vanilla bean puddin’, all dolled up

Summer! Strawberries! And cream! Vanilla! Thyme!


Yes. Thyme!

Follow me here. I’m taking you to a very delicious place. Promise. And if you’re already a herb-infused dessert convert, stay along for the ride. It’s a fun one. Or not. Whatever.

This journey started with a mint chocolate pie. It landed in my inbox a few weeks ago with June’s Vintage Recipe Swap. But. I don’t like chocolate and mint. Truthfully, I like mint in very few siuations. Mojitos. Tzatziki. Yep. That might be it.

Oh and I’m so not a chocoholic. So. Where to go with that recipe?

So here is where I lead you into my twisted brain. This routine, find a recipe and see where it leads you – it’s typical of me. Chocolate led to white chocolate. Nah, let’s strip it down further, just vanilla. Now herbs. Not mint… how about rosemary? Or basil. Yes, basil! It pairs brilliantly with strawberries, the seasonal fruit of the moment. But the farmers market is out of basil. Damn. I guess I’m taking this last bunch of thyme. And this Battenkill Creamery looks amazing, that’s coming home with me.

So I’ll just make a pudding pie topped with strawberries. Sure, that works. Unless you’re me. I wasn’t feeling a pie. After having a bummer Friday, I was craving easy, comforting food. Single servings and sharing only if I want to. I know. I was being bratty.

Thankfully, I have a constantly changing set of mental bookmarks for delicious recipes. And those came to the rescue! The pudding that Autumn made, totally inspiring. Ooh and Deb has a vanilla pudding too. The roasted strawberries Joy posted about recently, those looked interesting. What about some thyme shortbread to replace the pie dough? Oh baby.

Sure enough, originally inspired by this chocolate mint pie, I ended up at vanilla bean puddin’, all dolled up. With thyme roasted strawberries and thyme shortbread.

To those that are still reading, I’m sorry. I hope you enjoyed my mental roller coaster. You’re rewarded with three killer recipes. They all stand alone, strong components that come together for a great summer dessert. The berries are savory and sweet, thyme, balsamic vinegar and honey mingling together. The pudding is rich, purely vanilla bean and milk. Serious dessert for vanilla freaks. And the shortbread are tender, crisp and thin. Almost salty. Addictive.

thyme roasted strawberries

Yield: about 1/2 cup berries and liquid

adapted from Joy the Baker and Heidi Swanson.


  • 8 oz, 225 grams, 1 pint strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 6 sprigs thyme


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and slice your strawberries in half, fourths in they're especially big berries.
  2. In a small casserole, add the honey, oil, vinegar and salt. Mix together with a fork or whisk. Add the berries and toss gently to combine. Spread the berries evenly in a layer in the dish.
  3. Top with the thyme sprigs and roast for 40 minutes.
  4. Once roasted, remove from the oven, discard the thyme sprigs and let cool. If using in the pudding, spoon the berries and liquid into six ramekins, jars or small bowls.

vanilla bean puddiin

Yield: about 6 1/3-1/2 cup servings


  • 2 3/4 cups, 22 oz whole milk, divided
  • 1-2 vanilla beans, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup, 3.55 oz sugar
  • 1/4 cup, 1.25 oz cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter [optional]


  1. In a medium, heavy weight pot, combine 2 cups of the milk and the vanilla bean halves. On medium-high heat, bring the milk to a boil.
  2. While the first step is in process, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine the dry ingredients.
  3. Now gradually whisk the remaining 3/4 cup milk into the cornstarch mixture, slowly, to avoid clumps. Add the egg and whisk again to create a smooth, pale yellow sauce.
  4. When the milk comes to a boil, very gradually spoon the hot milk into the cornstarch slurry while whisking to combine. Whisk constantly as you continue to spoon the hot milk into the bowl, until all combined. Now dump the milk mixture back into your pot.
  5. Put it back on the stove at medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir constantly with a spatula. Once simmering, let cook for one minute longer - cooking the egg and cornstarch fully.
  6. Pass the pudding through a fine mesh sieve. This helps remove any possible clumps, catch any rogue egg shells [if you're clumsy like me] and separate the vanilla beans. Stir the butter into the pudding [if using], mixing until the butter fully melts.
  7. Divide the pudding among the six containers, carefully spooning the pudding on top of the fruit as best you can. If your berries are juicier, it will look "messy" but that's ok. Wrap the containers and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

