4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into small pieces
2 cups cold half-and-half
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
25 mins, plus about 3 hrs freezing time
Makes:About 10 (2-ounce) pops
Don’t be intimidated by the gelatin in this recipe. It adds a rich, smooth texture to the frozen and pudding versions of this dessert, rather than the grainy texture of cornstarch. The dark brown sugar ensures serious caramel action, but if you really want to punch up the flavor, add a couple tablespoons of Scotch in with the vanilla and salt.
Special equipment: You will need freezer pop molds for this recipe. We used these molds, but any kind will work. If yours don’t come with sticks that attach securely, you can buy wooden sticks and insert them 1 hour into the freezing time.
You will also need an instant-read thermometer for cooking the pudding.
1Place the brown sugar and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has melted, the butter is incorporated, and the mixture is bubbling vigorously, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in 1 3/4 cups of the half-and-half in a slow, steady stream. Continue whisking until smooth and combined, then set the pan aside.
2Pour the remaining 1/4 cup half-and-half into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface and let stand without disturbing until the gelatin softens, about 3 minutes (it will start to look wavy and wrinkled).
3Return the sugar/butter/half-and-half mixture to low heat and add the gelatin mixture. Whisk continuously, checking the temperature occasionally on an instant-read thermometer, until the gelatin dissolves and no longer feels grainy, about 4 minutes. (Do not let the mixture boil or go above 170°F, or the gelatin will not set properly.)
4Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl and pour the mixture through the strainer. Discard the solids. Divide the mixture among the pop molds and freeze until frozen, about 3 hours. Alternatively, to serve as pudding, divide the mixture among ramekins and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. (To avoid the skin that forms on the surface of pudding, cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and make sure it’s directly touching the pudding.)