Archive for the ‘Desserts’

The Jennings Sisters’ Boiled Custard

April 06, 2017
By Holly Jennings

 

Stir and chat. Chat and stir.

 

That is all you need to know to make a good batch of boiled custard. That and to completely disregard its name. If you bring boiled custard to a simmer, let alone a boil, you will have a lumpy scrambled mess on your hands.

 

The term boiled custard is an old-fashioned one that refers to the cooking process, done entirely in a pot over the heat, to distinguish it from its cousin, the set custard, which is gently baked, preferably in a water bath, to acquire a firm yet delicate texture. Today, boiled custard is more often called “stirred custard,” referencing the constant stirring required to ensure a smooth texture, or “soft custard” or “custard sauce,” describing its pourable, saucelike texture. Crème anglaise is a supreme example of this style of custard. In the South, though, the old-fashioned term lingers as does a particularly Southern way of enjoying it: as a traditional holiday beverage. Call it drinking custard. During the holiday season, you can find store-bought jugs of boiled custard in the dairy section of grocery stores, sitting right next to the eggnog, in some Southern states, Tennessee and Kentucky for certain. Leave it to Americans to transform an Old World dessert sauce the into a “big gulp.”

 

I know. It’s completely illogical to talk about southern boiled custard at the beginning of April, four months past its season, yet too early to capitalize on the strange Christmas in July phenomenon. But sometimes you need to run with what you’ve been handed, while the inspiration is still fresh.

 

At the end February, at a family gathering to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday, my cousin Joseph, reminiscing about his grandmother’s cooking and holiday traditions, suddenly said, “Let’s make boiled custard!” Joseph, a Tennessean, was the sole family member there from my father’s side of the family—the Jennings side.

 

Joseph’s forty-six-year-old boyish enthusiasm is hard to resist, but (more…)


Aunt Peggy’s Bestever Cake

November 24, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Bestever Cake

 

The cake above is not just any cake—it’s not even just the bestever cake, it is the last thing I ate prepared by my late aunt Peggy. I got news of her sudden and unexpected death a few weeks ago. That night as I lay sleepless, recalling her, I remembered that she’d made this excellent cake for our family reunion, in June of 2015. She called it simply “bestever cake” and said it was ridiculously simple to make.

 

More memories of Peggy Jo Rose and her cooking flooded back. On a summer morning when I was eleven or so, Aunt Peggy gave me and my cousins a great gift: encouragement to go out into the world to do some work, with daring, if needed, in order to return home to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

 

“If you kids go pick sour cherries from Mr. X’s tree, I’ll make you a pie. Remember to ask him first. And pick a big bagful—I’ll need a lot for a pie.”

 

A pie in exchange for picking cherries was more than fair. We ran off to ask Mr. X ourselves, to figure out how to get up and down the tree ourselves, and to not neglect our work, if we wanted enough fruit for a large, mile-high pie.

 

We did get that pie, and it was the best pie I’ve ever eaten. Looking back, (more…)


Maple Black Walnut Ice Cream

August 26, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Maple Black Walnut Ice Cream_2

 

This custard-style ice cream is for devoted black walnut lovers, and wannabe lovers. It gives a double dose of the nut’s unique flavor: First, toasted nuts are ground into a flour and steeped in the cream and milk to impart their flavor, sight unseen; second, at the end of churning, finely chopped toasted black walnuts are mixed in for crunch and another layer of flavor. A few extra steps are involved in making this ice cream—like tempering the egg yolks and reducing the maple syrup—but the results are worth it. Ever since researching the inimitable black walnut for (more…)


Blueberry Batter Pudding

August 27, 2012
By Holly Jennings

This is Nigel Slater’s redo of clafoutis, a French rustic dessert that is traditionally made with cherries. Slater’s version is a good showcase for the flavor and color of blueberries: the amount of sugar doesn’t overwhelm their tart aspect, and the pretty blue juices of the berries stain the batter as they burst. The sides and bottom of the pudding, or quasi-custard, as you and I are more likely to think of it, form a nice golden brown crust. The center remains delicate with a near flan consistency.

Blueberry batter pudding is served (more…)


Strawberry-Rhubarb Galette with Suet-Butter Pastry

June 28, 2012
By Holly Jennings

Filled with seasonal, locally grown strawberries and rhubarb, this galette recipe could be in the newest DCCC pick, Ripe, a gorgeous book devoted to 23 fruits and nuts. But it is not. I haven’t quite left Fat yet, the last DCCC pick. (The club seems to be on a trend of sensual, single word titles.)

After following author Jennifer McLagan’s method for preparing suet for use in pastry, found in Fat, I used it to make a pie. I fell in love with the crispy, flaky texture of the dough, and found it (more…)


Browned Butter Cookies

June 05, 2012
By Holly Jennings

These are my favorite sort of cookie: buttery and sturdy enough to dip in tea. To provide a subtle nutty flavor, the butter is browned, a step that is not difficult but requires the attention of an undistracted cook. Finely grated lemon zest is added to balance the richness of the butter, and sea salt to balance the sweet.

This recipe hails from Australia, where cookbook author Jennifer McLagan grew up. Quick and easy to make, (more…)


The Best Chocolate Pudding

November 07, 2011
By Holly Jennings

The mission at Cook’s Illustrated is “to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods.” Who can’t recall creamy chocolate pudding as a favorite food, if from a distant childhood past? The problem with those childhood versions, however, is that they lack the amount of dark chocolate oomph needed to appeal to our more sophisticated, adult palates.

After sourcing recipes spanning four decades, (more…)


Double Rum Raisin Ice Cream with Cardamom

November 10, 2010
By Holly Jennings

On a beautiful early September day, following a late summer swim, my friend Kristina and I found ourselves in one of those classic general stores that are still to be found in Vermont, selling local handicrafts, artisanal cheeses,  hand-scooped cones, everyday necessities like scouring powder and laundry detergent, and one remaining apple pie, looking very handmade and beautiful. We would have that pie for dessert that evening. Why not make some ice cream to go with it, I suggested. My favorite flavor is vanilla (or even just sweet cream), but Kristina wanted something more exciting, something with things in it. She suggested rum raisin, a good idea for apple pie.

Kristina had just been telling me about a trip to India she had taken with her brother and sister-and-law, where every dessert she’d tried had cardamom in it, and not a little  bit, but a lot. She was sick of cardamom-flavored desserts. I like challenges. This was a perfect opportunity to create something with cardamom that she will like.   (more…)



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