In the South, we have a particular fondness for using terms of endearment, and we don’t reserve them just for those close to us. We use them everywhere, at all times, and to anyone. If we don’t know your real name, we’ll call you Sugar, Sweetheart, Sweetie, or Darlin’. If we know your real name, we’ll still call you Sugar, Sweetheart, Pun’kin, Cupcake, Puddin’, or Honey. In line at the grocery store the other day, the cashier called me “Darlin’”, “Sweetheart”, and “Love”….all in a span of 60 seconds. If you are a male, you may be called any of the above, but you may also be called Shorty (if you are tall), Slim (if you are not slim), or Booger (I don’t think that one needs further explanation). You could also be called Lefty, Stretch, Goober, Scooter, or Jack. Unless you’re name IS Jack, in which case you’ll be called something else.
When my boys were babies, my mom called them “my little turnip seed” and “my little pun’kin seed”. As any self-respecting Southern Belle would do, I called my eldest boy Pun’kin, until his little brother was born, and then I called him Bubba. Then the baby was called Pun’kin. It’s a wonder my kids even know their real names.
So many of the Southern nicknames illustrate the Southern fondness for sweets. One of my favorites is Pudding.
Pudding is not really that cold stuff in the little plastic cups at the grocery store. Pudding is a very general term, referring to anything from custard, to a moist steamed cake or bread, to bread that is layered with mascerated fruit. Hasty Pudding, or Indian Pudding are porridges made from corn meal, and served warm. Rice and Tapioca Pudding are thick custards cooked with their respective namesakes. There are savory puddings such as Corn Pudding, Carrot Pudding, or Squash Pudding, which are sort of soufflé-like. Christmas pudding is sort of a dense, moist molasses-y brown bread, packed with fruits and nuts, and usually steamed in a mold of some sort. Fruit cake is a Christmas Pudding.
My favorite is bread pudding, of which there are many variations. French, Cajun, or Creole bread pudding is made my soaking leftover bread in sweet custard, and then baking until cooked through. It may have various nuts, fruit, or spices. It is often served with a warm, frequently booze-y sauce poured over it. The very similar Mexican style bread pudding is called Capirotada. It may be made with tea, raisins, and often, bits of cheddar cheese. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it! It is seriously delicious.
My recipe is a simple, very versatile recipe, which can be adapted any number of ways. I have listed some variations, but you can dream up more, I am sure….
- 1 large loaf French bread, torn in 2” pieces (should be about 12 cups)
- ½ C gold raisins
- ½ C dark or spiced rum (may use water instead)
- 6 cups whole milk
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 t vanilla
- 2 t cinnamon
- 1 t ground nutmeg
Place bread pieces into large mixing bowl and let sit. Place raisins and rum in a small saucepan, and simmer for ten minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Place milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices in a blender and whiz for 20 seconds. Pour over the bread pieces and add the raisins and rum. Mix well, and allow to set for 30 minutes. Pour into a pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. You may use a 13×9, a large bundt pan, a 4 quart casserole, or 2 large loaf pans. Bake at 350* for one hour, or until set in the center.
Serve warm, with a drizzle of sauce.
- 2 sticks butter
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- ½ C dark or spiced rum (if wanting to go booze-free, use additional cream or light cream)
- ¼ C cream
Bring all ingredients to simmer over medium heat, beating with a whisk to incorporate. Serve warm over bread pudding…
With nuts–Add ½ Cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts if you like.
Apricot Brandy—use diced apricots in place of the raisins. Use Brandy in place of the Rum in both the pudding and the sauce. If you like nuts, consider using toasted almonds.
Cranberry—use dried cranberries in place of the raisins. Very pretty at Christmas Time
Capirotada—stir in 1 cup of chopped mild cheddar cheese before baking
Apple Brandy—used diced dried apples in place of all or part of the raisins. Use brandy in place of the rum.
Tropical—use diced dried pineapple in place of the raisins, and use coconut rum.. If using nuts, use macadamia.
Have fun playing!
Yummiest Variation Of All
Bake your pudding in loaf pans. Refrigerate overnight. Invert onto cutting board, and slice into 1″ thick slices. Fry in butter in a medium hot skillet until brown on both sides. Top with a little drizzle of rum sauce or maple syrup. The BEST French Toast you will EVER eat.