Archive for the ‘Pudding’ Category

I Cannot Tell a Lie: I Made Cherry Pudding

Monday, February 22nd, 2010


Happy Washington’s Birthday.
I appreciate the spirit behind the relatively new (1971) holiday of Presidents’ Day, which generously embraces all presidents, even the incompetent ones like James Buchanon and the downright dishonest ones like Richard Nixon.
I rejoice for my friends who work in offices; they now enjoy a three-day holiday weekend on the Monday before Washington’s birthday instead of celebrating his birthday as a single holiday whenever it occurs (sometimes on a weekend).
Nevertheless, I prefer to celebrate Washington’s birth on the day on which it occurred, February 22.
Pedants might point out that he wasn’t actually born on February 22, 1732, but rather on February 11 as marked on the calendar in use then, the Julian calendar.

The Gregorian calendar was adopted in Britain and its colonies in 1752, and dates were shifted 11 days to allow the calendar to catch up with the solar year.
Washington himself counted the 22nd as his birthday, however, and I think he’s an excellent source on this subject.
It’s traditional to make something with cherries on Washington’s Birthday, and I’m not a girl to mess with tradition.
John C. McRae, "Father, I cannot tell a lie: I cut the tree." (Library of Congress)

John C. McRae, "Father, I cannot tell a lie: I cut the tree." (Library of Congress)

Most Americans now know that the story about his chopping down a cherry tree and confessing the deed to his father was made up by Washington’s enterprising biographer, Parson Weems.
Nevertheless, we still associate Washington with cherries. The gift shop at Mount Vernon even sells souvenirs with cherries on them.
The cherry-tree legend is appealing and apt in its way. Washington was known for his honesty and indeed maintained that “the character of an honest man” was “the most envied of all titles.”
The cherry-tree story can thus be viewed as a metaphor for Washington’s overall character.
Besides, I like cherries!
While your cherry pudding is in the oven, you might want to take this little presidential food quiz, courtesy of the Food Museum Online.
If you’d like to read more about George Washington and cherries (yes, he did love them, even if he didn’t chop down that tree), here’s a great post about his eating habits at The Food Timeline.
Cherry Pudding
I adapted this recipe from one entered in the Pudding Hollow Pudding Contest by Jane Montgomery of Newton, Massachusetts. It’s one of those lovely comforting pudding cakes that are easy to throw together and satisfying to eat. It uses canned cherries because even in Virginia one can’t get fresh local cherries in February.
1 can (14.5 or 15 ounces) tart cherries (NOT cherry pie filling)
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
whipped cream as needed
toasted almonds or pecans (or even candied ones) as needed (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Drain the cherries, reserving their liquid. Combine the drained cherries and the lemon juice, and spread this mixture into a well buttered, 8-inch-square pan or a 1-quart casserole dish.
Cream the sugar with the butter. Sift together the flour, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon, and add them to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk; be sure to begin and end with the flour mixture. Use a spatula to spread the batter over the cherries as well as you can. Sprinkle the brown sugar over all. Pour the cherry juice over the top of the batter. Do not stir it in.
At this point your dish will look pretty messy, and you will begin to doubt yourself. Never fear: the magic of baking (or perhaps the inspiration of George Washington) will rescue your pudding. The cake batter will rise to the top and solidify, although there will be sauce at the bottom and the edges of the pan.



Bake the pudding until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake part comes out clean, 45 minutes to an hour. Be careful not to insert the toothpick too far, or it will hit the sauce.
When the pudding is done, dish it onto serving plates, making sure each serving has cake, cherries, and juice. Dollop whipped cream on the top, and put a few nuts on the cream if you like. Serves 8.

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Pudding Perfection

Sunday, November 15th, 2009
The Winner!

The Winner!

