Milk & Honey Pudding with Stewed Rhubarb

by autumn on May 13, 2012

Growing up, I preferred the plainest possible iteration of every food, yet my mom always liked to tell me that I had “champagne taste on a beer budget.” She was right. These two tendencies were at their neurotic best in my devotion to vanilla ice cream with “vanilla bean specks.” It was classy and unadorned, which somehow made me feel like it was ok to settle in on the couch with a gallon bucket-full from Costco and a spoon.

Thankfully, my palate and I both matured, but I never got over my thing for vanilla bean specks. Recently, after losing my source for vanilla beans, I convinced myself it was both prudent and economical to order what seemed like an inordinate amount of them online. Surprise! I’ve had no trouble getting through them and having them on hand has meant that simple things like this cornstarch pudding are much more likely to be gussied up with a vanilla bean.

This recipe followed a windy road to its inception—from a failed custard (totally my fault), inspired by the pots de crème in the La Tartine Gourmande cookbook, to an unapologetically simple recipe for vanilla pudding from the New York Times.

Milk & Honey Pudding with Stewed Rhubarb


  • 2 cups whole milk, about 1/4 cup reserved
  • 1 vanilla bean, pod split and seeds scraped
  • 1/3 cup honey (I used a mild spring honey)
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • pinch salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 6 oz (about 1 1/2 cups) diced rhubarb
  • 4 oz (about 1/2 cup) sugar (I used organic cane sugar)

Cooking Directions

  1. Prepare 6 small jars or bowls and set aside.
  2. Toss together the rhubarb and sugar in a small saucepan and let it sit until juice just begins to develop.
  3. When there's a bit of juice at the bottom of the pan, turn the heat on low. As the rhubarb breaks down and releases more juice, gradually increase the heat to med-high.
  4. Cook until all the rhubarb is broken down and the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and divide evenly among your 6 jars, putting about a heaping tablespoon in each.
  5. Next, whisk together the reserved 1/4 milk and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.
  6. In a small saucepan over med-low heat, heat the remaining milk, honey, pinch of salt, and the vanilla bean until the mixture steams and just begins to start a gentle boil. Remove the vanilla bean.
  7. Reduce heat to low and add the cornstarch and milk mixture in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Continue to stir and cook on low for about 5 more minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted. Pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
  9. Pour the strained pudding into the jars, on top of the rhubarb, and refrigerate until set.


Autumn Giles is the creator of Autumn Makes & Does and the co-host of the Alphabet Soup Podcast.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 carrie @plums in the icebox May 13, 2012 at 11:52 pm

beautiful!! i bet this is so good, too. i haven’t had rhubarb in years!


2 autumn May 14, 2012 at 12:06 am

thanks, carrie! you need to get on the rhubarb train, lady. I adore it.


3 Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen May 14, 2012 at 5:52 am

i still got my thing for specks 🙁


4 The Cozy Herbivore May 14, 2012 at 11:45 am

Oh, what a lovely and simple recipe! And you’re totally right– buying vanilla beans in bulk is absolutely necessary. Doesn’t it feel so luxurious and sophisticated to be able to simply reach into your pantry and pluck a bean? Makes me feel like Nigella Lawson or something. 🙂

I love puddings, and I love rhubarb, so I really can’t wait to give this a try!


5 emily | nomnivorous May 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I am such a fiend for vanilla bean specks. And being a vanilla person over chocolate ANY DAY, this looks like a wonderful, simple dessert. And a great reminder to pick up more rhubarb!


6 Allison May 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Oh My Goodness – this looks fantastic!


7 la domestique May 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I adore “vanilla bean specks” too, and just the comforting thought of milk and honey makes me want to cook this recipe now.


8 meg- grow and resist May 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Oh wow, sounds incredible! I might give it a go with my leftover sweet rhubarb pulp from making syrup. Pudding!