thyme shortbread

Yield: makes 2 dozen cookies

This makes way more cookies than six puddings need. But when is that ever a problem?! The more patient you are with rolling, the crisper, more melt-in-your-mouth-ier the shortbread is. It's worth the effort.

Adapted from Simply Recipes


  • 1.5 cups, 6.33 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup, 3.5 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon citrus salt, or 1 teaspoon flaky salt and 1/2 teaspoon citrus zest
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten


  1. In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, zest [if using] and butter. Using your hands, mix and pinch the butter into the dry ingredients.
  2. Once the batter seems crumby and a bit lumpy, add the beaten egg. Continue to mix until it clumps - grab a handful, squeeze it together in your hand. Let go. Does it fall apart? No? Good.
  3. Shape into two balls and wrap in plastic. Flatten into disks once wrapped and refrigerated at least an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.
  5. Using a parchment paper lined surface, place one disc of dough. Sprinkle with flour and roll out. If the dough seems dry or crumbly, just press it back together. Roll out the dough to 1/4-1/8 inch thickness. [For this recipe, thinner is better!]
  6. Using your favorite cookie cutters or a knife, cut your cookies out. Squares or rectangles are just as delicious as hearts and stars, If the dough seems especially delicate, use a small offset spatula to transfer from the rolling surface to your pan.
  7. This dough warms up very quickly. You may need to refrigerate scraps before re-rolling - just keep portions chilled until you work with them. Roll out and cut out all the dough.
  8. Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack or plate depending on how warm they are. Eat! Store in an airtight container once cooled.

Also, don’t forget to go check out the rest of the Vintage Recipe Swappers. Mint pie isn’t always mint pie, in case you weren’t aware.

12 Responses

  1. YAY!!! LOVE this recipe! I love the twists and turns to get to something completely unique… and I haven’t seen a pudding recipe in a while! So glad you’re a part of the swap, I always love seeing your recipes, here, and along the rest of the month. 🙂

  2. I love this! Beautiful pics and it all sounds delicious.

  3. Yeah pudding! I’m on a serious pudding kick now, happy to see you’re also along for the ride 🙂 Awesome flavors too, Emily.

  4. I’m glad you stayed along for the ride! I always find old recipes really mentally stimulating. Because if nothing else, they’re so off in left field that my brain just goes off the deep end!

  5. It’s such a great summer dessert! Cold and creamy, no churning necessary. I’m definitely giving the cornstarch-only milk & honey pudding a go in the future.

  6. Way to follow your own palate and inspiration. Those roasted strawberries look divine and I absolutely love a good shortbread! Great swap!

  7. Melissa

    Yum! Two of my favorite things: vanilla pudding and strawberries. You know I’m not big on the thyme, but I think I can overlook that small detail. Maybe it gets replaced with lavender!!

  8. Oh, lavender would be a brilliant substitute! Let me know if you give it a try.

  9. I think this is my fave this month. You really did such a lovely job with it. What a wonderful take on the original. Love the photo with the cookies on top of the jars.

  10. Well this is just the purtiest pudding I’ve ever seen. I love the little scalloped cookies!

  11. oh that sounds so delicious! and you’re right! they’re so cute “all dolled up!”

  12. […] are truly, madly, deeply my favorite fruit. They’re my favorite fruit to jam, bake, infuse, roast, and to indulge in raw state. Truly, I see no bad strawberry, at least when we’re talking […]

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