Pudding Festival Results

October 6th, 2014
Puding Head Leslie Clark is crowned by judge Damon Herring. Courtesy of the Recorder.

Pudding Head Leslie Clark is crowned by judge Damon Herring. Courtesy of the Recorder.

Last week the Sons & Daughters of Hawley, the historical society in my small town, hosted the intermittent but always highly enjoyable Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival.

This event started out as the launching event for my Pudding Hollow Cookbook—and kept going because it was so much darn fun on its own. The person who wins the pudding contest that is the centerpiece of the festival is dubbed the new Pudding Head.

This year’s Pudding Head actually lives in the Hawley’s Pudding Hollow district, the home of Abigail Baker, who won a pudding contest in Hawley in about 1780. (Note: I’m old, but I’m not that old. Her pudding contest was the inspiration for, not the launch of, my book.)

Leslie Clark moved to town in August and lives right next door to me! She is proving to be a terrific neighbor and a darn good cook.

Here is Leslie’s prize-winning recipe. I haven’t tasted it yet, but from the judges’ reactions and from the ingredients, I know I will love it.

Remember readers, you have only five years to work on your recipes for the next festival! (Next year, the Sons & Daughters plan a men’s pie-baking contest.)

This event isn’t just delicious. It’s also a tribute to the power of community … and of course of food!

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Leslie’s Luscious Coconut Cream Custard

from 2014 Pudding Head Leslie Clark of Hawley, Massachusetts

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (5.4-ounce) can coconut cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup shredded coconut

Instructions:

Met the sugar in a pan with the cinnamon. Spread this melted syrup in the bottom and sides of a baking bowl, reserving about 1/4 cup for later decoration. Allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Using a hand or electric mixer, blend the eggs, liquids, and nutmeg for 5 minutes. Pour this mixture into the sugar-lined baking bowl. Top with shredded coconut uniformly.

Bake in a bain marie (hot-water bath) for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean.

Re-melt the reserved sugar and cinnamon, and drizzle them on top of the cooked custard. Sprinkle a little extra coconut on top. Allow to cool before serving. (This pudding is best served at room temperature.)

Serves 8. (Servings should be small; this pudding is rich!)

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Return of the Pudding Festival

September 22nd, 2014

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My favorite culinary event, the Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival, will return this coming Sunday, September 28, in my beloved Hawley, Massachusetts, after a five-year hiatus–an even longer hiatus if you consider the fact that the most recent festival (in 2009) took place in Charlemont, not in Hawley. 

Centering around a contest, the day is a whole lot of fun.

Good food, good scenery, good music, and good company. A perfect combination.

I hope readers who can will attend this festival—and perhaps enter a pudding! Here is the schedule for the day:

11 a.m.
Puddings arrive at the Hawley Grove in East Hawley. (We ask a $15 entry fee. And please bring the recipe!)
11:15 a.m.
Free tour of nearby Sidehill Farm (a wonderful organic dairy farm, and a donor to the contest).
12:30 p.m.
Lunch. (Donation requested.)
1:30 p.m.
Pudding parade, entertainment, and announcement of the contest winner(s). Puddings will be available for tasting after the judging—although you eat at your own risk!

Here’s a pudding to get you salivating. I was going to make it on TV last week, but we ran out of time so you see it in the video but don’t watch the preparation. It’s simple, and a variation on it is a frequent entry in the contest.

To make it more local, I used Taza Chocolate. Taza is a company in Somerville, Massachusetts, that buys organic cacao beans and stone grinds them. They sent me some chocolate to play with (they also generously donated a chocolate sampler as a prize in the pudding contest) so I used their cinnamon chocolate discs to make the pudding.

The recipe as it stands here is only gently chocolaty. If you are a major chocoholic, feel free to add more chocolate.

And if you’d like more information about the Pudding Festival, visit its website.

Cinnamon Taza

Taza Chocolate Pudding Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce Taza chocolate (from a disc; you choose the flavor!)
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons grated Taza chocolate
1 cup boiling water

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Into a bowl sift 3/4 cup of the sugar with the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat in the milk and vanilla.