I know! I’ve been posting TOO MANY SWEET RECIPES lately.
But I haven’t yet written about this year’s Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival. So here’s a brief report for pudding fans along with the winning recipe, a (gulp!) sweet pudding.
Save it for Thanksgiving when the calories will be just a small part of the day.
Our Day of Pudding was exhausting—and exhilarating—and just plain fun.
Its spooky scheduling (Halloween!) this year was an accident—the result of musical director Alice Parker’s busy schedule. We were a little worried that having the festival on this busy day would reduce attendance, but we had no choice so we decided to do it anyway.
It turns out that Halloween is a GREAT day for puddings! Several contestants (and even members of the general public) came in costume. Everyone seemed to enjoy the new prizes for best costume, spookiest pudding, and best pumpkin pudding.
Our wonderful judges—Edie Clark of Yankee magazine, Kathleen Wall of Plimoth Plantation, and Michaelangelo Wescott of the Gypsy Apple Bistro—had to work extra hard this year.
In the past we have held a semi-final round a few weeks before the big day to cull our finalists down to a manageable 15. This year the Sons & Daughters of Hawley had a heavy schedule and couldn’t face adding the semi-finals to it.
The judges therefore had all 27 entries to work on. I have a feeling their digestive systems are only now recovering from the experience!
If we had cut off entries earlier, however, the panel wouldn’t have been able to taste the pudding that won this year.
Paula Zindler of Cummington, Massachusetts, told me she only decided to enter the contest the week before Halloween. Her pumpkin gingerbread pudding delighted both the eyes and the taste buds.
As always, our entertainment took a lighthearted look at the culinary history of my hometown of Hawley, Massachusetts. “The Witches of Pudding Hollow” stirred up a big pot of potion and a lot of fun for thespians and audience members alike.
To read Edie Clark’s description of the judging process, please visit her blog. And if you’d like to see more photos of our big day, please go to the Pudding Festival web site. Meanwhile, here is Paula’s winning pudding recipe.
The Witches of Pudding Hollow (I'm the short witch in the middle) sing about their brew.

The Witches of Pudding Hollow (I'm the short witch in the middle) sing about their brew.

Paula’s Pumpkin Gingerbread Pudding
for the Pumpkin Gingerbread:
1-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons melted sweet butter
1/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan well; then line the bottom with buttered waxed paper. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
Combine the wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, stirring until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the pan, covered with plastic wrap.
Cut the loaf into quarter-inch slices and line a 10-inch buttered ovenproof dish with the slices. (The dish must have 2-inch sides.) Set aside.
for the Vanilla Custard and Assembly:
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 whole eggs plus 8 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla
Combine the milk, cream, and sugar in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool by stirring for 5 minutes.
Combine the whole eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla in a large bowl and beat lightly until well blended. Quickly whisk 1/2 cup of the slightly cooled milk into the egg mixture and then slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk pot, whisking continuously over low heat.
When the milk mixture just begins to put off steam, remove it from the heat and pour it into the baking dish. Allow the custard to soak into the bread for 10 minutes.
Place the baking dish into a pan of hot water in a 350 oven for 50 minutes or until the custard is set. Enjoy at any temperature.
Serves 8 to 10. 
Crowning the Winner
Crowning the Winner

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Night Kitchen Chai Panna Cotta

