[Ed.: 365Foods would like to welcome guest blogger N., who has been a boon foodie companion of ours for quite some time. N. will let out a vocal "Oh My Hells!" at the very mention of an oozy cheese or a new yummy restaurant. She has a little song and dance she likes to do when yummy tuna sashimi is nearby. In other words, she's our kind of people!]
A list of American food holidays would not be complete without Indian Pudding, also known as Hasty Pudding, which traces back to mid-18th century New England and is therefore perhaps one of the most originally American of American foods. It is known as “Indian” pudding because it makes use of cornmeal rather than wheat flour, which was in short supply in those days, and as we know corn was introduced to the European settlers by aboriginal people. The Deerfield Inn in Deerfield, Massachusetts, reports that this is still one of their most popular desserts, 300 years after its creation.
A quick Google search revealed hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes for Indian Pudding. Some of the variation includes whether or not eggs and milk are included, the addition of raisins or apples or even pumpkin (yum!), and perhaps the most fancy version (of course, attributable to our overachieving friends at Bon Appetit magazine) is accompanied by nutmeg ice cream. I am reminded of the Five Spice Ice Cream debacle of 2008, in which E was enlisted to bring her ice cream maker all the way from Vancouver for an epic dinner party at D’s house which extended until at least 2am the next day. [Ed.: I wouldn't call that a "debacle" just... happily epic.]
I decided to use the Deerfield Inn recipe, mostly because it called for ingredients in amounts that I already had in my pantry. All of the recipes using milk and eggs use roughly the same proportions; some of them use pints and quarts, which I don’t understand, so I used this one.
One of the nice things about this dish is that it is a pantry dish – you can whip it up on a drizzly November afternoon (or in my case a spectacular Victoria day, of the kind that one might brag about to one’s Calgary relatives – not that I would do anything like that) without braving the cold or the swine flu by appearing in public. It is baked in a bain marie, so it fills the house with the kind of moist, aromatic baking smells that make everyone want to marry a baker. I used my spectacularly beautiful pea-green Staub dutch oven (without the lid) – it’s one of the things I’d rescue from a burning house.
4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat milk in a double boiler until skin forms. [This takes FOREVER; not a good task for when you're trying to bake something during your 3 month old's precious "quiet awake" time]. Whisk in cornmeal, sugar, and spices. Cook until thickened, stirring occasionally [I had to stop here for about 2 hours due to aforesaid 3 month old and his so-called "needs". I don't think it was any worse for the wait, although the word "thickened" is a bit vague - I took it to mean thicker than it was; it was not thick by any means]. Add molasses and maple syrup, heat through. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. [At this point remove from the heat; otherwise you will scramble your eggs]. Whisk small amount of the mixture into the eggs. Whisk egg mixture into the original mixture. Add butter to the mix. Pour mix into dish for baking. [Then panic, because you think this stuff is WAY too liquidy to amount to anything]. Bake at 350°F in a water bath until set (1 1/2 to 2 hours). Baking time depends on the size of the baking dish. Serves 6-8 people.
After two hours, I took it out of the oven and let it sit overnight.
I think this would be delicious served with a hot custard sauce (I use Harry Horne’s powder, but you could go all Martha Stewart and make your own, if you had more time than common sense), or with a gorgeous vanilla ice cream. I also think that this dish would be an excellent application for Miss B’s cardamom caramel sauce, as long as you cut it first with some whipped cream or custard.
The variations on this recipe are endless. Instead of ground spices as called for in the recipe, one could steep the milk with cinnamon sticks, star anise, fresh ginger and vanilla beans. The recipe does not call for ground clove but I think it would be a respectable addition. One could add pumpkin, raisins, apples, or any other autumnal deliciousness. If I were to make it again, I would reduce the amount of molasses and sub in more maple syrup; this is a very molasses-y dish using these proportions and, while I like molasses, maple syrup has a much more nuanced flavour.
[ Ed.: ..... TIME PASSES....THE NEXT MORNING....]
STOP THE PRESSES!
This stuff tastes just AWFUL. There is way too much molasses, to start with. There is basically no other flavour, and it approaches medicinal in its over-the-top molasses-ness. The texture is weird too. If it was a more delicate flavour one might flatter it by saying the texture approaches panna cotta, but combined with this weird flavour it is more accurately described as slimy and greasy. There is no cornmeal taste or texture to it. Yes, it would be delicious with creme anglaise or hot custard sauce, as long as you drowned it and put it out of its misery.