Monday, April 15, 2013

An Unusual Gold Rush Pudding

When I first read this recipe in From Fingers to Finger Bowls, A Sprightly History of California Cooking, by Helen Walker Linsenmeyer, I was immediately reminded of the dessert called "White Pot", a fine video of which is found at the YouTube channel of Jas Townsend and Son:  White Pot video.

A Copley Book, published by the Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

It is found in the chapter on the Gold Rush of 1849.  What impressed me is how the creator of this recipe managed to retain the good parts of White Pot while coping with the lack of an oven and probably reduced food supplies -- I can imagine someone making a taste of home while out in the wilds of Northern California.

The recipe is listed on page 75 simply as

Caramel Pudding

4 slices bread (lightly buttered)
2/3 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
2 eggs, beaten with a fork
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup raisins

Cut bread into small cubes and place in heavy saucepan.  Sprinkle sugar and raisins over the top.  Mix eggs and milk with salt and vanilla and pour over bread mixture.  Do not stir.  Cover and cook very slowly for an hour.

I was using a french bread loaf, which concerned me because I wondered if the four slices were smaller than what the author had intended.  But I went ahead and tried the recipe anyway!  I buttered the bread just on one side.

Everything was going into a small saucepan because it just didn't look like a large quantity.

After cutting the bread into cubes and sprinkling on the brown sugar and raisins, I mixed up the milk, eggs, salt, and vanilla, then poured it over the bread mixture.  Some of the bread cubes and raisins floated to the top.

The instructions said "cook very slowly for an hour" so I set my stove flame to the absolute lowest it offered, put the lid on the pan, and set the pan on the stove.  I decided I would trust in the recipe so I set the timer for one hour and walked away.  (This was hard!)

After about 40 minutes it really smelled good.  When the timer rang, I turned off the flame, took off the lid, and sniffed the pudding.  It was fabulous!

Perhaps I should have let it cool in the pan before turning it out but I couldn't wait.  When it inverted onto the serving plate, it sort of slumped all over.  Also, some of it stuck to the pan and I had to scrape it out.

Not attractive but still tasty

The Verdict:  I ate it while it was hot (not recommended as the raisins burned my mouth) and thought it was delicious.  Success!  I liked the caramel flavor and the creamy of the custard.  It was very delicate in texture.

The next day I tried the pudding straight out of the refrigerator and that, too, was tasty.  It was also firmer and the flavors had blended.  I liked it even more.

I had almost made it without the raisins just because I had to make a special trip to the store to get them.  I'm glad I didn't because I thought the raisins added a lovely texture (they are chewy and the pudding is soft) as well as a nice flavor.

It is a rich dessert so a little goes a long way.  I think you could easily serve this to four to six people and not feel like it was skimpy.

I think I probably could have put in another two slices of bread to thicken it and I would have buttered the bottom of the pan, too.  If you wanted to play with the recipe, you could add some spices, use whole wheat bread, change out the dried fruit, or reduce the sugar amount a little.

I heartily recommend this bread pudding-like dessert, especially because of the ease in cooking.  It would be good on a camping trip if I was cooking over coals.

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