As American as ... Indian pudding
The traditional molasses-rich dessert isn't as popular as it used to be, but it's a tasty treat.
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His camera-shy wife, Helen, is equally impressed, "Tastes lovely," she agrees, "Easy on the palate."Skip to next paragraph
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Lisa Webb from Salem, N.H. is back for seconds. "I make it every Thanksgiving," she says. "I'm from an Italian family, and we like our desserts: cream-filled everything."
And how many desserts are served at a typical holiday meal at her house? "One per person. I'm not kidding. Fifteen people, 15 desserts! I made Indian pudding for the first time four years ago and everyone ate it. It was gone."
Ms. Webb balks at those who say it's not popular today because it takes too long to make. "You just mix it up, put it in the oven and forget it," she says. Webb plans to visit her in-laws this year for Thanksgiving, and, yes, you know what she's been asked to bring for dessert. So just why has Indian pudding fallen out of favor?
Back to Curtin. "People who aren't used to it ask, 'What is that brown stuff?' It isn't pretty. It's homey and homely." But when it's baking, she says, "it smells better than potpourri."
Despite the title, early New England settlers did not adapt this recipe from native Americans: 'Indian' refers to the 'Indian meal' used – cornmeal, as wheat flour wasn't available.
Before you start this recipe, plan ahead. This dessert has a long baking time: three hours altogether, plus another 30 minutes to cool.
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup water
4 cups milk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruits like cranberries or blueberries (optional)
Vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Heavily grease a 1-1/2 quart ovenproof baking dish with butter or lard.
Place 3/4 cup water in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the cornmeal until it is completely mixed and smooth.
Scald 3 cups of the milk in a heavy saucepan (heat until tiny bubbles appear around the edge – don't bring to a full boil) and stir the cornmeal mixture into the hot milk. Reduce heat to low and stir frequently, for 15 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened.
Remove from heat. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Stir some of the hot cornmeal mixture into the beaten egg, a spoonful at a time, until you have added about 1/2 cup. (This is to warm up the egg mixture gradually, so the hot cornmeal mixture doesn't cook it too quickly.) Return egg mixture to the saucepan and stir in the sugar, molasses, butter, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and optional raisins or dried fruit. Pour the mixture into the prepared greased dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and gently pour the remaining 1 cup of milk over the top of the pudding. Do not stir in. Bake 2-1/2 to 3 hours longer, or until pudding begins to set. Remove from oven and set aside for 30 minutes to one hour. Pudding will thicken further as it cools. Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.
Note: Leftover pudding may be served cold, topped with heavy cream, for the next morning's breakfast.