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

pannacotta web

The atmosphere in the Night Kitchen is serene.
Perhaps the Sawmill River calms the owner/chef, Max Brody, and his colleagues. The restaurant is perched above the water in an old gristmill in Montague, Massachusetts.
Perhaps Max is just a peaceful sort of person. The colors he has chosen for the restaurant—soft browns, natural wood tones, and shades of rose—gently gladden the heart. His food does as well.
Max grew up loving and preparing food. “I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 10 years old,” he told me recently while sitting at a riverside table in his dining room. “Friends of my parents owned a little bistro. I did my duty as a dishwasher for many years.”
He worked his way up through the ranks in American restaurants and continued his culinary and life education with three years cooking and traveling overseas. One of his favorite gigs during this period of his life found him in a restaurant in a former monastery in Tuscany owned by a guy named Lorenzo de’ Medici.
I told him I thought Lorenzo the Magnificent lived in the 15th century, and he informed me that there is now ANOTHER Lorenzo who frequents culinary rather than political circles.
Max learned from chefs in India and Nepal as well as those in Europe and the U.S.
He returned to the United States to cement his cooking expertise with a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. He and his wife, an elementary school teacher, settled here in the Pioneer Valley when she pursued graduate work at Smith College. Max ended up running the executive dining room at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in Springfield.
The pair lived in Montague. When the space in which the Night Kitchen now resides became available five and a half years ago Max saw a new future opening up almost literally in front of him.
“I think I just kind of got tired of working for other people,” he told me. “While there’s much more responsibility [owning a restaurant] it’s also more fulfilling and gratifying. I find it more worthwhile.”
I asked Max how he would characterize his cuisine. He didn’t actually definite it, describing it as eclectic.
“I didn’t want to limit what we could cook to a certain cuisine,” he explained. “I try to take different things from different areas, to use different flavor combinations while keeping everything simple.” He noted that he also likes to make his dishes appropriate to the season.
The Night Kitchen is open only four evenings a week (Thursday through Sunday). Max noted that he has a one-year-old child at home whom he wants to see. “It’s a matter of trying to keep [the business] sustainable,” he said. “The restaurant industry is known for burning people out.”
He noted that his business has remained steady despite the economy. “We haven’t raised our prices in two years, and I think people appreciate that. Nobody leaves hungry, and people appreciate the value.”
Max speculated that something about the restaurant, perhaps the river flowing beside it, is conducive to romance. The Night Kitchen has had seven weddings scheduled in October and has seen its fair share of proposals as well. “We have people coming back time after time. It’s memorable,” he said.
The pudding Max Brody made for me at the Night Kitchen was certainly memorable—an Italian panna cotta (cream custard) that combined local sweet potatoes and fruit with South Asian spices. The recipe, which involves tea bags, sounds odd, but the final product comes together beautifully. It’s creamy, aromatic, and easy to cook and eat.
I’ll be back soon with another recipe, and I promise it won’t be for pudding! Meanwhile, here is Max’s delectable dessert.
The Old Mill

The Old Mill

The Panna Cotta
Max Brody uses sheet gelatin for this recipe. He knew that most home cooks wouldn’t have it in the house so we substituted packaged gelatin in this recipe. If you happen to have access to sheets, you don’t need to worry about blooming them; just add two sheets to the custard when asked to add the gelatin and water in the recipe.
1/2 package gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
2-1/2 cups heavy cream (Max uses Mapleline)
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup mashed, pureed sweet potatoes
2 chai-flavored tea bags (such as Celestial Seasonings)
3/4 cup crème fraîche
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set it aside to “bloom” (dissolve) for 5 to 10 minutes.
In a saucepan combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Add the sweet potatoes and then the tea bags.
Bring the liquid just to the boil (watch it, or it will boil over!). Remove the pan from the heat. Take out the tea bags, and whisk in the crème fraîche.
Stir the gelatin into the water so that it dissolves completely. Slowly whisk the gelatin water into the panna cotta until it is completely incorporated.
Grease 6 6-ounce silicone molds with nonstick spray. Divide the gelatin mixture among them.
Chill for at least two hours, or until set; then unmold and serve. Max likes to garnish these little custards with fruits, nuts—whatever takes his fancy. The day I visited he pressed peach slices in sugar and browned them in butter in a grill pan for extra flavor and texture. Now that peaches are out of season, I think I’d use apples.
Serves 6.
Sawmill River web
Don’t forget: readers have until Monday night to register for the drawing for a copy of the book The Perfect Pumpkin. All email subscribers to this blog will be eligible for the drawing. If you’re not a subscriber and would like to sign up, please click on the link below.

