This is a specifically New England pudding. Most people living outside of the area have never heard of it. It was derived from England’s “hasty pudding,” a wheat flour porridge that was served hot or cooled, cut into pieces and fried. It was the instant oatmeal of its day! Since wheat was scarce in Colonial times, settlers adapted the hasty pudding using cornmeal (or Indian meal) and molasses, which was both abundant and inexpensive. New Englanders love this pudding so much that November 13 is National Indian Pudding Day, so mark your calendars for next year! I prefer to use a mild molasses in this recipe (such as Brer Rabbit brand) as I think traditional molasses can overpower the other flavors, but this, of course, is personal taste. I’ve seen many recipes over the years for Indian Pudding and many omit the water bath process, but I find that it’s essential for a rich, creamy consistency. Indian pudding is best served warm with a scoop of melting vanilla bean ice cream on top.
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup local yellow cornmeal
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Preheat oven to 275°F. Grease a 6-cup baking dish with butter. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, scald the milk. While the milk is heating, pour the cream into a medium bowl and whisk in cornmeal, sugar, molasses, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves a nd ginger. Add this cream mixture to the scalded milk and cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat until the pudding has thickened to the consistency of syrup, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In another bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Temper (or warm) the eggs by adding half a cup of the hot cornmeal mixture to the beaten eggs while whisking rapidly, then whisk this mixture back into the remaining cornmeal mixture. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, stirring until melted.
Pour the pudding into the baking dish and place inside a larger baking pan on the center oven rack. Carefully pour hot water into the baking pan until it is ⅔ of the way up the side of the baking dish. Bake until pudding is set but still wobbles slightly in the center, about 2 to 2½ hours. Remove from the oven and let cool in the water bath about 20 minutes. Remove from the water bath and let cool an additional 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Lisa Sewall graduated from Johnson and Wales in Providence. She then came to Boston and worked at Biba, before going to Nantucket to work at the White Elephant, Summer House, and Wauwinet. She returned to Boston and was the Pastry Chef at L’Espalier (where she met, Jeremy, her husband.) For five years, she lived in Northern California as the opening Pastry Chef at Ondine in Sausalito. In 2006, she and Jeremy opened Lineage in Brookline. Lisa and Jeremy have three kids which keeps her out of professional kitchens for the moment!