Indian pudding is simple comfort food ideal for fall desserts or breakfasts. | AP Photo/American Institute for Cancer Research
Updated: December 8, 2012 6:12AM
Desserts have certainly metamorphosed into sweeter developments over the past century or so. There’s no denying it, and there’s no reason to be ashamed of it.
This evolution is probably just a result of our ever-broadening palates. New flavors, new ingredients, new unions stomp out the simplicity of early American confections and transform them into something sweetly complex.
Doughnuts made of red velvet cake and doused in a layer of thick cream cheese glaze extinguished our once rather plain craving for a plain ring of cake with a side of hot coffee. A simple slice of cake, nearly archaic in its worn-out old age, has been compressed into a tiny sphere of crumbled up cake and frosting enveloped in a rich candy coating.
Yet, our passion for clean-cut, simple flavors is not extinct. It is those desserts that have ripened into what we consider comfort foods. Pumpkin pie, apple tart and peach cobbler — they’re all sort of understated, rarely too sweet, hardly glamorous and that’s what we love about them.
Indian pudding is no different. A Colonial classic, this November specialty mimics the flavors of autumn in a such a straightforward way.
Sweetened with molasses, its only other flavorings are ginger and cinnamon. The treat, which is actually considered a hasty pudding because of its water bath method, is more like a breakfast option rather than a decadent dessert.
Cornmeal or “Indian flour” serves as the base and becomes a tasty porridge when mixed with milk, butter and molasses. Served hot with a dollop of whipped cream, it makes a lovely light dessert. But served with just an extra smear of butter melting into the mellow pool of the hot pudding, it’s an even better cold-morning breakfast.
Today, the dessert is most popular in New England and still has a cult following. For the rest of the country, Indian pudding might make its only appearance around the fall holiday season.
This adaptation doesn’t require the traditional water bath, but the flavor of it hasn’t been tampered with at all. Rich with the spices of autumn and just a hit of sweetness from molasses, this simple comfort food is ideal for fall desserts or breakfasts.
3 cups milk
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold milk
21/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus extra for greasing and serving
Cinnamon sugar or whipped cream for serving
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease a casserole dish and set aside.
In a small pan over low heat, scald the 3 cups milk, but don’t boil. Whisk in molasses and cornmeal, and cook until thickened, whisking constantly. Remove from heat.
Combine the egg, sugar, salt, ginger and cinnamon in a small bowl; stir into the cornmeal/milk mix.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Add cold milk and butter evenly over the top of the pudding. Continue baking about 1 hour.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Serve with whipped cream and cinnamon sugar as a dessert. As a breakfast, serve with butter and cream.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Adapted from “Best New England Recipes: Classic and Inspired Fare,” Yankee Magazine, 1978