Indian Pudding Ice Cream

Happy November!

It’s fitting that my mom’s birthday falls in the same month as Thanksgiving; I’m so blessed to have her in my life. My mom is one of the friendliest, happiest, and kindest people I’ve ever known. She always goes out of her way for others, and my sisters and I use her birthday as an excuse to treat her like a queen.

My mom’s passion for New England history is well-known. She grew up in the Midwest but loved visiting extending family back in Massachusetts, relishing the autumn colors, colonial history, and local flavors. In fact, she convinced my dad to move to Massachusetts soon after they married. And to this day, my mom still gets excited when she sees clam chowder (“chowdah”), Boston baked beans, or hermit cookies. But there’s one hearty New England dish that she covets above all the rest: Indian Pudding.

You may not know what Indian Pudding is, as I rarely see it on menus outside of New England. But this dessert is older than the country itself. In the 17th century, the English settlers brought with them their love of English “hasty pudding” – a sweetened stovetop porridge made by boiling water or milk with wheat flour until it thickens. But since wheat flour was scarce, early colonialists substituted it for native corn meal (which they had nicknamed “Indian flour”), which they flavored with maple syrup or molasses. Over time, early recipes evolved to include additional ingredients like butter, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, and sometimes raisins or walnuts. Though the brown and lumpy porridge isn’t exactly visually-appealing, it’s the ultimate cold-weather comfort food.

One of my mom’s favorite places to enjoy Indian Pudding is at Rota-Spring Farm in Sterling, MA. Their Indian Pudding ice cream (reviewed here) is my family’s favorite flavor, and it’s what brings us back to Rota-Spring Farm time and time again. Last month, my mom delivered the terrible news that Rota won’t be making this amazing flavor anymore. Apparently, their distributor has stopped carrying the base for this flavor. Instead of just creating the base in-house, Rota-Spring Farm told my mom that they’d be pulling Indian Pudding off their menu. My mom was really disappointed, so my sister Carolyn and I immediately began talks of creating our own Indian Pudding ice cream.

A couple weeks ago, we had our chance to try out a recipe. Carolyn was visiting me in DC, and we put our heads together to develop and try out a recipe. There are dozens of recipes for Indian Pudding online, but Google yielded just two for ice-cream versions. Using one for inspiration, Carolyn and I spent Saturday morning cooking the Indian-Pudding base. We first spread cornmeal on a baking sheet, toasting it to a golden brown. After, we boiled milk and cream with molasses on the stovetop before adding egg yokes, sugar and spices. After the mixture reached 185 degrees Fahrenheit (to ensure we wouldn’t get sick from raw egg yolks), we mixed in the cornmeal and left the porridge in the refrigerator overnight.

Carolyn and I are fans of mix-ins in our Indian Pudding, so we decided to add a popular one, raisins, to our ice cream. I’ve learned from experience that raisins freeze into rock-hard nuggets in ice cream, but soaking them in alcohol will keep the raisins soft. We chose dark rum and soaked the raisins for over an hour on Sunday morning. We then pulled the fully-cooled base from the fridge. After a quick whirl in the blender to get rid of any grittiness, we poured the mixture into the ice-cream machine. Right before the ice cream was done, we poured the raisins in. The result looked exactly like frozen Indian Pudding!



Indian Pudding Ice Cream with Rum Raisins
{Makes 1.5 quarts}
Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cup light cream
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/4 cup molasses 
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Directions

  • The day before you’d like to eat this ice cream, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spread the cornmeal out on a baking sheet and toast in oven until golden brown (about 12 minutes). Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the cream, milk and molasses to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Meanwhile, combine egg yolks, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk until pale. 
  • Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking the entire time (my sister helped with this part). Then return mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat until it’s thickened and reached 185 degrees Fahrenheit (about 7 minutes).
  • Turn off heat, remove saucepan from heat and transfer mixture to the large bowl. Stir in the toasted cornmeal, cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours). When you do this, pour the raisins in a small bowl and cover with rum. Cover and keep on countertop or in the fridge.
  • The next day, pour chilled mixture into blender and blend on high setting for about 30 seconds. 
  • Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze per the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re using a Cuisinart, this means 1) turn on your machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) leave the thing churn for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, strain extra rum from the raisins. A few minutes before the ice cream is finished churning, add the rum-soaked raisins.
  • Serve immediately or, if a firmer consistency is desired, transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm.
The verdict? Dare I say this ice cream is even more delicious than the one at Rota Springs? Because this is one of the best ice creams I’ve ever made… or even tasted. It’s silky, sweet and rich. The dark molasses and cornmeal are in perfect balance, married by the warm fall-inspired spices. The flavor is reminiscent of gingerbread, but more humble and comforting with the cornmeal aftertaste. The rum-soaked raisins adds an fancy twist to this classic colonial fare. While this ice cream was cold, each spoonful warmed my heart. This recipe may require some patience, but I promise you that it’s worth it.

Happy birthday, mom! Here’s to many more.