Melt the ounce of chocolate and the butter together in a double boiler. Add them to the other mixture. Pour this batter into a greased small 1-1/2- to 2-quart casserole dish.

Blend the brown sugar, the remaining white sugar, and the grated chocolate, and sprinkle them on top of the batter. Pour the water over all. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 6 to 8.

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I can’t leave you without a cute story. As you’ll see in the video below, I occasionally call myself the Queen of Pudding. (This distinguishes me from the winner of the Pudding Contest, who is known as the Pudding Head.)

At the end of Mass Appeal everyone was invited to eat pudding. One of the other guests took a bite, looked at me, and exclamed, “You really ARE the Queen of Pudding!”

I had to fluff up my feathers just a little. Well, maybe a lot.

Here is my video preview of the Pudding Festival. The corn pudding recipe will come soon!

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Pasta with Melon? You Bet!

September 17th, 2014

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My friend Michael Collins accompanied me to my most recent TV appearance. Michael and his partner Tony, an artist, were the owners and hosts at one of my family’s favorite western Massachusetts eateries, the Green Emporium in Colrain.

That restaurant closed a couple of years ago, but they are hoping to reopen in a new location, and they want to keep Michael’s work as a chef in the public eye. So he made the main course for our gig on Mass Appeal, and I put together the dessert.

His dish was absolutely fabulous. I would never have thought of pairing fresh local melon (or any melon, for that matter) with pasta, but the sweetness of the melon with the acid of Michael’s tomato sauce really worked. (The cream didn’t hurt, either.)

Michael’s recipe appears below (thank you, Michael, for sharing it), along with the video of his segment. I’m afraid my face disappears behind my hat somewhere in the middle of the segment, but he looked fine, and that’s all that matters.

But before we get to the recipe, I want to announce that we have a winner for the Yummy Yammy salsa giveaway—Peter from Connecticut. Thanks to all of you who left comments on my last post.

On to Michael’s triumph……

Tinky Michael Cweb

Michael’s Pasta with Melon and Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1 local cantaloupe, peeled and seeded
butter and olive oil as needed for sautéing
the juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pint heavy cream
approximately 4 cups marinara sauce, pureed
grated Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh basil, and freshly ground pepper for garnish

Instructions:

Cut the melon into 1-inch chunks. Sauté it very briefly in butter and olive oil. Add the lemon juice, the salt, the pepper, and the cream. Stir in marinara sauce until the whole concoction is a pretty pink, more or less the color of the melon. (You’ll probably want about 3 cups here.)

Cook for a few minutes to reduce the sauce slightly. Serve over the pasta of your choice. Garnish with cheese and basil, and grind pepper over all. Have the extra marinara sauce warm at the table in case it’s wanted. Serves 4 to 6.

Here’s the video:

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And here’s the clip of my dessert, a peach cobbler. The recipe appears elsewhere on this blog.

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Yummy Yammy Salsa Giveaway (Plus Tinky in a New Hat)

September 7th, 2014

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I haven’t offered a giveaway on this blog in a while—so this one should be GOOD. And it is!

Yummy Yammy has generously offered to send three jars of its sweet-potato salsa (one Mexican, one Moroccan, and one Tuscan) to a reader of In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens.

This company, based in Norwich, Vermont, is run by a woman named Lisa Johnson. Lisa’s salsas have no tomatoes in them, but salsa doesn’t need tomatoes.

As readers may recall I have made peach salsa, tropical fruit salsa, rhubarb salsa, and apple-cranberry salsa. I had never thought of making salsa out of sweet potatoes, however, and I was intrigued when Yummy Yammy offered to send me some to try.

Lisa’s salsa lives up to its name. It’s made of real food—sweet potatoes, beans, lime juice, vegetables, spices—and it tastes fresh and yummy. I served some at a cocktail party this week, and neighbors loved it, too.

The salsa isn’t cheap. When I think of what I spend making salsa, however, I realize why. Yummy Yammy is smoother than tomato salsa, which makes it versatile. And it’s low in calories and high in nutrition.

Yummy Yammy is available in the North Atlantic region at Whole Foods Market as well as online at Amazon and Open Sky. If you don’t win the salsa giveaway (I wish you ALL could!), you can go to the Yummy Yammy website and sign up for its mailing list. You will receive free shipping on your first online order as well as special offers in the future.

