When I come home to Connecticut, a few things are certain…
1. I WILL make a mess of my mother’s kitchen. My mother has finally abandoned her denial and accepted the fact that I will want to cover every last inch of countertop and table with all the baking projects that found their way into my brain during my 4 hour Amtrak ride home. What can I say? I’ve got a decent sized kitchen by apartment standards, but it’s no match for a house. Plus, baking without a stand mixer is just asking for flour on the floor!
2. I WILL spend at least 2 hours digging through old photographs from my childhood and triangle shaped notes from middle school. Though my bedroom hasn’t changed much since high school [when I apparently thought Pepto Bismal pink was a smart choice to paint my walls], my recollections have. Sitting cross-legged on my floor with a shoebox of pictures is like panning my memory for gold–flecks of nostalgia I had forgotten about that come shining to the surface.
3. I WILL go to Stop N Shop at least once a day. It starts easy enough: wanting to rent Magic Mike from the Redbox, checking the hours to see if they’re open on Thanksgiving for emergency baking supplies… But, if you give a Kelly a grocery store, she’s going to want to go in. And the baking aisle is conveniently located near the entrance, so me walking by without stopping in would be like Odysseus trying to sail by the sirens without being tied to the mast of the ship.
On my latest trip to Stop N Shop [yes, I've been home for 5 days and have already lost count of how many times I've been], I was strolling through the back of the store when I stopped in front of a display of ‘New England essentials.’ I take immense pride in being from New England–from the clam chowder [the creamy and the clear broth!] to the baseball rivalries and, of course, the foliage. I’d like to think I’m pretty well versed in what constitutes traditional New England food, even the regional stuff [coffee milk, anyone?]. But, the rack was filled with things I didn’t know were traditionally New England–brandy butter, chestnut puree and fig filling. While I hadn’t encountered any of these before, there was a can of Indian pudding that struck a chord of memory. I knew I had eaten this before, but I couldn’t remember what it looked like, what its texture was or what it tasted like.
I couldn’t in good conscious eat any kind of pudding from a can [the brown bread in a can skeeves me out too]. Like reading old notes from high school, I tried to dredge up recollection of this faint memory. I tried to peruse the aisles, but my thoughts kept looping back to the Indian pudding–where had I eaten it before? And who made it? Somewhere around the yogurt section, it hit me. During a “traditional first Thanksgiving feast” in elementary school that involved wearing paper pilgrim bibs and making butter by shaking whipping cream in empty peanut butter jars, we ate Indian pudding. My second grade senses weren’t enough to distinguish many of the spices, but I remember the slightly grainy, not-quite-pumpkin pie texture well. As the picture of the dish became clearer, I knew I had to make it. After all, it was my duty as a New Englander!
I found the recipe and the dish’s history on Yankee Magazine’s website and decided to change it up a bit. Because its texture and spice profile is so close to pumpkin pie, I felt it was only right to make Pumpkin Indian Pudding instead. And though I used stone-ground local cornmeal, I wanted more of a textural contrast to the jiggly custard, so I added walnuts. Feel free to play with what nuts you use or how much cornmeal you add [less makes for a looser pudding and more makes for something more closely resembling bread pudding]. I also deviated by substituting almond milk for half the milk to give a nuttier flavor. Because it was sweetened, I cut down on the sugar in the recipe.
This recipe makes a warm and comforting dessert with a scoop of ice cream and reheat the next morning with a dollop of whipped cream and treat yo self to an equally cozy breakfast!
Happy Baking & Happy Thanksgiving!
- 1½ C almond milk
- 1½ C milk
- ¼ C molasses
- 5 TBS cornmeal
- 1 C pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
- 1 egg
- ¼ C sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ½ C cold milk
- ⅔ cups nuts [I used walnuts, but pecans would be lovely!]
- butter, for greasing
- Preheat oven to 325 F.
- Grease a 1 qt casserole dish.
- In a small pan over low heat, scald the 1½ C milk + 1½ C almond milk. (ie let bubbles form on the side of the pan but do NOT let the milk come to a boil!)
- Add mollasses + cornmeal to the milk, whisking constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, egg, salt, sugar, spices until well combined. Whisk in cornmeal/milk/molasses mixture. Stir in nuts.
- Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake for 35 minutes.
- Carefully pour ½ cup cold milk evenly over top of the pudding. Bake for one more hour.
- Remove from oven. Allow to cool 15 minutes.
- Serve with whipped cream, clotted cream, ice cream or a splash of heavy cream.