Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ozark pudding

Ozark pudding, a simple fruit and nut custard which emerges from the oven looking a bit humble, is nevertheless pleasantly dry, crispy, and delicious, especially accompanied by whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Why it is called "Ozark pudding" is a mystery; if you look it up online, you will find it included in websites devoted to Southern cooking or linked with the name of Bess Truman, a native of Missouri (land of the Ozarks).

This version is from a fine old cookbook called Thoughts for Buffets ("the companion volume to Thoughts for Food"), published by Houghton Mifflin in 1958. There it is presented as the dessert to follow a Deep Dish Dinner of Poulet au pot (chicken in the pot), Matzo dumplings, and Wilted Lettuce. It's a forgiving recipe: you can bake the pudding in a pie plate as well as a 9 inch square pan, and certainly you may simply chop one apple rather than measure out a half cup of apple. You may find also that this pudding stealthily persuades children who don't like fruit or nuts to devour large quantities of each.

Ozark pudding

Preheat the oven to 350 F, and grease well a 9 inch square pan or a pie plate. Have ready 1 chopped apple, and 1 and 1/2 cups chopped nuts.

Beat 1 egg until frothy. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, and beat until smooth. Sift together 2 Tablespoons flour, 1 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Fold into the egg mixture. Add the nuts, apple, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Blend well. Pour into the pie pan, and bake for 35 minutes. "Do not be alarmed," Thoughts for Buffets warns, when the pudding rises and then settles after baking.

Would it be equally delicious folded into a crepe for a more elegant presentation, perhaps drizzled with a bit of maple syrup? Or perhaps it is best left as humble as it is.

A tiny word of warning: if you live in the Northern hemisphere, May of course is hardly the time for apples. I declare, the apples I have been deluded enough to buy lately have tasted just like the cardboard boxes they have presumably been sitting in since harvest last October. But if you live in some other hemisphere -- well, it's possible -- why then, indulge by all means.

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