Friday, October 10, 2014

Old School Dessert: Graham Cracker Pudding

Graham cracker pudding is a dessert I make for just the two of us - too provincial for company,  it's something we eat out of our everyday bowls (or salad plates, if nearby), scraping up the crumbs with our spoons (ahem, fingers). I was introduced to it during visits to Amish restaurants. I found a recipe in Bountiful Ohio (a cookbook devoted to recipes from Ohio food enthusiasts) and modified it slightly to suit our tastes.

Despite being a pudding, the recipe doesn't require tempering of eggs, or pre-baking of the crust. It comes together fast and is a real family pleaser. I mean, what's not to like about grahams and pudding topped with silky meringue?

This is a great dessert to make if you have extra milk on hand. I've used 1%, 2% and whole milk; all work well, although whole milk makes the creamiest pudding.

Combine crust ingredients and press into the bottom and halfway up sides of a 2 quart baking dish.
Tip: use the bottom of a glass to tightly pack the crumbs for a uniform crust.

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a
medium saucepan. Add slightly beaten egg yolks.

Add milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Don't worry if you notice egg solids -
they'll smooth out as the pudding is heated. Bring to a gentle boil. Cook and stir one
minute longer (see video below for correct consistency).
Pour the pudding into the crust and prepare meringue.

For meringue, whip egg whites and cream of tarter just until frothy. Slowly add 2 Tbsp sugar and
whip until peaks form. Tip: whip egg whites in a stainless steel
or copper bowl to increase volume.

Meringue will be shiny but able to hold a peak.

Place meringue on top of pudding, making sure it touches the side of the baking dish.
Tip: add a decorative element by using spatula to draw up peaks.

Bake pudding at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Meringue should be nicely browned.
Allow to cool, cover and refrigerate for at least three hours.

Because the crust isn't baked prior to filling,
it's more tender and looser than a traditional graham crust.

Graham Cracker Pudding
6 generous servings

14 whole graham crackers, crushed
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup salted butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of cream of tartar
2 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine crust ingredients and press into the bottom and halfway up sides of a 2-quart baking dish. In a large saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt. Slightly beat egg yolks and add to saucepan along with milk; mix well. Cook over medium heat until bubbly, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula until very thick. Remove from heat; add vanilla. Pour into crust.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy; gradually add 2 Tbsp sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Top pudding with beaten egg whites, making sure meringue touches sides of baking dish. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool, cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

What sorts of old school desserts do you make?

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