Tag Archives: dessert

Make a Real American Dessert: Indian Pudding

Well, darn, we missed National Indian Pudding Day. Mark your calendar for November 13 next year, but don’t wait untili then to bake what some consider the FIRST genuinely uniquely American recipe.  You can read about it, and see the recipe from the venerable Wayside Inn (Built by my Howe ancestors, ahem) at this NPR site.

As the article points out, the original was probably very simple–cornmeal, molasses and milk steamed or baked over an open fired.  But today we favor versions adding egg for a lighter texture and spices for a livelier flavor.

Unfortunately, Indian Pudding is not very photogenic, so you’re only getting one picture–the one with the recipe below, where the pudding is slathered in whipped cream.  It may be the plain Jane of desserts, but it’s a swell after-dinner date nonetheless.

I found the recipe I used at a good site for historic recipes--What’s Cooking America.

This recipe was shared with me by Mary Wright Huber of Tucson, AZ (formerly of CT and MA). Mary says:

“Below you will find my family’s version of Indian Pudding.  It is based on an old 1896 Boston Cooking School recipe, which was run by Fannie [Merritt] Farmer. There are many variations of this recipe, some with no spices and some with raisins.  One or two even include pumpkin.  Although I prefer lots of spices (I am fairly flexible on that issue), and can even see the pumpkin people’s point of view.  But I am adamantly anti-raisin!  I also think it is a travesty to cook the pudding for less time, at a higher temperature.  Many of the newer recipes do this, and I can’t see how one can get the same fine-grained custardy texture.  I also think the higher temperatures are likely to form a thick, coagulated layer over the top of the dessert.  This recipe takes times and patience, but the reward is great (taste). It not only makes a great dessert (with ice cream), but I have been known to eat it re-heated; with half and half; for breakfast.”

Note: I have transferred the recipe, with very minor changes, to my recipe app, which allows you to print it out.




Indian Pudding

Serves 10-14
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 2 hours, 30 minutes
Total time 3 hours
Allergy Egg, Milk
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold, Serve Hot
Region American
Website What America Cooks
The most American recipe you can find--Indian pudding. Spiced up to meet modern tastes, but still easy and delicious.


  • 4 cups Milk ((See recipe note))
  • 1/2 cup Corn meal
  • 3/4 cups molasses
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger (powdered)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves (ground)
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (ground)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (ground)
  • 3-4 eggs (well-beaten)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (for greasing pan)
  • tablespoon sugar (for preparing pan)


1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Lightly grease a 6- or 8-cup souffle or baking dish with the 1 T. butter, and sprinkle with 1 T. sugar.
2. In saucepan, heat milk just below boiling. When small bubbles appear all over, you're good. Stir in the cornmeal and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes until mixture is syrupy. (If your pan does not have a thick bottom, put in a slightly larger pan with boiling water, or a double boiler.)
3. Stir in molasses and cook another 5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in butter, salt and spices. Stir until butter is melted.
5. Beat the eggs. Temper the eggs-stir a a few spoonsful of the hot mixture, a spoonful at a time, into the eggs, stirring each time to slowly bring up the temperature of the eggs. This prevents getting scrambled eggs in your pudding. When the eggs have warmed to near the temperature of the by now cooled off mixture, pour all the eggs into the pot and stir until no streaks remain.
6. Pour the mixture into baking dish. Put shallow pan in oven, and place pudding dish in that pan. Pour Boiling water into pan. It should come 1/3 to 1/2 way up the dish. Bake at 275 degrees until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. This can take up to 2 1/2 hours.
7. You can serve the pudding warm or cold. If you are refrigerating, it is best to let it cool to room temperature first. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


You will have a richer pudding if you use 1 cup of cream and 3 cups of whole milk or 2 cups of half and half and 2 cups of milk. If you are counting calories and watching cholesterol, you can still get a satisfactory pudding with 4 cups of 2% milk.

Don't overbake your pudding. I left mine in the oven a little too long and it wept. (Separated so liquid was floating around the outer edges.)



Some people add raisins. I think they're superfluous, but have it your way.

My Joy of Cooking cookbook recipe uses less molasses and adds 1/4 cup of brown sugar. If you don't love molasses as much as I do, you might want to go that way.


