RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Winter isn't even here yet, and already we're coping with 10- and 20-degree temperatures here in Pennsylvania. That kind of blustery cold just screams for warm, comforting treats like winter puddings. Served warm with a splash of fresh cream, these simple dessert recipes are just the ticket for satisfying your sugar cravings while also using up little bits of leftovers from dinner and your various forays into holiday baking. Plus, the added heat from the oven provides welcome relief to your energy-hogging heating system. Sweet desserts that can save you money? Gotta love that!
Great Grandmother’s Indian pudding
The first baked pudding I can remember eating was my mother’s Indian Pudding, a traditional New England staple that gets its name from being thickened with “Indian” (corn) meal. Redolent of molasses and ginger, studded with translucent pearls of tapioca, and brought to the table piping hot in a venerable crockery bean pot, my mother’s family recipe still makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
This recipe, and all the others that follow, make about 8 servings.
¼ cup large-pearl tapioca (not minute tapioca; if you can’t find pearl, just omit it)
1 Tablespoon organic butter
6 cups organic whole milk (2% or skim will not do)
½ cup organic cornmeal
2/3 cup organic molasses
1 teaspoon salt
½–1 teaspoon ground ginger
About 2 hours before you want to put your pudding together, cover the tapioca with warm water and set it aside to soak. You can also cover it with cold water and let it soak in the fridge all day or overnight. Once the pearls have turned almost clear with only a tiny grain of white still visible in the center, they are ready to drain and use.
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F and heavily butter the inside of a bean pot or any 2-quart baking dish. Heat 4 cups of milk in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently. When the milk is steaming hot, add the cornmeal a little at a time using a whisk to mix in each addition. Allow to cook gently about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, mix in the soaked and drained tapioca pearls, molasses (if you grease the measuring cup lightly before adding the gooey molasses, it will all pour out easily), salt, and ginger. Transfer the mixture to the buttered baking dish, pour the remaining 2 cups of cold milk over the top (don’t stir), and put the dish in the oven. Bake for about 3 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve hot or cold.