Wednesday, November 16, 2011

baked pumpkin and sour cream puddings

pumpkin and sour cream pudding

Sunday night, I emailed off 497 pages containing 80,392 words to my editor (846 photos had been sent over before the weekend), went to bed at 2 a.m., woke up at 6 a.m. and a few hours later came home to a completely empty apartment and two entire hours to myself — two hours to nap or just stare slack-jawed at the ceiling fan and think about nothing for a while — and decided instead that I’d had enough of this pumpkin-free November I’d been having and went back into the kitchen to make pudding. That’s normal right? That’s what normal people do, right? Wait, don’t tell me.

the line-up
can also mix by hand

So, a manuscript has officially been delivered, a whole 6 hours in advance of its deadline. I am the eternal college student, apparently, though if you’d asked me 18 months ago when I was going to finish my book I could have probably told you right then “Five minutes before it is due.” I’m classy like that. I would hardly say that the cookbook process is finished — we’re still ironing out some kinks, there’s copyediting (I can’t be the only one who pities the copyeditor who must deal with the madness I pass off as grammar, right?), some reshoots, they’ve been kind enough to offer me design input though they’ll probably regret it when they see what bad taste I have… I won’t bore you with the details. But for the most part? I’m back! Whee! And there’s no place else I’d rather be.

for silky smooth pudding

for creamier pudding

And yet, this recipe is a cop-out. I’m sorry. I’ve been wanting to tell you about pumpkin pudding for years but I always punk out because at its base, it’s such a generic recipe. But at my base, you see, I am obsessed with fall and Thanksgiving — the toasty ochre leaves, the cranberries, the mulled cider, the stuffing and the pumpkin, oh, the pumpkin. The fourth Thursday of November is way too long for anyone to have to wait for pumpkin pie, but it always feels like opening Christmas presents in October if I make it sooner. Enter pumpkin pudding which is more or less pumpkin pie filling, a little creamier, a little less sweet and butter crust free. This, by the way, gives you permission to delight your inner two year-old and eat it for lunch. I’ve played around with it over the years, trying to make it feel more like the standalone dessert it should be and this — this pudding with a sweetened sour cream topping baked on at the end — is my favorite approach namely because, forget whipped cream, sour cream is the peanut butter to pumpkin’s jelly. It just is.

ready to bake
sour cream topping

You should serve this with a gingersnap, and drunk — I mean, utterly plastered — on the freedom from cooking according to an agenda, to chapter outlines, to retests, to Really? I didn’t write down how many biscuits this made and I have to make them all over again? I went ahead and made gingersnaps too. I swear, I was just rubbing it into week-ago me. Do you want the recipe? I can share it next time. I sort of figure by now that most people who love gingersnaps have a favorite recipe and don’t need this one. But I did. I mean, I do. Yes.

[Update: Got your gingersnaps right here...]

pumpkin and sour cream puddings

One year ago: Upside Down Cranberry Cake and Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Goat Cheese
Two years ago: Moroccan-Spiced Spaghetti Squash, Raisin-Studded Apple Bread Pudding, Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin and Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie
Three years ago: Leite’s Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie, Cauliflower Salad with Green Olives and Capers, Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel, Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie, Home Fries, Apple Pancakes and Fennel, Proscuitto and Pomegranate Salad
Four years ago: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Sauteed Apples, Roasted Stuffed Onions, Simplest Apple Tart, Black Bean Pumpkin Soup, Apricot and Walnut Vareniki, Chicken with Chanterelles and Pearl Onions and Pumpkin Waffles
Five years ago: Indian Spiced Vegetable Fritters, Dreamy Cream Scones, Chocolate Stout Cake and Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers

Pumpkin and Sour Cream Puddings

I told you about how I ran back to the kitchen as soon as I could? Yeah, it didn’t go so well. That would have been too happy an ending, right? I found my first pudding a little too wet and coarse and I remembered writing about silky smooth pumpkin pie a few years ago (and mocking the fussiness of adding so many steps to a simple pie, that was, until I tried it) and decided to make it again with a couple of Cooks Illustrated’s suggestions, namely pureeing the squash in a food processor and cooking some of the water of of the squash on the stove before baking. I really liked the second version better, but since I always made it the lazy way before (and without complaint), I’ll explain where you can skip extra steps. But seriously, the extra steps really amp up the dreamy pudding-ness of the whole affair, and don’t take terribly long.

Yield: 7 to 8 half-cup puddings

Pudding
1 3/4 cups (from a 15-ounce can, 415 grams) pumpkin puree (unsweetened; not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (237 ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Topping
1 cup (227 grams) sour cream
1 tablespoon (13 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

The quickest method: In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the pudding ingredients.

For creamier, silkier pudding: Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices in a food processor and blend for 30 seconds. Transfer to a saucepan and heat over medium-high. Once glurping and simmering in the pot, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture will thicken and get a bit darker. Reduce heat slightly and whisk in milk and cream. Off the heat, slowly whisk in eggs.

Both methods: Divide between 7 to 8 (I had just shy of enough to make eight 1/2-cup puddings) ovenproof 6-ounce pudding cups or ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until puddings barely jiggle when shimmied and/or a knife tip inserted into the center of puddings comes out clean. Try not to overbake.

While they bake, combine topping ingredients in a small bowl. When the puddings are cooked through, transfer to a cooling rack on the counter and leave oven on. Spoon 2 tablespoons of sour cream mixture onto first pudding and use a small offset spatula, butter knife or spoon to quickly (it will get melty fast) spread it over the top of the first pudding. Repeat with remaining puddings.

Return puddings to oven for 5 more minutes, then cool completely at room temperature, about 1 to 2 hours. Chill until ready to serve. Eat with a gingersnap.


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