The Truth About Peanut Butter Cookies

I haven’t made my mother’s peanut butter cookies for a long time because my grandson is allergic to peanuts.  It makes me so sad that so many kids in the younger generations can never enjoy peanut butter cookies and milk–not to mention that staple of school lunches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

After School Peanut Butter Cookies

After school snack of peanut butter cookies and milk. Harriette Kaser’s china, vintage Daffy Duck glass and Grandma Vera Anderson’s apron*

A recent conversation with my sister, who has very firm ideas about what is and is not allowed in cookies, reminded me not only of oatmeal cookies with raisins, but also peanut butter cookies with crisscross marks on top made by a fork.  Where did that particular form come from? After all, you can just put a ball of dough on a cookie sheet and let it spread, or you can press it flat with a glass or the heel of your hand. But fork-made crisscross means peanut butter cookie, doesn’t it? Why?

And are peanut butter cookies a strictly American thing?  I don’t imagine that our British and German ancestors had access to peanut butter. And when did peanut butter become such a big deal in the U.S. anyhow?

Peanut Butter History

So, off to do some research. And first thing I found? A website called PeanutButterLovers.com . But of course!  Their handy timeline held some surprises, and a couple reasons we Ohioans might particularly be addicted to peanut butter.

  • Like many foods that became popular, peanut butter started out as a benefit for health in 1890 when a doctor marketed a peanut butter paste for people with bad teeth. According to another source, he described it as “providing protein for toothless elderly people.” (Wonder how that turned out?)
  • At the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, peanut butter was sold in a booth and thus introduced to the rest of the world.
  • At that point peanut butter was made by boiling in a process patented by Kelloggs in 1895. Now it is roasted for a much better flavor.
  • The oldest existing peanut butter company, Krema, was established in COLUMBUS, OHIO in 1908 (two years after my mother was born).
  • In 1922 Joseph Rosefield invented a method of churning that resulted in a smoother peanut butter and a shelf-stable product which he sold in California.
  • Other early peanut butters were one produced (1928) by Swift and Company (later called Peter Pan), using Rosefield’s methods. Rosefield retaliated by creating Skippy, and produced the first crunch peanut butter in 1930. Jif was a latecomer, first made in 1958, and Jif is now owned by Smucker company of ORRVILLE OHIO.

Although this timeline does not take us into the 2000’s, Peanut Butter has become a trendy food, with small batch peanut butter sold at farmer’s markets and peanut butters in many flavors manufactured by lesser-known brands. You can even grind your own nutbutters at the store in many natural foods markets. (Right beside the coffee bean grinders.)

And more peanut butter is exported from America than any other country. China is the other big exporter.

Peanut Butter Cookie History

More than you ever wanted to know about the history of peanut butter cookies (unless you’re a cooking nerd) appears on the website New England Recipes.

At first, peanut butter cookies were made with ground peanuts instead of peanut butter. George Washington Carver, father of peanuts, published 105 recipes for peanuts that had the first peanut cookies. Then it was discovered that peanut butter could substitute for all or some of the shortening in a recipe.

But cookbooks did not carry the peanut butter cookie recipe we use today until the 1940s. In 1947 the Boston Cookbook School Cookbook finally switched to today’s standard recipe using half brown and half white sugar and equal amounts of shortening and peanut butter.

It appears that Mary Ellis Ames, who worked for Pillsbury, is responsible for our associating fork hash marks with peanut butter cookies, according to the What’s Cooking America website. 

The 1933 edition of Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes by Mary Ellis Ames, Director of the Pillsbury Cooking Service, contains a recipe for Peanut Butter Balls. It instructs the cook to roll the dough into balls and press them down with the tines of a fork. This practice is still common in America today.

Peanut Butter Cookie Recipes

You can find numerous variations on peanut butter cookies on the Internet, but for purists, the recipe below is very close to the first recipes published in America for  peanut butter cookies.

Since I don’t have a recipe card from mother’s recipe box, I guessed that she used the recipe in the Better Homes and Garden’s Cookbook. But I had one problem. Mother’s cookies were a little soft, and following the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, I got very crispy cookies. In the notes to the recipe, I address how you can convert the same recipe to get a softer cookie. (Ironically, by reverting to the one measurement where Better Homes differs from the first recipes published.)

I also trampled on tradition with half of my batch of cookies, by melting dipping chocolate and either dipping part of the cookie in the chocolate, or spreading some on top. (My husband think every cookie in the world is improved with chocolate, and the chocolate lovers of the world must be served.)

