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Baked Indian Pudding

Three hours in the oven and the right proportion of ingredients give our Indian pudding a lush, silken interior and a treacly umber top with a soft, supple chew.
difficulty:
yield:

8 servings

time:

20 minutes to prepare the pudding, 3 hours to bake it

introduction

An elemental dessert, innocent of ingredient and impossible to resist, Indian pudding is straight cornmeal mush custard, sweetened with molasses and warmed with spice. It is as plain as a pilgrim costume and brown, brown, brown. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure—and we’ve met a lot of you lately—this description may not quicken your pulse, but there is dark magic in the synergy of ingredients, a swirling headiness, and a light, soothing texture that pull the spoon inexorably back toward your mouth. The obligatory raft of vanilla ice cream or puddle of custard sauce doesn’t hurt, either.

We’re tempted to say there are no bad Indian puddings. (One friend of ours likes his with lumps.) But the divide between not bad and great is deep. Many pudding recipes are, in our opinion, a bit soft in the head. You can make an Indian pudding, for instance, with almost no cornmeal and absolutely no eggs. Recipes do it all the time. But you’ll wind up with a dumpy matron fit to drown in a tub of ice cream. (You can even blow it completely and add flour, but we won’t speak to you then.) You can make an Indian pudding that is stirred on the stove, not steamed in the oven, but the color will be anemic and the texture convalescent. You can bake an Indian pudding for just an hour, but it will slump in a bowl. The real challenge of Indian pudding is not to protect its delicate nature but to give it a little substance and shape.

Working Ahead

It’s not a bad idea to make this pudding a day in advance. For one thing, it will hog 3 hours of oven time, and, if it’s a holiday, your oven might already be pretty busy. For another, the pudding doesn’t suffer from a day’s wait. If you’ve baked the pudding in a baking dish, simply allow it to cool. If you’ve baked the pudding in a mold, invert it onto an ovensafe platter as described in the recipe. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, reheat the pudding, uncovered, in a 250-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a digital kitchen scale, a 2-quart baking dish or pudding mold, a teakettle to boil water, a heavy-bottomed 2- or 3-quart saucepan, a whisk, a medium mixing bowl, a rubber spatula, and a roasting pan to use as an oven insert with the baking dish.

    • 4
      cups whole milk
    • 5
    • 2
      ounces (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus
      1 tablespoon for greasing the baking dish and foil
    • 6.3
      ounces (½ cup) light molasses
    • 2.8
      ounces (⅓ cup) dark brown sugar
    • 1
      teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • ¾
      teaspoon ground ginger
    • ½
      teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1
      teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3
      large eggs
  1.  

    Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish or pudding mold and a piece of aluminum foil that will serve to cover the dish with the 1 tablespoon butter; set both aside. Fill a teakettle with water and bring the water to a boil.

  2.  

    Place the milk and cornmeal in a heavy-bottomed 2- or 3-quart saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue to whisk as the mixture simmers and thickens, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter piece by piece. Whisk in the molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and vanilla. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk well. Stir about ½ cup of the hot cornmeal mixture into the eggs to warm them, and then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and stir to incorporate. Pour the hot pudding into the prepared baking dish or mold. Fit the foil over the dish, buttered side down, or cover the mold with its lid. Pull out the oven rack partway and place a large roasting pan on it. Set the pudding in the roasting pan and pour boiling water from the teakettle to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish or mold. Bake the pudding for 3 hours, adding water to the roasting pan if necessary to maintain the same level.

  3.  

    Remove the pudding from the water bath and let it cool for about 30 minutes. If you have used a baking dish, simply cut or spoon the pudding into servings. If you have used a pudding mold, invert the mold onto a platter. Apply hot, damp kitchen towels to the inverted mold to persuade the pudding to slip from its form. Lift off the mold and cut the pudding into portions. Serve warm with Vanilla Mousseline.