Chances are if you are familiar with Indian Pudding, you have some connection to the New England region. I first learned about it during my dietetic internship days in Boston after a dinner at the infamous Durgin Park that serves up regional dishes – some which go back to colonial times.
Indian pudding (which nowadays should probably be called Native American pudding) is made from cornmeal, sweetened with molasses and cooked for hours. There’s nothing glamorous about it - the result is an almost burnt like corn custard, with pumpkin pie flavors but when served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, I actually find it quite irresistible.
For this recipe, or any that calls for cornmeal, look for whole grain cornmeal (it should say “whole corn” or “whole grain corn” in the ingredient list.) Not only do you get the health benefits of a whole grain vs. a refined cornmeal, you also get a nutty like flavor and more defined texture.
Some versions of Indian pudding use cinnamon, ginger and/or nutmeg to spice things up but vanilla isn’t usually an ingredient. Since I recently stocked up on whole vanilla beans, I figured why not add one in this version. While I’ll never completely give up using pure vanilla extract, vanilla beans are fantastic for baking.
All you do is split the bean lengthwise and then scrape out the vanilla seeds. Adding the seeds to a warm dish gets the best flavor results. You can even reuse the empty pod to make your own vanilla ingredients like vanilla sugar, vanilla salt or homemade vanilla extract (here’s a link to some homemade vanilla gifts that I’ve been making for the past few years.)
But back to our Indian pudding. If you have the time, you can cook it the traditional way for several hours (I baked these for 2 hours.) I also experimented a quick method by passing the oven all together – I just let the pudding set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes after it thickened on the stove. While this way is much faster, you don’t get the traditional crusty top and slightly burnt flavor but it’s still a tasty yet humble dessert this way, too.
Whole Grain Cornmeal: I get Bob’s Red Mill 100% Whole Grain Cornmeal (Medium Grind) at my local grocery store but it’s also available online.
Vanilla Beans: You can find a variety of whole vanilla beans at My Spice Sage.
Have you ever had Indian pudding or any other type of corn dessert?
Top this Vanilla Indian Pudding with a scoop of ice cream for dessert. Tweet this
Vanilla Indian Pudding
Makes 6 servings
- 4 cups low-fat milk
- ½ cup whole grain cornmeal
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ cup molasses (or maple syrup)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
In a large pot, heat 3 cups milk over medium-high heat until just about to boil.
While milk is heating up, in a bowl, whisk together 1 cup milk, cornmeal, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, molasses and brown sugar.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once milk is heat, slowly pour in cornmeal mixture, mixing constantly with a wooden spoon. Lower heat to medium and continue to mix frequently for 15 minutes or until cornmeal has thickened. Mix in butter and seeds scraped from vanilla bean. Stir for another minute or until the butter has melted.
Remove from heat and pour into 6 ramekins. Place ramekins in a large baking pan and make a water bath by adding hot water to the pan until it comes up halfway to the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 2 hours.
Remove from oven, cool slightly and serve with dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.