Peanut Butter cookies with chocolate

Contemporary Chocolate dipped peanut butter cookies with tea

Let me know where you stand on peanut butter cookies. Crispy or soft? With additions or not? Do your have crisscross fork marks?

ONE MORE TIP:  Mother always put a slice of apple or a piece of bread in the cookie jar to keep the cookies soft. And by golly, a piece of bread even made my crispy cookies nice and soft!

Family Favorite: Peanut Butter Cookies

Serves 8 doz cookies
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 50 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
Allergy Egg, Peanuts, Wheat
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
From book Better Homes and Gardens (1960)
Traditional peanut butter cookie with crisscross fork marks on top.


  • 1 cup shortening (softened but not liquid)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted flour ((see note))
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • dash salt


  • 2 cups Dipping chocolate wafers


1. Preheat oven to 350. Using an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth, add sugars and vanilla and beat until creamy
2. Beat eggs in small bowl, and add to butter/sugar mixture and beat on medium setting just until combined.
3. Whisk or stir soda and salt into flour. Add to other ingredients and stir just until combined.
4. Line cookie sheets with parchment, or use ungreased cookie sheets. Form balls of a tablespoon of dough and place on cookie sheet.
5. Press each ball down by making a crisscross design on top with a fork that has been dipped in water or flour.
6. Alternatively, roll dough into log and wrap tightly. Refrigerate until ready to use, then cut 3/8" slices and press each with fork as above.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes. (Original instructions say 375 for ten minutes.)
Chocolate coating
8. Melt dipping chocolate according to directions. The wafers melt very quickly, stirred over boiling water.
9. When cookies are entirely cool, dip and set upright with chocolate on top, wedged into a cooling rack, or lay on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. Then chill in refrigerator for ten minutes to set the chocolate coating. Or for a simpler procedure, spread chocolate on top of cookie and cool on a wax-paper lined cookie pan before putting in the refrigerator.


The original recipe, calling for 3 cups of flour, and baking at 375 degrees for ten minutes, resulted in a very crispy cookie.

If you prefer a softer cookie, use my recipe, which reduces the flour by 1/2 cup and the baking temperature to 350 instead of 375.

In either case, remove the cookies while they are still slightly soft on top, as they burn on the bottom quite easily, and will finish baking, even on a cooling rack.

If you store the dough "log" in the refrigerator before baking, it may take as much as an hour at room temperature to soften enough to slice and bake.

If you choose to use the chocolate coating, consider storing the finished cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator, particularly in summer.

*A note about the family heirlooms in the first picture can be found in my next post.

Bread Pudding for 3 Generations

I live in Arizona, and I recently saw a map showing this year’s flu outbreaks state by state. I would show you the map, but it changes each week, so check to see what the Centers for Disease Control is saying about YOUR state.  By now, the epidemic may be lessening, but just in case Arizona still needs some invalid food, Mrs. Beeton has a suggestion:


 INGREDIENTS.– Thin cold toast, thin slices of bread-and-butter, pepper and salt to taste.

Mode.– Place a very thin piece of cold toast between 2 slices of thin bread-and-butter in the form of a sandwich, adding a seasoning of pepper and salt. This sandwich may be varied by adding a little pulled meat, or very fine slices of cold meat, to the toast, and in any of these forms will be found very tempting to the appetite of an invalid.[/info]

Doesn’t sound terrible appetizing to put pieces of bread between pieces of toast–even with, or especially with salt and pepper?

Here’s a better use for the bread–one of my favorites, Bread Pudding.  Mrs. Beeton has three versions, baked, broiled, and what she calls butter-bread pudding.  I’ve chosen the baked version.

Bread pudding

Bread pudding with currants

Actually, I’m going to give you three versions of bread pudding, (1860s, 1920s and 1980s) because they illustrated one of the things that I find so fascinating about the history of the way we eat. We keep changing our ways of preparing food and popularity waxes and wanes.

Once I had tried the bread pudding with whiskey sauce recipe that I picked up in New Orleans at the Presidential Nominating Convention in 1988, I never went back to ordinary bread pudding. (Although I have to admit that I do not always indulge in the whiskey sauce.)

In looking to see how our ancestors may have cooked bread pudding, I found a striking difference between Mrs. Beeton’s Civil War era recipe and my vintage 1920’s Buffalo Cooking School Cook Book. See what you think.


