dumplings and puddings

Rhubarb Time Machine: Rhubarb or Pie plant Pudding — White House Cookbook


I was surprised at how nostalgic I got testing rhubarb pudding from the White House Cookbook. My mind swam with memories of grandfatherly teasing, vast forests of rhubarb’s elephant ear leaves in my great grandparent’s victory garden, mom’s stabbed toe, a pleasantly shocked Spanish face, regular begging from friends for this or that rhubarb recipe. I just don’t know if I ever knew life could exist without it. It was so ubiquitous in my life. My Beloved claims the same–no remembered introduction. It was, well, just… there. It was always there in the garden and on the plate. Discussing it around the dinner table provoked a lot of memories for everybody. Perhaps rhubarb is the time machine we’ve all searched for. Maybe every forkful is another spin backwards on the decade dial. Felt like it tonight.


The recipe for rhubarb pudding in the White House Cookbook was so vague that when I realized how much research it might take, I wondered if it would be a multi-trial recipe like Orange Float. I panicked a little. I admit it. But I’m too stubborn to give up that easily. I decided to do this recipe because I’m spending a little time with the home folks and thought I’d raid Mom’s garden. It was bound to be flush with rhubarb. It always is every summer. I’ve never known rhubarb to fail her. Ever.

At first glance, the rhubarb pudding looked like a cobbler but so many online or book recipes didn’t seem to share the same quantities of eggs, butter or milk. There was no sugar to be added and the flour was a guessing game. I tried googling the basic ingredients and kept coming up with hits for pancake or waffle recipes. Somehow the idea of pancake and sweetened rhubarb didn’t seem bad but I wasn’t convinced until my mother popped open a book with the pancake recipe she’s always used. There, in front of me, was a near exact copy of almost every element except the little bit of sugar. I was worried but I plunged ahead and made a mix of rhubarb with cobbler quantities of sugar added to it. I mixed up all the ingredients until the flour and added it quarter cup by quarter cup only to find that my original estimate had been bang on. When I put the two parts in the glass dish, I wasn’t convinced anything great would happen. I really didn’t think it looked promising since I didn’t even know what temperature to use in the oven. I decided on 375 degrees. I now think it might have been better lower but it wasn’t that bad of a guess. Even the doubtfulness on inverting the pudding on a plate was unnecessary. It popped out perfectly after some cooling.


The results were pronounce by all my guinea pigs to be quite edible, some preferring to add the proffered cream and some ate without any enhancements. It’s pretty much all eaten up now. I guess, if anything, how much food left is a sign of its success or failure. Success it is, then, with some minor adjustments. I’ll update you on those later.



Chop rhubarb pretty fine, put in a pudding dish and sprinkle sugar over it; make a batter of one cupful of sour milk, two eggs, a piece of butter the size of an egg, half a teaspoonful of soda and enough flour to make batter about as thick as for cake. Spread it over the rhubarb and bake till done. Turn out on a platter upside down, so that the rhubarb will be on top. Serve with sugar and cream.


RHUBARB OR PIE-PLANT PUDDING.— based on original recipe

2 cups rhubarb, finely chopped

1 cup white sugar

1 cup sour milk (this can be made with a near cup of milk and Tbsp of lemon juice)

2 eggs

1/4 cup salted butter, melted

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups white flour

1. Mix rhubarb and white sugar together in a bowl. Set aside*

2. Mix baking soda and flour together into bowl.

3. Make a well in the center. Add sour milk, eggs and melted butter; mix together until smooth.

4. In a lightly buttered round glass casserole dish, put sugared rhubarb on bottom and cover completely with batter.

5. Place dish into an oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or when golden around the edges and a toothpick comes clean from the center.

6. Allow to cool to room temperature. Slide a butter knife around the edges of the batter to detach from glass. Quickly invert pudding over a waiting dish. With the cooling, it should come out in once piece. This can be served with cream and sugar (white or powdered).


