April 16, 2015

reading in the kitchen - birds'-nest pudding

While all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books are full of mouth-watering descriptions of food, but Farmer Boy takes the cake. (Ha ha ha, oh puns.) It's been years since I read the story about her husband Almanzo's boyhood in Upstate New York, but to this day my memories of it can be summed up with food, horses, and more food.

Out of the many foods featured in this book (and incidentally in previous blog posts like this, this, and this), probably the one that most stood out to me was birds'-nest pudding. Described as a fluffy nest of syrupy apples covered in a nutmeg-flavored whipped cream, this dish sounded like heaven. And because it contained apples, I figure it was also healthy, too. (As healthy as anything covered in sugar can be.)

To recreate this dish, I once again consulted Barbara M. Walker's The Little House Cookbook. Here's a list of the ingredients we needed:

Tart apples (her recipe calls for six, but I made a smaller portion with two, because as yummy as this turned out, I didn't need to eat six servings), brown sugar, nutmeg, eggs, milk, maple flavoring, flour, cream of tartar, baking powder and salt, then powdered sugar and heavy cream to make whipped cream. (You can find the full recipe on pages 126-127.)

After greasing a small baking dish (I used spray, but you can use butter or oil), I peeled and cored the two apples. I used Granny Smiths, because I'm not an apple expert, but those sounded tart. At the time of baking this dish, I still don't have a fancy shmancy apple corer, but it sure wouldn't hurt my feelings if someone wanted to give me one for Christmas.

So, yeah, they're peeled, and the core was removed, but it didn't look too pretty. No worries, because about five seconds after finishing the second apple, I filled the middle with brown sugar and nutmeg.

I popped the dish in the oven at 350 degrees to start the apple-baking process while I mixed together the pudding ingredients. At the time it seemed like a silly instruction from the cookbook, but in hindsight it makes sense. A perfectly baked apple takes more time to roast than the pudding.

Breaking slightly from the directions, I tossed the rest of the brown sugar in a bowl with one egg yolk (the egg white went in another bowl and was whipped for later use), milk, and maple flavoring (which, to be honest, I just used some syrup, because I figured it was maple flavored).

I mixed together the dry ingredients and poured them in with the egg. And then I folded in the egg white. Or at least I think I folded it in, because I wasn't too sure what that meant, and I was too lazy to Google it at that moment in my life. (I've since done it, and here's a video. I guess I did it right. Success!)

With that done, I removed the partially baked apples from the oven. The brown sugar had reduced by then, so I poured the mixture in that first and then filled it throughout the rest of the pan.

It came out looking like this:

If I ever make this dish again (and I think I will, because it was delicious and not too difficult), I think I'll use the same size of pan with more apples to have the pudding rise up even more in the pan.

This is what the amount I had in there came out as:

And no, those aren't little teeth marks. That's where I stuck a fork in it to ensure it was done.

Now, this is where I went a bit rogue. Rather than use whipped cream or make nutmeg-laced whipped cream as ordered, I used a little egg nog, because I had some handy. I realize this is in no way, shape, or fork a typical substitute, but it was pretty amazing. Heck, it was yummy when I took a few bites without any cream.

Overall, I'd call this recipe a major win, and it was probably one of my favorites that I have made out of The Little House Cookbook. I definitely will make this one again if that tells you how much I enjoyed it.

Again, if you'd like to try this one for yourself, it's on pages 126-127 in the cookbook.

To check out the other Little House recipes I've tried or any of my other Reading in the Kitchen attempts click here.

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