When it’s cold and dreary outside, we all crave comfort of some kind. For many South Carolinians, that might mean a special food like a childhood favorite – perhaps a brownie-like chocolate dessert oozing with caramel or lemon pudding topped with whipped cream.
Pudding’s history extends well back into ancient history. It wasn’t possible to enjoy a bowlful of toffee or chocolate pudding back then – the ancient Romans produced savory puddings of meat and of rice, which were considered medicinal. The predominant 17th century British meat-based puddings, thought to have descended from Roman sausages, were boiled in “pudding bags.” Haggis, the ancient Scottish pudding based on oatmeal and animal offal, is often still cooked in the stomach of a sheep or lamb. Egg custards date back to the Middle Ages. American dessert puddings and custards began to sweeten-up and evolve into their present familiar form by mid 19th century. Today, we enjoy an infinite variety of tasty pudding-like desserts. They are usually rich in flavor, have a soft consistency and are easy to consume.
The pudding recipes here may not be exactly like those your mother used to make. However, their appearance, flavors and aromas have a nostalgic appeal that can transport you back to her kitchen, invoking memories from your childhood. Perhaps when you taste them, they will become new favorites, creating memories for generations to come. Indeed the proof of the pudding will be in the eating!
CHOCOLATE PUDDING FONDUE
Indulge your pudding fantasies with this deep, dark delicious warm chocolate fondue. In addition to cocoa, bittersweet chocolate is melted in for a luxurious knockout punch of richness. Strawberries, Oreos or cinnamon graham crackers make yummy dippers. Girl Scout cookies are delicious too, available for pre-order from the Girl Scouts in January. Support local troops and try the Caramel deLites, Shortbread, Shout Outs! (Belgian-style caramelized cookies with a light, crisp crunch) or Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies. The recipe is from Susan Slack’s Fondues & Hot Pots cookbook (HP Books).
1/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar, divided
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
1 4-ounce bar quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in 1/2 cup milk until smooth; set aside. Whisk eggs slightly in a medium bowl. Combine remaining 3 cups milk and 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat; heat until bubbles form around the pan edges. Slowly pour about half of the hot milk into the eggs, whisking vigorously. Pour egg mixture back into the remaining hot milk. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Scrape the cocoa mixture into the milk. Cook, stirring, just until the mixture simmers and thickens. Remove from heat; add chocolate pieces and stir until melted in. Blend in vanilla. Pour immediately into a chocolate fondue pot; keep warm over fondue pot base fitted with a tea light. Or divide mixture among small serving containers; serve at once with fondue dippers. Serves 4 to 5.
PANNA COTTA PARFAITS
Panna cotta or “cooked cream” is a classic molded pudding from Italy’s Piedmont area. Made from heavy cream and gelatin, the rich, silky smooth dessert lends itself to a variety of flavors. This version includes sour cream, which balances the cream’s richness. Serve parfait-style in stemmed glasses with a glaze and fruit topping. In the photo, one panna cotta portion features a blueberry glaze with blackberries, and the other features apricot glaze with diced fresh mango. Any chilled fruit sauce would be delicious. The green tea panna cotta shown in Japanese teacups uses matcha – Japanese finely powdered premium green tea used for tea ceremonies.
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, Amaretto (or orange juice), if desired
2 teaspoons quality, pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup quality blueberry, blackberry, raspberry or apricot preserves or jam
small whole berries, sliced strawberries, diced mango or other fruits, as desired
Sprinkle gelatin over milk in a measuring cup. Let mixture soften 5 minutes. In a medium saucepan, heat cream over low heat just until hot; do NOT simmer for best flavor. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar then gelatin mixture and sour cream. When blended, remove pan from heat. Stir in liqueur and vanilla extract. Cool slightly then pour panna cotta mixture into stemmed wine glasses or 6 small dishes. Refrigerate 2 hours or until set.
To make glaze, heat 3/4 cup preserves in a small pan until hot. With the back of a spoon, press the hot mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cool slightly then spoon evenly on top of each portion of chilled panna cotta. Decorate with fresh fruit, as desired. Makes 6 1/2-cup servings.
Green Tea Panna Cotta: Whisk 2 to 3 teaspoons matcha powdered tea, to taste, into the panna cotta mixture before pouring into it the serving dishes. If flecks of green tea are still visible, mixture can be strained through a fine sieve. Omit glaze; top with fresh fruit, if desired.
SNOW PUDDING WITH CUSTARD SAUCE
In Japan, this elegant type of dessert is made with kanten (agar-agar), a type of refined seaweed gelatin. Kanten isn’t always accessible and requires special handling, so here conventional gelatin is substituted. The result is a cloudlike pudding as delicate as newly fallen snow. With fresh berries and soft custard, the dessert is as satisfying as it is beautiful. The recipe is adapted from Susan Slack’s Japanese Cooking For the American Table (HP Books, 1996).