Cyndie’s Cheesy Corn Pudding

Monday, October 19th, 2009
Cheesy Corn Puddingweb2 
With LESS THAN TWO WEEKS to go before the Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival, I thought I’d post another pudding recipe. I hope it inspires readers to enter the festival’s gala pudding contest.
This year’s festival falls on October 31 so I’m offering a recipe from the Queen of Halloween in my hometown of Hawley, Massachusetts, town clerk Cyndie Stetson.
Each autumn the spooky display outside Cyndie’s home on West Hawley Road dazzles those of us who drive by. It offers a number of vignettes—a pumpkin crossing, a mad scientist’s lab, a witch’s lair, and a pirate ship—plus assorted spider webs, severed limbs, tombstones, and ghosts.
Indoors, Cyndie celebrates with Halloween jewelry, lights, dolls, and crawling creatures, plus (my personal favorite) an orange cocktail shaker and matching martini glasses.
Cyndie assures me she is entering this year’s contest. Two years ago her Autumn Comfort Pudding won the top award, and she has placed as a finalist several times.
The hearty pudding recipe below made it to the finals a few years back. It’s perfect comfort food for our current chilly, drippy weather.
I plan to adapt it soon. I’d like to substitute standard ingredients for the muffin mix. I’d also like to experiment with a Southwestern version and add a little chipotle and/or cumin. Meanwhile, below lies the easy version from the Queen of Halloween herself.
Before I give you the recipe, I want to let readers know about my new book giveaway. In keeping with the season, I am holding a drawing for a copy of The Perfect Pumpkin by Gail Damerow. The book offers a little history, a little advice on cultivation, and a number of tasty-looking recipes.
Anyone who takes out an email subscription to this blog will be eligible for the drawing, which will take place at approximately midnight EDT next Monday, October 26. This includes current subscribers, of course (I hope you’ll spread the word to your friends)! If you’re not a subscriber and would like to sign up, please click on the link below.
Good luck! And now, here’s Cyndie’s recipe…….
1 8-1/2-ounce box corn muffin mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sour cream
1 14-3/4 ounce can cream-style corn, with liquid
1 15-1/4 ounce can whole-kernel corn, with liquid
1 medium onion, diced and sautéed in olive oil
1 medium green or red bell pepper, diced and sautéed in olive oil
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (use a little more for ultimate cheesy-ness)
1 dash each salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, blend all the ingredients well. Place them in a well greased 11-by-7 inch baking pan or round 2-quart casserole dish.
Bake the pudding until it is lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. This will take about an hour, but start checking after about 45 minutes. Serves 6 as a main dish or 8 to 10 as a side dish.
Cyndie (right) was surprised at her pudding-contest victory in 2007.

Cyndie (right) was surprised at her pudding-contest victory in 2007.

It’s Almost Pudding Time!

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Pudding Festival poster web copy 
As many readers know, one of my favorite fall activities is the Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival. This yearly homage to small-town life and food blends many of my passions–food, music, humor, and hammy acting.
The poster above (designed by Leon Peters of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts–thanks, Lee!) should give you some idea of the colorful yet homey nature of this event.
This year’s festival will take place on Saturday, October 31 (yes, Halloween!), at the Federated Church on Route 2 in Charlemont, Massachusetts.
Entries to the contest portion of the day are due by 11 am that morning so PLEASE START THINKING ABOUT MAKING A PUDDING. And tell your friends about this event.
(Those who have entered in past years may wonder why we’re not having a pre-contest to narrow down finalists. The Sons & Daughters of Hawley have gotten so darn busy lately that we couldn’t find a date on which our volunteers could schedule it. Think how much more exciting this will be!)
If you enter, you will have fun, contribute to a great cause (the $12 entry fee goes to our historical-society building project), and probably get at least a very small prize (we have quite a few!).
Entries need not be elaborate. As you can see from our contest information pages, our definition of the word “pudding” is highly flexible.
Non-cooks may shop, eat a yummy lunch, and watch the free fabulous entertainment.
We’ll get everyone home in time for trick-or-treating!
If you have questions about the day or if you’d like to volunteer to help, please use the contact form on this blog to get in touch with me, Tinky.
The contest web site includes a list of prizes and pictures of last year’s festivities.
Here’s the winning recipe from 2006 to get you in a pudding mood. The winner, Leigh Bullard of Virginia, blended two of my favorite flavors, chocolate and mint. (Obviously, the combination appealed to the judges as well.)
Chocolate Mint Pudding for web
Michael’s Almost Famous Chocolate Mint Pudding
1 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate, preferably a good brand
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup boiling water
whipped cream and crushed peppermint (if desired) as needed for garnish
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, vanilla, and peppermint extract.
Melt the chocolate and 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 cocoa, and sprinkle them on top of the batter. Pour the water over all. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream (or ice cream) and peppermint if desired. Serves 6 to 8.
The 2006 Pudding Head samples her entry.

The 2006 Pudding Head samples her entry.