This week’s experiment came from a 1932 Baptist Cookbook, compiled from the family recipes of the Women’s Missionary Society of Forney, Texas. I had high expectations. If there’s one thing I know about Baptists, it’s that you can’t have a gathering without food. I’m absolutely certain the Baptists got their first converts from church potlucks. I read that somewhere in the Bible.
Well, as soon as I saw “Scottish Pudding” I knew I’d found the perfect recipe to try. With all the rainy, gray days recently, I’ve missed my time studying abroad in St. Andrews, Scotland. A Google search revealed Scottish pudding to be a classic British holiday dessert. Perfection.
In keeping with the past theme of Cookbook Confessions, improvisation is the name of the game.
From the very beginning, I knew substitutions would be necessary. My grocery budget wasn’t flexible, so the only ingredient I bought specifically for the project was lard. After all, a pound of lard at $1.09 seemed a steal. Think of all the wonderful things I can make with lard! Insert dry tone. Lard is literally fat taken from pigs. Gross.
Anyone with roommates can relate to this: it’s inevitable that random food items, which no one claims or ever intends to use, find their way to your shelves. I love order, so this unclaimed clutter bothers me. A strange brand of maple syrup had been in our cabinet for over a year, so I was all too happy to substitute that for the molasses asked for in the recipe. Then I added brown sugar in an attempt to thicken the consistency.
Oftentimes, having strange leftovers in your pantry is a lifesaver when improvising. For example, I underestimated how much baking my roommates have done recently and neglected to buy more flour at H-E-B. When I read Mrs. Thomas Anderson’s phrase—“flour enough to make stiff as a pound cake”, I knew I was in trouble. Not that I had any idea what she meant, but I was fairly certain she required more than one sorry cup of flour. Luckily, I happened to have cornstarch. Cornstarch is much more absorbent than flour; that’s why it’s commonly used in gravy.
Now that I had a tasty cake batter, it was time to cook. Wait, one more thing—I added generous amounts of cinnamon. I can’t resist; a little spice makes everything better. I use obnoxious amounts on a daily basis.
“Put in a floured cloth, immerse in a pan of boiling water and boil for two hours.”
How did people cook before Google? Fortunately, this awesome article on pudding in a cloth saved my pudding.
I sacrificed a most beloved World Market kitchen towel to the cause, scrounged up some string and tied the pudding up in a neat little sack.
Internet sources recommended placing a china plate in the bottom of the pot to prevent burning the pudding. Thank goodness for my previous experimentation with home canning. I was hesitant, but I’m slowly getting over my fear of huge pots of boiling water.
Though the recipe called for two hours on boil, I took it off after an hour. The library and a research paper were calling my name. My three roommates and I thoroughly enjoyed the pudding. One said it looked disgusting, nevertheless she asked for the recipe after a taste. Sweet success. We especially loved the consistency. Bread pudding is the best comparison, but this is in a league of its own.
This is only the fourth strange recipe I’ve attempted and already I’m a better, more confident cook. I have an anonymous quote on my wall: “the quickest way to gain self-confidence is to do exactly what you are scared to do”.
For me, improvisation is rewarding. It forces me to learn new cooking techniques and to understand the properties of my ingredients. Every time I try a new technique, I get a little more confident. I get a little more adventurous. This filters into my everyday cooking, making every meal a little more fun.