2 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups water, divided
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 large egg whites, at room temperature (reserve yolks for sauce)
1 tablespoon sugar
fresh whole raspberries or strawberries
Lightly wipe a 5-to 6-cup plain ring mold with oil. In a small cup, soften gelatin in 1/2 cup of the water. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 2 cups water and sugar over medium heat. Stir in soaked gelatin. Continue stirring until the sugar and gelatin dissolve, then remove pan from heat. Stir in lemon juice and salt. Pour mixture into a medium bowl. Refrigerate or set into a larger bowl of water with ice cubes for chilling. Watch carefully; stir occasionally. Separate eggs and put the whites in a mixing bowl for beating. Reserve yolks for custard. When gelatin mixture thickens slightly, quickly beat egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle in sugar; continue beating until whites are stiff but not dry. Slowly pour gelatin mixture into egg whites, beating constantly on low speed to combine. Pour whipped gelatin mixture into prepared mold. Cover lightly; refrigerate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Prepare Custard Sauce. To unmold dessert, quickly dip bottom of the ring mold in and out of warm water once or twice; pat dry. Place large serving platter upside down on top of mold and invert; gelatin should slip out. Fill center with berries or pass on the side with the Custard Sauce. Serves 6.
Custard sauce is delicious served over puddings and other desserts or churned into ice cream.
3 large egg yolks (reserved from Snow Pudding)
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Put yolks in the top pan of a double boiler. Whisk in milk, sugar, salt and cornstarch. Place over simmering water. Stir constantly, 8 to 10 minutes, until mixture thickens slightly and barely coats the back of a metal spoon. Pour into a medium bowl; stir in vanilla. Cool slightly. Cover and chill 3 hours or overnight. Makes about 1 3/4 cups.
CHERRY ALMOND BREAD PUDDING
Bread pudding, the ultimate comfort food, can be made with almost any kind of stale bread you have on hand: raisin bread, challah, brioche, panetone, croissants, biscuits and even doughnuts. If the bread isn’t stale, dry it out a bit in the oven. If you prefer less crusty bread, double the soaking time or trim off the crusts.
8 cups cubed (about 1-inch) day-old bread
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half and half or milk
1 cup granulated sugar (sugar can be increased 1/4 cup, if you prefer)
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 to 1 cup canned pitted, tart red cherries, drained
1/3 sliced almonds
Place bread in a large bowl; cover with milk and half and half. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring 1 or 2 times. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9- by 12-inch baking pan. Whisk together sugar, eggs, salt and the extracts. Stir into bread mixture then mix in 1 tablespoon butter. Pour pudding into prepared pan, arranging some of the bread cubes crusty sides up. Dot the top evenly with cherries; push slightly into the pudding. Sprinkle with almonds and drizzle with remaining butter. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown and slightly puffed. If longer baking is needed, you can cover lightly with foil, if necessary. Cool pudding 15 minutes before slicing; serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, ice cream or your favorite sauce. Leftover pudding keeps well; reheat portions in the microwave.
Serve with the Custard Sauce in this article, flavored with 1 to 2 tablespoons Amaretto, dark rum or Grand Marnier liqueur.
Before baking, omit cherries then dot pudding top with small spoonfuls of More Fruit Lite Cherry Pie Filling (1/2 cup from 20-ounce can.) Serve remaining cherry filling in a serving dish with the baked pudding.
SUSAN SLACK’S CHARLESTON GOLD RICE PUDDING
Rice was king of the cash crops in Charleston’s plantation era. In April 2011, the new Charleston Gold rice was released to the public through the efforts of scientists like S.C. rice entomologist, Dr. Merle Shepard. The long-grain Japonica rice is the progeny of the legendary heirloom grain, “Carolina Gold.” The fragrant rice is barrel-aged with laurel leaves for three years. The slow simmer-time in milk gives the grains time to expand, tenderize and release their amazing aroma and flavor. The pudding is extremely delicious, even without the additional flavorings. If you don’t own a double boiler, use a sturdy heavy pot, keeping the rice at a bare simmer on the lowest burner setting. If too hot, cushion the pot with an inexpensive stovetop heat diffuser. This lovely pudding is well worth the effort. Wine professional Debbie Marlowe of Charleston, recommends serving it with a 5-year-old Malmsey Madiera.
