Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hasty Indian Pudding

Served with vanilla ice cream and a roasted pear quarter
Indian Pudding.  Not everyone knows what this is.  Those who do might swoon when you serve it. 

It’s nostalgic; it’s New England. The trouble is recipes for this light corn meal-based pudding sweetened with molasses, ginger and cinnamon always serves large quantities (10-12) and takes hours to cook.  Hard to enjoy in a small household and burdensome if the holiday dessert table is already brimming with pies and sweets.

Given its origins, applying old English recipes for Hasty Pudding to New World ingredients (corn meal, molasses, ginger and nutmeg)*, it really belongs somewhere on the American holiday table.  And maybe we should start calling it Pilgrim Pudding to be really up to date.

Here’s a version that serves four-five that will encourage nostalgia in your family.

Hasty Indian Pudding
Serves 4-5

Butter for baking dish
2 cups milk (whole is richer but you can use 1% or 2%)
1/3 cup finely ground cornmeal
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
large pinch nutmeg (freshly grated if available)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
hot water for bain mairie (water bath for baking)

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Butter a 1-quart strait-sided casserole/soufflé dish. 
  2. In a 2-quart heavy bottomed saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups of milk to a boil.  Meanwhile, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornmeal.  
  3. When milk begins to boil, lower heat to simmer and stir in cornmeal-milk mixture.  Cook cornmeal mush for 12-15 minutes stirring with a whisk or heatproof rubber spatula until mixture is creamy and smooth.  
  4. Remove from heat.  Stir in molasses, brown sugar, salt, spices and vanilla.  
  5. Crack the egg in a small bowl.  Stir in 1/2 cup of cornmeal to temper egg and return mixture to pan.  Stir to combine all ingredients thoroughly.  
  6. Pour pudding into buttered baking vessel.  Set inside a high-sided roasting pan and fill pan with hot water to reach at least halfway up baking dish.  
  7. Bake 90 minutes at 250˚F.   Let rest 15-30 minutes.  Pudding will lose it’s soufflé-like puff but remain light. Serve with a side of good quality vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. Warm fruit is also a nice compliment.

Indian Pudding can be made ahead and reheated on low in the microwave before serving.  Or, it can be reheated, covered, at 350˚F while the main course is enjoyed.  If you bake it during dinner, you will  have a leisurely progression from main meal to dessert.  Our family always needs a bit of a break between courses at the holidays. 

* Thanks go to Linda Stradley’s excellent food history website for the traveled history of this dish.