whipped cream, cinnamon, and maple syrupfor serving (optional)
Heat up the syrup (1/2 cup), 1 1/2 cups of the milk, cinnamon (2 teaspoons), and kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon) in a medium pot over medium heat until heated and simmering (but not boiling hard).
Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch (2 tablespoons), remaining 1/2 cup milk, and egg yolks (4) in another medium-large bowl until no lumps remain.
Once the milk mixture on the stove is heated, ladle about half of it to the egg mixture, pouring it in gradually and whisking continuously to temper the egg.
Pour the tempered egg and cornstarch mixture into the pot as gradually as you can, whisking continuously, and heat on low until thickened, whisking continuously.
Once it has thickened (this will take about 1-2 minutes), remove the pot immediately from the heat and add the butter (1 tablespoon) and vanilla extract (1 teaspoon), continuing to stir or whisk until butter has completely melted.
Use a silicone spatula to scrape the pudding into a bowl. To prevent a skin from forming, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to cool completely. (Alternatively, you can divide the pudding into cups, wine glasses, or whatever you want to use to serve it. Cover the surfaces with plastic wrap and allow them to cool in the fridge.)
When you are ready to eat, add about 1/2 cup of pudding to a serving bowl, and top with whipped cream and an extra sprinkling of cinnamon and drizzle of maple syrup if desired (see notes for a vanilla whipped cream recipe).
To make homemade vanilla whipped cream: Beat together heavy cream (1 cup) and vanilla extract (1 teaspoon) until stiff peaks form. Optional: add 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup or sugar for a sweeter version.
For a dairy-free version, use plant-based milk and dairy-free butter substitute (or skip the butter).
For a paleo and grain-free version, use almond milk and gee instead of butter, and arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week. If liquid separates out, pour it out or stir it back into the pudding before serving.