INDIAN PUDDING RESURGENCE
Chefs throughout New England rediscover the initial flavors of the early settles, promoting Indian pudding as a hearty alternative in dessert menu.
In the 70s, Indian pudding could be found in many of the diners and restaurants in New England. Somehow with the introduction of newer and eclectic desserts, the pudding slowly lost the appeal. Possibly brought with the British occupation, who seemed to enjoy something similar called "hasty pudding," a concoction of wheat flour with milk or water, cooked until it thickened. When wheat became scarce in New England, the early settlers began using cornmeal, in substitution to the grain. Hence the name of Indian pudding because cornmeal was widely used by the natives at the time.
Early recipes were sweet with molasses and maple syrup or savory with meat drippings flavoring the cooked mush. We considered humble food, satisfying and filling, enriched with all kinds of ingredients to nurture harsh and long New England winters. Years later, with the introduction of other spices such as cinnamon and ginger, the pudding elevated its status to a more decadent treat. Many variations exist: some include eggs, raisins, walnuts, baked, or cooked on stove-top. Early cookbooks dating back to 1700 already featured some unclear recipes. In 1800 the pudding enjoyed a stable presence at New England tables, especially during the fall season, leading to Thanksgiving.
With the 20 century approaching, the pudding became sweeter and moved from the breakfast table to a dessert offering. Today, Indian pudding does not enjoy a celebratory status, other than yesteryear food lovers and romantic researchers of past flavors. For someone like myself not raised on Indian pudding, the resemblance to the Neapolitan Migliaccio is striking. I have made Indian pudding following the classic version, including eggs and an egg-free stove-top, finished in the oven. The original recipes call for lengthy baking time, which I find excessive.
Below I am adding two recipes. Choose your preferred version. I have tested both of them in our kitchens, with excellent results.
For a proper historical re-enactment of the dish, you need a meal stone-ground from Rhode Island whitecap flint corn, hard, tough-to-crack corn, less sweet but more buttery than hybrid strains. One of the oldest incarnations of the plant was cultivated by the local Narragansett and saved from extinction by a few equally flinty Rhode Island farmers. This recipe comes from George Crowther, owner, and chef of the Yankee diner Commons Lunch, which has stood on the town square of Little Compton, R.I., since 1966. Trusted Source (New York Times)
Ingredients for 6-8 servings
Butter, for the baking dish
4 cups/ 960 milliliters whole milk
One cup/130 gram fine-ground yellow cornmeal
½ cup/ 120 milliliters molasses
½ cup/ 100 grams sugar
½ cup/ 80 grams raisins
1 teaspoon/ 5 milliliters vanilla extract
½ teaspoon/ 1 gram ground ginger
Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving
Heat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 2-quart baking dish. In a large pot, warm milk over medium-high heat until hot but not boiling. Whisk in cornmeal and molasses and cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Crack eggs into a medium bowl and lightly beat. Significantly slowly add 1/2 cup of the hot cornmeal mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour tempered egg mixture into the pot, constantly whisking to keep eggs from scrambling, and cook 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
Stir in sugar, raisins, vanilla, and ginger. Pour mixture into prepared pan, then place in a larger baking dish or roasting pan. Transfer to oven and carefully pour water into the larger container until it comes about halfway up the sides of the smaller baking dish. Bake until the pudding sets, but still jiggles slightly in the center, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm, topped with whipped cream or ice cream.
Indian Pudding Courtesy of New England Magazine
Ingredients for 6-8 servings
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Two tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for baking dish
Two large eggs, beaten
One teaspoon table salt
Two teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 300° and grease a one 1/2-quart baking dish.
Bring milk to a simmer in a double boiler over high heat. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking to combine. Continue to cook, constantly whisking, for 15 minutes. Slowly add molasses, then remove from heat. Add maple syrup and the rest of the ingredients and stir until smooth.
Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, and bake until the pudding sets well, and the top browns nicely. It will take about 2 hours. Serve hot or cold, topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
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Indian Pudding Photo via Epicurious.com