Archive for October, 2014

The Day of the Dead

Friday, October 24th, 2014

ofrendaweb

My friends Donna and Dian in California introduced me to the Day of the Dead, la Dia de los Muertos, which is fast becoming one of my favorite holidays.

I gather that there are actually TWO days of the dead. On November 1, the spirits of dead children return to earth to join us. On November 2, adults follow.

Dian and Donna have wonderful, elaborate ofrendas, shrines dedicated to the memory of people they have lost. The ofrendas feature flowers, candles, trinkets, foods the people loved, skulls made of sugar, and even chocolate skulls.

I am only just starting to celebrate this holiday so my ofrenda is quite small—but I had fun putting it together. I brought it along to my most recent appearance on the television program Mass Appeal. I made Mexican hot chocolate in honor of the day and of my father (who LOVED chocolate).

The hot chocolate recipe, and the chocolate with which I made it, came from Taza Chocolate. I have tried making the hot chocolate with both vanilla-flavored chocolate (plus a little cinnamon) and the guajillo chile chocolate we used on the TV show. The chile chocolate might be a bit strong for kids, but it has a nice kick. And either frothy chocolate drink is fluffy and creamy.

Next year, I hope to give you a recipe for the traditional bread for the Day of the Dead, which you can see in the photograph of my ofrenda. I’m still working on the right formula!

Meanwhile, Happy Day of the Dead—and of course Happy Halloween. If you watch the video at the bottom of this post, you’ll see us make pumpkin bread for Halloween as well as the hot chocolate.

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Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

1 2.7-ounce package (2 discs) Mexican chocolate
2 cups milk
1 pinch salt

Instructions:

Roughly chop or grate the chocolate. Set it aside.

Heat the milk over medium heat until it ALMOST starts to simmer. Remove the milk from the heat, and toss in the salt.

Slow add the chocolate, stirring until it dissolves.

Return the mixture to the stove and warm it up again over low heat. While it is heating, use a whisk, a frother, or an immersion blender to froth it.

Serves 2.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=El2Pi_U-3rk[/youtube]

Pudding Festival Results

Monday, 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!

Leslie's puddweb

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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