Today’s recipe features the first of four desserts I’ll be adapting from colonial era receipts. This Apple Pudding treat is worth a try! Ready to get started?
The first thing we need to consider is the definition of “pudding.” According to Jane Tennant in Our Founding Foods, “’Pudding’ usually signified the course offered at the end of the meal, in the place of what we now recognize as dessert. And so pies, cakes, and tarts could all qualify as ‘pudding’ in that sense.” That cleared up my confusion on using a pastry dough to cook a pudding! Which only raised other worrisome questions for me. My attempts at making pie crust from scratch have not yielded the best results in the past…
Let’s take a look at what Hannah Glasse recommends for an apple pudding…
To make an Apple-Pudding
Take twelve large pippins, pare them, and take out the cores, put them into a sauce-pan, with four or five spoonfuls of water; boil them till they are soft and thick; then beat them well, stir in a pound of loaf sugar, the juice of three lemons, the peel of two lemons, cut thin and beat fine in a mortar, the yolks of eight eggs beat; mix all well together, bake it in a slack oven; when it is near done, throw over a little fine sugar. You may bake it in a puff paste, as you do the other puddings.
Remember that I’m trying to scale down these recipes to be easier to do and more appropriate for a smaller group, as in two people whenever possible. A pie is a bit of a challenge to reduce too far, but I think it’s safe to say twelve large apples would make quite a large pie. So I decided to use 3 Granny Smith apples instead.
Did you notice she called for a pound of loaf sugar? A pound! After some thought, I decided to use honey, which has a more concentrated sweetness but doesn’t need quite the quantity. My only concern was bulk or quantity of the resulting filling since it took less mass in the form of honey versus sugar. The results seemed fine to us, so at least it worked out.
I have to wonder if the lemons they had then were smaller than the ones we have now. It seems to me using the juice of 3 lemons to 12 apples would be a lot of tartness to add. Then again, with a pound of sugar involved, perhaps it offset each other at that rate. But since I reduced the sugar, I also reduced the lemon. I also took a short cut and used lemon juice (not fresh from the lemon) and omitted the peel. I’m not a fan of the texture of the peel in baked goods.
She also called for 8 egg yolks. I talked this over with my hubby as to why she’d only want the yolks and not the whites. We agreed it’s to make it more like a custard filling without the fluffiness associated with the whites (I’m thinking meringue here). That may be true, but I really don’t like wasting the whites. I decided to try using a whole egg and see what I got. Again, the results turned out fine, at least for our admittedly homespun tastes.
The question of the puff paste worried me for some time. Use it or not? How do you make one? What did she mean by “bake it in a puff paste” anyway? I did some online searching and also through my colonial cookbooks and even my Joy of Cooking. You wouldn’t believe how many different ways there are to make puff paste! I found it in my Joy of Cooking and they were quite thorough and elaborate on the process, taking 3 full pages to details the steps. I had no time nor patience for such an involved process, so searched until I found this Puff Pastry recipe. Still, I kept looking at my colonial cookbooks for clues as to how to use the pastry once I’d made it. Assuming I made it. Which I eventually did. The link includes a video of how to roll out the pastry and prepare it to use, which was very helpful, too. It turned out just fine and tasted wonderful!
The very last question to answer was, what exactly do they mean by a “slack oven”? After a little digging, I found out it’s the cooling oven after baking bread. Wonderful! But what temperature do I set my oven at to bake this? I decided to go with the typical baking temperature of 350°F and monitor it closely.
Here’s what I ended up with…
Betty’s Apple Pudding
3 Granny Smith apples, pared and cored
2/3 cup water
1/8 cup honey
1 T lemon juice
1 egg, beaten
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Make the puff pastry well enough ahead to allow sufficient time to chill.
Line a pie pan with the puff pastry; trim excess pastry and set aside the pie pan in the refrigerator until needed.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place apples and water in sauce pan; boil and stir until softened. You may need to beat it some, but I left some chunks in mine.
In a separate bowl, beat one egg then add lemon juice, honey, and cinnamon (optional).
Add egg mixture to apples and stir well.
Pour mixture into pie pan.
Bake 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Serve warm.
We enjoyed this, and had it for breakfast the next morning with scrambled eggs. <grin> The consistency reminds me of homemade mashed potatoes. The combination of flavors was very appealing to us, especially since I added a dash or two of ground cinnamon. I had feared it would taste rather bland without some spice. Hubby agreed with my choice to add the cinnamon.
This recipe did take some effort and time to pull it together. The end result is a yummy single crust pie everyone can enjoy. Stay tuned for next week’s dessert: apricot pudding. Should be an interesting challenge!
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