To enter the drawing for the giveaway, just leave a comment below telling me about your favorite salsa or your favorite thing to do with salsa (or whatever you feel like discussing!) between now and midnight on the morning of Tuesday, September 16. I’ll choose a winner randomly and announce his/her name on the morning of the 17th.

Good luck—and just in case you were dying to see me in a new straw hat (I KNOW you were!), here is my most recent TV appearance. The recipe I make comes from my upcoming book on Funeral Foods and is based on a dish in a mystery novel by Margaret Maron. Just click on the picture below to watch. And if you make the actual recipe depicted (I encourage you to do so!), bake the casserole until the biscuits brown (about 20 minutes) and then cover the whole thing and bake for 10 to 20 minutes longer to make sure everything is warm and bubbly.

Enjoy the glorious almost fall weather….

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Re-Learning about Whipped Cream

August 27th, 2014
Not my most together creation--although it tasted pretty darn fine.

Not my most together creation–although it tasted pretty darn fine.

I learn something every time I appear on television. I like to think of this as a good thing—but I would like to minimize the learning EVENTUALLY and become completely organized on camera.

Unfortunately, during my most recent appearance on Mass Appeal I forgot what my mother taught me about the fragile nature of whipped cream.

We were making an ice box cake, a mid-20th-century creation that relies on refrigeration for its basic structure. This particular cake was made of Graham crackers, peaches, a few berries, and … whipped cream.

Whipped cream, as my mother always told me, MUST be whipped cold. And it must be handled gently.

Unfortunately (mistake number one), I left the cream I was whipping on the air sitting in the studio lights a little too long. It didn’t whip.

I brought a pre-made cake from home. Unfortunately, I messed that up as well!

First, I decided to move it onto a pretty cake plate when I arrived at the studio. It collapsed and had to be re-glued together. (Apparently, ice box cakes shouldn’t be moved.)

Next, I left it, too, in the lights a little too long. When we arrived at its moment of cutting, it didn’t slice so much as fall apart.

The good news is that I can show you photographs of another ice box cake I made the week before at home that came out very nicely.

ice box cakeweb

The evening after the broadcast, my nephew Michael, my neighbor Alice, and I spooned leftover messy ice box cake into bowls with additional peaches. This made a trifle-like dessert that was FABULOUS.

One of these days I’ll manage to do a little better on the air. Meanwhile, of course, I still had fun. (I always have fun.) And hosts Seth Stutman and Ashley Kohl were forgiving.

The video link appears after the recipe below. So that you don’t think I’m a total klutz, I also include the link to our previous segment, in which we made BLTs with no major mishaps.

Enjoy peach season! And remember, when life gives you messy cake, you can always make trifle.

Assembling the Cake

Assembling the Cake

Peach Ice Box Cake

Ingredients:

3 cups peeled peach slices (2 to 3 peaches, depending on size)
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fruit liqueur (I used framboise, a raspberry liqueur, or blueberry cordial)
Graham crackers as needed (I used a little more than 1 sleeve of crackers)
blueberries or raspberries as needed for topping

Instructions:

In a nonreactive bowl toss together the peach slices, sugar, and lemon juice. Set aside for 2 hours.

Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks, stirring in the sugar and liqueur at the last minute.

Find a decorative plate. Put a little whipped cream on the bottom of the plate, underneath the spot on which you will place the crackers. Put a layer of Graham crackers on top of the cream. Follow this with a layer of whipped cream, a layer of peach slices, and another cracker layer.

You should end up with four layers of Graham crackers with three layers of whipped cream and peaches in between. Save enough whipped cream to cover the top of the final layer of crackers as well as the sides of the cake. (You MAY use a whole 2 cups of cream, but this seems excessive to me.)

Loosely cover your cake so that it is protected but isn’t exposed to odors from the rest of the refrigerator, and chill the cake for at least 6 hours. (Overnight is best.) When you are ready to serve it, place fresh berries on top.

Serves 6.

And now for the sad but yummy video:

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And here is the video about the BLTs, which definitely looked better.

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