October Food for Thought: Remember Indian Pudding?
In spite of its name, Indian pudding was not adopted from American Indians by the settlers. The name came from the use of “Indian meal,” another name for corn meal, which, of course, was adopted from Native Americans.
When you think of the top five New England desserts, Indian pudding is at the top of the list. You also have to include favorites like Boston cream pie, rice pudding sweetened with maple syrup, gingerbread, apple desserts like apple pie, apple pan dowdy and baked apples, and don’t forget the cranberry grunt and blueberry cobbler.
But how many New England restaurant menus even mention any of these old favorites?
My first taste of Indian pudding was at Durgin Park in Boston, and what a treat it was. All the flavors coming through – molasses, ginger and cinnamon – all in a slightly thick cornmeal mush served with ice cream or lightly whipped cream. The Union Oyster House (America’s oldest restaurant) in Boston is another place to experience traditional New England desserts.
Indian pudding, considered an American version of the hasty pudding (usually made with wheat flour or oatmeal), in my opinion is not on nearly enough New England menus. In many cases, it’s not considered fancy enough or to have the plate presentation needed to have the WOW factor. That’s all hogwash – the WOW factor is in the eating.
If your favorite place to dine doesn’t offer Indian pudding, ask them to reconsider the possibilities. Indian pudding can include raisins, cranberries or apples and even pumpkin for a bit of a twist. The pudding can be served with rum or hard sauce instead of ice cream or whipped cream. Some Indian puddings are sweetened with maple syrup instead of all molasses for a nice touch. Whether you prefer the traditional Indian pudding (cornmeal molasses pudding) or a slightly different version, the temperature is dropping and you just can’t beat this American classic on a cold winter day.
Steve James, Certified Master Baker
Managing Partner, Popovers on the Square
1 quart cold milk
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup molasses
3 whole eggs
Preheat the oven to 350
Place cold milk, cornmeal and butter in a heavy-duty pot and place on medium heat. Start cooking the mixture, stirring well until you have a thick cornmeal mush. This can take 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat at this point. (Some bakers add the cornmeal to hot milk, which can cause lumps; it needs to hydrate slightly in cold milk first.)
While off the heat, add the salt, sugar and spices and mix well.
Mix the eggs and molasses well and add to the cornmeal mush mixture.
Place pudding mixture into a deep casserole dish and place casserole dish into a baking pan or roasting pan holding very hot water (water bath).
Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool 30 minutes and serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream or hard sauce. Enjoy!
– Master Baker Steve James (firstname.lastname@example.org)