November 13th was Indian pudding day. Who is coming up with these days, really? Honestly, I had no idea what hasty pudding or Indian pudding were three weeks ago. New Englanders are probably more familiar with this dish than the rest of the country. Being from the Midwest, I had never seen a recipe of this dish, let alone tasted it. I studied up, though, and here’s what I learned. Hasty pudding was first brought to America by the English colonists. The original version was probably more like a “porridge,” made with flour and water, rather than cornmeal and milk. It was likely sparingly sweetened, if at all.
When the colonists arrived in North America, the dish transformed into what became known as Indian pudding or Indian mush, thanks to the substitution of New World ingredients. After the American Indians showed the colonists how to cultivate corn, cornmeal was more plentiful in the colonies than the traditional flour. Because of this “hasty pudding” became “Indian pudding.” And, because of the abundance of milk, it was used instead of water, which thickened the dish to something more like pudding or custard and less like, well, gruel.
As I was looking at several different recipes, I noticed that this dish was often referred to as “porridge” or “mush.” Not the most appetizing description. When I started looking at some of the ingredients, “eggs, milk, molasses, cinnamon,” etc., I thought, well, none of this sounds that bad. And I was right!
In honor of the colonists who changed their old recipe to work in their new land, I decided to put a spin on this traditional dish with another New World ingredient, pumpkin. (No, not pumpkin spice. Just pumpkin.)
Pumpkin Indian Pudding
Pumpkin Indian Pudding Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Pumpkin Indian Pudding Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 1 quart baking dish. Set aside.
To a medium bowl, add the pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir until smooth. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and milk. Try to get out any large clumps before turning on the heat. Turn on stove and continue to whisk for about 5-10 minutes, until the mixture just starts to boil. Turn off the stove and continue to whisk for about a minute. Add in the butter and continue to stir until it’s completely melted.
Add the cornmeal mixture to the pumpkin mixture in the bowl. To make sure the eggs don’t scramble, add a little of the hot mixture in and stir quickly to temper the eggs. Stir together until smooth.
Pour into your baking dish and then place the baking dish on a cookie sheet.
Cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Then, turn the oven down to 325 degrees and continue baking for 1 hour and 15 minutes. This dish does best without the oven door opening and closing. If you’re really itching to check on it, try to do so only once or twice.
Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Even after that, it will still be quite hot. Once removed from the oven, the surface will look a bit dry and may even be cracking a little. That’s perfect. Once you scoop into it, you will notice that it’s actually not dry at all. Also, don’t be surprised if it deflates a little after you take it out of the oven.
I highly suggest adding some vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream, while it’s still warm.
The amount of time you need for cooking this does not exactly make this hasty. The original flour-based dish was much hastier. With the addition of the cornmeal, a longer cooking time is needed for the cornmeal to absorb more liquid, which results in a thicker, creamier texture.
The addition of pumpkin makes this the perfect dish for fall and early (*cringe*) winter. As Alex and I were eagerly scooping it into our mouths, we came up with this description: something between pumpkin pie, without the crust, and a gingerbread cookie. Sold yet?