 INGREDIENTS.– 1/2 lb. of grated bread, 1 pint of milk, 4 eggs, 4 oz. of butter, 4 oz. of moist sugar, 2 oz. of candied peel, 6 bitter almonds, 1 tablespoonful of brandy.

Mode.– Put the milk into a stewpan, with the bitter almonds; let it infuse for 1/4 hour; bring it to the boiling point; strain it on to the bread crumbs, and let these remain till cold; then add the eggs, which should be well whisked, the butter, sugar, and brandy, and beat the pudding well until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed; line the bottom of a pie-dish with the candied peel sliced thin, put in the mixture, and bake for nearly 3/4 hour.

Time.– Nearly 3/4 hour. Average cost, 1s. 4d.

Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.

Seasonable at any time.

Note.– A few currants may be substituted for the candied peel, and will be found an excellent addition to this pudding: they should be beaten in with the mixture, and not laid at the bottom of the pie-dish.

NOTE:  Bitter almonds are not sold in the United States, as they contain poisonous substances. According to a Wikipedia article, in Italy they are/were used to flavor some cookies, but generally apricot pits have been substituted.  If I were following Mrs. Beeton’s recipe, I think I might  just use some apricot pits. I could not imagine what a bitter taste adds to this pudding. However, if she follows a complicated procedure outlined in this Victorian mansion web site, they would lose their bitterness. And Mrs. Beeton is not poisoning anyone since she is heating the bitter almonds and then straining them out of the milk before adding the milk to the pudding, two steps recommended in the linked article.

According to nineteenth century cookbook writer Eliza Leslie, Lady Cake “must be flavored highly with bitter almonds; without them, sweet almonds have little or no taste, and are useless in lady cake.” Bitter almonds (which are actually poisonous in large amounts) needed to be properly prepared prior to baking – the use of heat would safely extract their strong, bitter taste. This rather tedious process was done by blanching shelled bitter almonds in scalding water, and then placing them in a bowl of very cold water. They were then wiped dry and pounded (one at a time,) to a smooth paste in a clean marble mortar, along with a bit of rose water to improve the flavor and prevent them from becoming oily, heavy and dark. Miss Leslie suggests blanching and pounding the almonds the day before to achieve better flavor and a lighter color, thus enhancing both the taste and whiteness of the cake.

By the way, if you are a mystery book reader and are familiar with detectives using the smell of almonds to indicate cyanide poisoning…..they are referring to the smell of bitter almonds.

Moist Sugar is another name for Muscavado or Barbados sugar, a dark brown sugar with a pronounced molasses flavor. I would use dark brown sugar or just molasses instead, if I couldn’t find Muscavado sugar in the store.

Next, we have the Buffalo Evening News Cooking School Cook Book.



  • 1 quart scaled milk
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 2 C stale bread crumbs without crust
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Soak the bread in milk until soft. Add eggs beaten slightly, salt and sugar and then flavoring.  Bake in a buttered dish until a knife inserted in the pudding comes out clean.

NOTE:  Bland!  Other than the lemon juice, no extra flavoring. I find that blandness in many of the vintage cookbooks from the early 20th century.

Next we have the New Orleans version–anything BUT bland.


  • 1/2 Stick butter (4 Tablespoons)
  • 2 C milk
  • 1 quart cubed day-old bread French bread
  • 1/2 C cubed pineapple
  • 1/2 C cup raisins
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Combine milk and butter in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted.  In a large mixing bowl combine bread, pineapple and raisins.  Add milk and butter.  Mix and let stand several minutes to let bread absorb liquid. Combine sugar, salt and spices. Add beaten egg and vanilla and mix well.  Pour over bread-milk mixture and stir until well mixed.  Pour into a well-greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish or black iron skillet. Bake at 350 degrees for forty minutes. Serve warm with whiskey sauce.

[Note: I use currants and pecans or raisins and pecans instead of pineapple]


  • 1/2 stick butter [4 Tablespoons], softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup Bourbon

Cream together butter and powdered sugar. Slowly beat in Bourbon.

NOTE:  My how times have changed.  As I mentioned earlier, the whiskey sauce is optional, but oh, so good, if you decide to use it.

Because we do not care for pineapple, I substitute chopped pecans (Yes, entirely different!) and if you have them on hand,  use golden raisins.

There you have your choice of three generations of bread puddings, and although they make fine food for invalids, you don’t have to get sick to try them.