9 autumn May 15, 2012 at 12:55 am

Meg, That’s a perfect idea. In my head I’ve been calling this stuff rhubarb “mulch,” but I like “pulp” much better 🙂
La Domestique, Thank you! Isn’t it funny how we don’t even question them having the slightly silly name of “specks?”
Emily, Always more rhubarb! 🙂
Cozy Herbivore, It DOES feel luxurious and it ended up being economical too– my favorite combo.


10 Jacqueline - The Dusty Baker May 15, 2012 at 12:15 am

I’m also a bit obsessed with both vanilla bean specks and rhubarb. (I get my vanilla beans at Fairway – they’re like $2.99 for two long beans, which is the cheapest I’ve found here. And very plump and moist ones too. AND they come in long test-tube type-things, which just makes them that much more fun). The stalks in my fridge are getting ready for strawberry-rhubarb coconut milk ice cream and then leftovers reduced into a simple syrup for cocktails. I don’t care how overrun they are this season – love em.


11 autumn May 15, 2012 at 1:05 am

Jacqueline, The ones that I used to get from Penzy’s came in a test tube too!!! And, yeah, that’s a really good price. I miss not living closer to a Fairway. Rhubarb syrup is a must and your ice cream sounds great.


12 Helen ( May 16, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Oh my goodness this looks fantastic! I’ve recently been making use of the last of the good rhubarb by making big batches of compote for yogurt parfaits in the AM. I’m going to have to try this now!


13 cynthia May 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Try for the best selection of vanilla and beans. they dist. to everyone
and yours from Amazon probably came from them. They are great people!
What kind of jars are those in the photo?


14 Natalie May 23, 2012 at 6:07 am

Love this! Where did you get those adorable milk jars?


15 autumn May 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

Hi Natalie, Thank you! They’re from White Cow Dairy yogurts. It’s a little splurgy, but is the best yogurt I’ve ever had, hands down, and you get a cute little jar to use after you’ve eaten it!


16 Natalie May 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Yeah…. that was the first thing that came to mind. You’re right, they ARE splurgey, but I think worth it just for the bottles. I make a dozen creme brulees for a friend in exchange for handfuls of free vanilla beans (he’s an orchid grower). Right now we have been passing ramekins back and forth, but this would be MUCH better. Thanks!


17 Vonnie May 27, 2012 at 1:56 am

I really, really miss rhubarb. These look delicious. Thanks for sharing : )


18 shuhan May 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm

looks gorgeous. I’m a big big fan of custardy milky desserts, and an absolute fan of rhubarb too. that yummy tartness and that pink! Sometimes I poach it, leaving it whole instead of stewing it down into a compote too, just to top over yogurt, or a blog post I did before right at the start of sping was with coconut milk rice pudding, but whatever way, I really love putting sweet tart rhubarb with something creamy, and this looks absolutely brilliant, esp with the black flecks of real vanilla.

also, gorgeous photos x


19 Dessert By Candy May 31, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Fascinated by your jar comment in twitter (gorgeous btw) but now intrigued by the recipe. I was just browsing around for rhubarb recipes last night and scheming for interesting things to make. I think I found my answer!


20 autumn June 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Thanks so much!


21 Lauren October 7, 2012 at 8:32 am

this looks incredible- and i’d be interested to try it with all kinds of fruit!
any idea how long this would last?


22 autumn October 10, 2012 at 11:09 am

Thanks, Lauren. I’d try to eat this up within a week. It definitely didn’t last that long in my fridge though 🙂


23 kelly @ kellybakes May 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm

We were meant to be friends. When I was little, I’d beg my mom for Breyer’s vanilla ice cream because of the vanilla bean specks. It was like $3.99 for the half gallon, which, at the time, was astronomical. I’d forgo all other sweets requests from my mom in hopes that she’d splurge and buy me some. There’s nothing better than a simple vanilla bean anything–scone, pudding, ice cream, custard. And, from my Irish yogurt-eating habits, we all know my feelings on rhubarb + vanilla ^_^


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