The trouble with homemade pudding is that it is full of fat.
If you want to reassure yourself of that, enter pudding recipe into Google.
Go on. I‘ll wait.
See what I mean? There is hardly a recipe out there that doesn’t call for full fat cream, whole milk, and a whole lot of egg yolks. There is a good reason for this.
Fat is flavor.
Recent research reveals that in addition to salty, bitter, sweet, and sour as well as a fifth the Japanese call “umami”, the tongue detects fat.
Fat is what gives food richness. It makes us feel that what ever we are eating is indulgent. It fills the mouth and helps to convey other flavors. This is why food often tastes so good when it is deep fried.
As a matter of fact when a friend and I use to play “can it be fried” we found less than a handful of things whose flavor was not improved by deep frying. This isn’t to say that I recommend deep frying everything. Far from it, I personally eat deep fried foods less than once a month. This is in part due to the fact that when I was young my mother owned a doughnut shop and one of the tasks that I helped her was cleaning out the fryer. While I will not go into deep detail I will say that it was enough to put me off of doughnuts for the rest of my life.
It is conceivable that deeply fried food does not have to be bad for you. Done properly the moisture in food, in theory, should repel the oil as the food cooks leaving a virtually fat free end product. The problem with it is that the conditions under which this happens are difficult to reproduce and maintain. Which means that often when food is fried in oil it absorbs a lot of fat.
And fat in and of itself is not bad. Our bodies need it for good health. We cannot use or store certain vitamins with out.
The problem comes in both quantity and quality of fat. And while it would take more pages than I am willing or qualified to write to discuss all of the research that has gone on about fat, I will say three things.
1. I will not eat anything that has been partially or fully hydrogenated (artificial trans fat)
2. I believe that a diet lower in fat is good for me
3. As some fat is necessary I will choose those fats that are as close to source as possible (like butter) or those with proven health benefits (like olive oil)
The above is why most of my recipes, though by no means all of them, are low in fat. The problem is, as I said above, fat equals flavor. So recreating a full fat recipe into a low fat one is not always easy.
The questions becomes, how do you make up for that missing flavor. How do you recreate that mouthfeel. I am not the first person to raise this question obviously. There are people who dedicate their whole life to it. Cooking Light examines the issue monthly. Cook book authors dissect it in endless tomes.
But what works for me personally is to flood the other taste centers, drowning out any complaints of missing fat. Flavor is easy to generate.
Texture is a lot harder.
So when I set out to create a silky rich pudding with a lower fat content I was not terribly concerned with making it taste good. I wanted a pure decadent texture that made me feel indulgent without resorting to the cream, butter, and voluminous quantities of egg yolks that a lot of recipes call for.
Trying to just up the volume on the flavor and use simple low fat milk was disappointing producing a gritty product that while flavorful was difficult to eat.
The real break was when I found fat free sweetened condensed milk. Already smooth and silky, it made a fabulous base for a creamy pudding. And with its caramel-like sweetness it replaced the need for sugar all together. The rest of the texture came from low-fat almond milk which doesn’t curdle or grain like low-fat cow’s milk and is an excellent source of vitamin E besides that, mixed with some regular corn starch and two eggs.
As for the flavor, they came from a recipe I had been playing with. I have been a fan of Ideas in Food since I started this blog. The husband and wife chef team are an incredible source of inspiration both in their photography, which is stunning, and in their ability to gather ideas from anything. They had recently posted about removing the bitterness from citrus by cooking it in a pressure cooker. The idea intrigued me.
It took me two weeks to actually do it but the result was an incredible silky lemon puree that tasted like the essence of lemon. With the bitterness mostly gone I was able to puree the whole fruit. No waste, no fuss. Just lemon. A mere tablespoon was enough to flavor the entire batch of pudding.
Combined with a little almond extract to coax out the almond flavor in the milk and vanilla which tastes rich and luxurious no matter what, the lack of fat was a distant memory.
This creates a thick, creamy pudding that could be a deadly sin.
But only you will know that it is low fat.
Lemon Almond Pudding
1 can non-fat or low-fat sweetened condense milk
2 cups almond milk
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
2 whole eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 to 1 ½ tablespoon lemon puree or ½ cup lemon juice and 2 tablespoons lemon zest 
2 ½ teaspoons corn starch
Mix half a cup of the almond milk with the corn starch to form a slurry. Set aside.
Combine the rest of the ingredients except the lemon in a medium saucepan and blend with a whisk until smooth and creamy. Add half the lemon puree or lemon juice and all of the lemon zest if using.
While whisking continually, add the almond milk and corn starch slurry. Put the pot over medium-low heat. Whisk continually until the mixture is thick enough for the whisk to leave trails that stay for a few seconds.
Remove from heat and stir in the remaining lemon puree or lemon juice.
Divide into individual cups and chill for four hours.
Serve cold or at room temperature.
 To make the lemon puree: Put 5 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar into a pressure cooker. Heat on high until the sugar melts. Add any essence or flavorings like vanilla or orange flower water and drop in 5-6 lemons. They do not need to be submerged. Cover immediately and keep on high heat until the pot begins to hiss. Lower the heat until the pressure cooker hisses steadily but not vigorously. Cook for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the lemons and the thickness of the skin. For best results use Meyers or sweet lemons.