When Beth was growing up in the 1950s, every night there was a planned dessert, which was how she got her start in cooking. Nothing fancy, just simple, homey desserts—puddings of all sorts, chilled fruit cocktails, Jell-O parfaits, golden and chocolate layer cakes with smooth frostings, gingerbread with real whipped cream, pound cake, New York cheesecake with frozen sweetened strawberries poured over the top, and Indian pudding made from a recipe in the original Betty Crocker cookbook. Indian pudding has probably been made by American cooks as for as long as corn has been cultivated. A traditional New England dessert, it was simply cornmeal mush mixed with imported molasses from the Indies, milk, butter, and eggs. A sort of a sweetened polenta, it was slowly baked in a wood fire oven all day or all night in an earthenware crock. Betty Crocker had us baking it in a very slow oven for 3 hours. Here is the slow cooker version, every bit as good as it can be. Indian pudding is traditionally served warm out of the crock the day it is made, with vanilla ice cream melting all over it.
- 3¼ cups whole milk
- ½ cup medium- or fine-grind yellow cornmeal
- ¼ cup light or dark molasses
- 3 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- ½ cup light cream or evaporated milk
1. In a medium-size saucepan, heat 2¾ cups of the whole milk over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup of milk with the cornmeal and whisk until smooth. Pour the cornmeal mixture into the hot milk, whisking constantly. Cook until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Whisk in the molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Beat the whole egg and yolk together in a small bowl; add a spoonful of the hot cornmeal mixture and beat well to avoid curdling. Add another spoonful of the hot mixture, stir, then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and whisk to combine. Remove from the heat.
2. Grease the slow cooker with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Pour the cornmeal pudding mixture into the cooker and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until melted. Pour in the light cream in a circular motion; do not stir. Cover and cook on LOW until the pudding is set, 8½ to 9 hours.
3. Serve warm, spooned into individual bowls.