Alcott · Little Women

Cookbook Outtakes: The Pudding Meg Promised

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Author: Alcott, Louisa
Book: Little Women
Difficulty rating: Little Women
Deliciousness rating: Exceeds Expectations

Part of The Little Women Cookbook Blog Series

     “A man to dinner, and everything in a mess! John Brooke, how could you do such a thing?”
     “Hush, he’s in the garden! I forgot the confounded jelly, but it can’t be helped now,” said John, surveying the prospect with an anxious eye.
     “You ought to have sent word, or told me this morning, and you ought to have remembered how busy I was,” continued Meg petulantly, for even turtledoves will peck when ruffled.
     “I didn’t know it this morning, and there was no time to send word, for I met him on the way out. I never thought of asking leave, when you have always told me to do as I liked. I never tried it before, and hang me if I ever do again!” added John, with an aggrieved air.
     “I should hope not! Take him away at once. I can’t see him, and there isn’t any dinner.”
     “Well, I like that! Where’s the beef and vegetables I sent home, and the pudding you promised?” cried John, rushing to the larder.
(Chapter 28:”Domestic Experiences”)

Americans today don’t usually eat puddings (other than the Jell-O kind), but Victorians cooked up a huge variety of them. The bird’s nest pudding and tapioca pudding are egg-heavy and custardy, and flavored with nutmeg. Both are pretty great, but I’m personally a big fan of the bird’s nest — the edges turn out pleasantly chewy, probably because you have to beat the egg whites and fold them in before baking. These puddings are perfect for pleasing a hangry husband while adhering to traditional gender roles … or if that’s not as much your thing as it is Meg’s, make them just because they taste real nice!

BIRD’S NEST PUDDING
Based on Mrs. A. L. Webster’s recipe from The Improved Housewife

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Ingredients & Supplies Needed:

  • 2 apples
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 1½ cups room-temp butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar 
  • 6 eggs yolks, beaten
  • 6 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks (but not dry)
  • 1 tsp + 1 pinch nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Butter an 8×8 pan.
  3. Peel and halve the apples. Scoop out the middle of each half with a teaspoon, forming a little bowl in center of each apple.
  4. Mix flour and water to form a thick paste. Spread it onto each apple half, on the side with the hollowed-out bowl. Place the apples, bowl-side up, in the pan. Lay the lemon zest around the apples in the pan. Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the egg yolks and nutmeg. Then fold in the egg whites until it looks pretty incorporated (it’ll look finely curdled and pretty unappealing). Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula; it’ll darken in color and become smoother and shinier. Remove from heat and continue stirring for another 5 minutes, or until lukewarm. Pour sauce over the apples.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes, and then remove the foil and bake for 20 more. The pudding should be now firm and a dark golden brown. Let the pudding sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Both Felt Desperately Uncomfortable

TAPIOCA PUDDING
Based on Mrs. Cornelius Hooker’s recipe from The Young Housekeeper’s Friend

Ingredients & Supplies Needed:

  • 4 cups milk, divided
  • ⅔ cup tapioca 
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ⅔ cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Soak tapioca in 2 cups of milk overnight in a medium heatproof bowl or the top half of a double boiler.
  2. The next day, add the remaining 2 cups of milk and put the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.
  3. Heat until hot, stirring frequently.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Beat the eggs and sugar together, then add to the hot tapioca mixture along with the butter, sugar, salt and nutmeg.
  6. Pour the mixture into a baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Domestic Experiences

Alcott, Louisa. Little Women. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1896.

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