1/2 cup Charleston Gold rice, or other quality aromatic rice
5 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
grated peel of 1 lemon or orange, optional
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons fine Madeira or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, softly whipped
optional topping: Coarsely crushed benne seed wafers
Rinse rice in cool water; drain well in a fine sieve. In the top part of a double boiler, stir together rice, milk, sugar and salt. Add lid. Place over a double boiler bottom fitted with simmering water. Cook rice 1 hour, giving the mixture a brief, gentle stir every 15 minutes. Replenish pot with hot water, as needed. Add the lemon peel and raisins. Cook 25 to 30 minutes more, or just until pudding thickens slightly and the rice is tender. (Pudding cooks faster if placed directly over a low burner; watch carefully.) When done, stir in Madeira or vanilla. Scrape pudding into a large bowl; cool about 20 minutes. It will thicken as it cools. Whip cream and fold into rice pudding. Divide among stemmed glasses or crystal bowls; serve at once or chill for later. Makes 8 1/2-cup portions.
Butter Pecan Rice Pudding: For a touch of extra decadence, top each portion with a drizzle of Caramel Sauce and 1 to 2 teaspoons butter-roasted, chopped South Carolina pecans.
LEMON SPONGE PUDDING
After being baked, the pudding separates into two layers: a spongy light cake on top and a tangy lemon pudding on the bottom. Top each portion with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a few fresh berries.
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
finely grated lemon zest of 1 small lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat six or seven 6-ounce ramekins with vegetable spray. Whisk 3/4 cup sugar into flour; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks into soft butter then work in milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and vanilla. Pour blended ingredients into sugar and flour; blend until smooth. With a mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy. Slowly sprinkle in 1/4 cup sugar, beating until firm peaks form. Mix a quarter of the beaten egg whites into lemon mixture to lighten; gently fold in the remainder. Spoon batter into the prepared ramekins then place them in a small roasting pan. Place pan in the oven, pouring in hot water to reach nearly halfway up the ramekin sides. Bake 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown and puffy. Cool 10 minutes then serve cake in the ramekins or unmold onto individual plates. Add toppings. Serves 6 to 7.
RASPBERRIES & CREAM TIPSY LAIRD
Cousin to the English Tipsy Parson or trifle, Tipsy Laird is a luscious Scottish dessert that makes good use of leftover cake.
about 8 ounces sponge cake or pound cake, preferably homemade, cut in thick, even slices, dark crusts trimmed
about 1/3 cup Drambuie (Scottish liqueur with herbs, spices and heather honey) or fine Madeira, sweet sherry or orange juice
raspberry or plum jam, as needed
1 carton fresh raspberries, or 1 pack thawed frozen berries, drained
1 recipe Custard Sauce
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, softly whipped (lightly sweetened and flavored with vanilla)
1/3 cup toasted, sliced almonds
Prepare the dessert in a large glass bowl or in individual glass serving dishes. With a skewer, poke holes in the cake slices; brush with the whiskey. Spread cake slices lightly with raspberry jam. Line the bottom of the bowl with the cake. Sprinkle in about half the raspberries. Pour custard over the cake and fruit then top with the whipped cream. Garnish with the remaining raspberries and sliced almonds. Serves 6.
Peaches & Cream Tipsy Laird: When in season, use sliced fresh South Carolina peaches in this dessert.
PUDDING POPS FOR KIDS AND PARENTS
This fun recipe is from the Columbia Junior League cookbook, Down By The Water.
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 4-ounce package any flavor instant pudding mix
1 cup whipped topping
1/2 cup mashed banana
Whisk the milk and pudding mix in a bowl until blended. Fold in the whipped topping. Gently stir in the banana. Spoon the mixture into six 5-ounce paper or plastic cups. Insert a wooden popsicle stick in the center of each cup. Freeze until firm.
You may substitute crumbled chocolate sandwich cookies, miniature marshmallows, miniature chocolate chips or chopped nuts for the bananas.
MOCHA PECAN BROWNIE PUDDING WITH CARAMEL SAUCE
Servings of this warm chocolaty pudding can be topped with a scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream then drizzled with Caramel Sauce.
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped, toasted South Carolina pecans
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cup hot prepared coffee or hot water
Caramel Sauce, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and 2 tablespoons of the cocoa together until well combined. Add milk, oil, vanilla and pecans; combine until blended. Spread mixture into an ungreased 8-inch by 8-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, the remaining cocoa and the hot coffee; gently pour over top of pudding mix. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until cake top is done. Cool 5 minutes; scoop onto serving plates. Top with ice cream and Caramel Sauce. Serves 5 or 6.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, cook sugar, butter and 1/2 cup cream for 8 to 10 minutes or until sugar begins to caramelize. Reduce heat. Continue cooking sauce until it turns a rich caramel color, stirring constantly with a long handled wooden spoon. Slowly stir in remaining cream; simmer 30 seconds more. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Serve warm.
Food Styling by Susan Fuller Slack, CCO