budino

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk and the cornstarch; set aside.  Heat the remaining 2 1/2 cups milk in a small saucepan just to a simmer; set aside. To make the caramel, in a separate heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat and cook without stirring until thermometer reads 210º-220º F.

Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in hot milk, then cornstarch mixture. Slowly whisk in caramel.  Return mixture to saucepan.  Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens and an instant read thermometer registers 175º F, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and whisk in butter, whiskey, vanilla, and salt.  Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.  Pour 1/2 cup of the budino into each jar. Cover and chill until set, about 4-5 hours.  (Can be made 1 day in advance.)

For the Salted Caramel

Place cream in a small bowl or pitcher.  Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add bean; set aside.

Stir sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat to medium-high; boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down the sides with a wet pastry brush until deep amber color forms, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove from the heat and gradually add the vanilla cream (mixture will bubble vigorously).  Whisk over medium heat until smooth and thick, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat; whisk in cold butter and salt.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and allow to cool to room temperature. (Can be made 1 day in advance. Bring to room temperature before using).

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the caramel sauce over each budino.  Top with whipped cream and sprinkle some of the reserved cookie crumbs over each.  Enjoy!  

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