Categories: dumplings and puddings, still testing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Apple Puff Pudding: Enter the Quiche Dish

Round three has come and gone. Quickly. I’m much more adept at it now and my other half demolished it in quick march time.  Since the last two rounds rather damp in the center, I believed that the pie dish I was using–a 9-inch pyrex–was too deep yet too small for the amount of batter I made. It was precarious transferring the dish to the oven. I endeavored to buy a wider pie dish but was stopped by the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of places to go in this little valley where I live nor many options without having to drive about 500 km to the east. What to do?  I spied a wide ceramic quiche dish in a local store and bought it for my third experiment. Maybe it’s not perfectly accurate for the time period but necessity IS the mother of invention after all.It would still give me the variables I was looking for– wider and shallower.

I’d pretty much perfected my concept of the ingredient list for Apple Puff Pudding by the second round. The wider, shallower dish did allow for a little more cooking on the sides but the center remains obstinately damp. This, excitingly, was the only round that resulted in some actual, brief puffing of the pudding. It quickly collapse upon exit of the oven but I figure I’m on the right path. I may yet endeavor to try other temperatures or a proper 12-inch glass pie dish, but I am told the result is most edible. Even cold. It disappeared completely into tummies the last two rounds. It is somewhat like a Far Breton–custardy and dense. It really is good hot, as specified in the original recipe, especially with vanilla ice cream. Without further ado, my notes and the resulting recipe.

Okay. First, the original:

The instructions are pretty straight forward but need to be translated in modern recipe parlance.


butter for greasing

3 medium-sized apples — about 375 g (3/4 lb)

225 g (1/2 lb) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups milk

3 eggs

1/4 cup cold, diced butter

2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Butter 12 inch pie dish or 12 inch ceramic quiche dish completely. Set dish aside.

Core and peel apples. Slice all three apples into 1/4 inch thick (1/2 centimeter) slices. This should equal about 3 cups of sliced apple. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, add flour and salt. Mix to incorporate. Gradually add milk to flour mixture, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

Add three whole eggs and continue to whisk mixture until eggs are fully incorporated and batter is smooth.

Pour batter into buttered quiche dish. Carefully lay apple pieces on top of the batter in a pattern. The three cups of apple slices should cover the entire surface of the batter. Slices will need to be placed closely together.

Scatter diced butter randomly over the top of the apple slices. Put dish in oven and bake for about 50 minutes or when the edges become a deep golden brown and slightly pulling away from the edges.

Take pudding out of oven and immediately sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the apple puff. Serve immediately.

Serves 8 generously


– I used Royal Gala apples. They stayed firm and slightly sweet but I don’t know how accurate they would be for Victorian authenticity

– I used 2 percent Dairyland milk. I never tried skim and I don’t know if that would make a difference. That could be a future test in the kitchen. Wonder if organic would make a difference. 

– I used all-purpose Robin Hood flour

– The hot pudding tastes very good with Breyer’s French Vanilla ice cream.

– I might still play around with the temperature, maybe at 385 instead, since the combo of higher temperature and a shallower dish seemed to result in some momentary puffing of the batter.

If you try it out, let me know and tell me what your results were. Enjoy!

Categories: dumplings and puddings | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

The Trouble with Apple-Puff Pudding

Maybe I’m overly-ambitious. I intend, in this blog, to translate old, pre- Fannie Farmer recipes into standardized recipe form– or as close to it as I can get. One tiny problem is that you don’t realize just how many things need to be fiddled with until you are right in the middle of  the test-kitchen stage. There are obvious helps like “half pound of…” and “three eggs” but directions saying just “sprinkle sugar over the top” leaves much to the imagination for quantity.

I’ll soon head on to Round Three of Apple-Puff Pudding in the well-known White House Cookbook.  Round one was edible but damp because I think the temperature was too low. I chickened out on heat because I wasn’t sure what temperature you’d get in a cooking range, most likely the oven of the time. Lesson one learned–go for heat and just keep an eye on it. Round two, with a higher heat,  produced a somewhat puffier and less heavy version but still dense and wet in the center. I added more salt to the batter (another unknown quantity). I also was more generous with the sugar topping at the end.  I also noted the first round that since the pied dish required didn’t offer the size, I might have one that is too small. A larger 9 inch might spread out the batter and make it cook more evenly.Lesson two–don’t skimp on sugar… or salt for that matter.

I’ve eaten both versions. The first was tasting somewhat like sugarless Far Breton. It quickly became stodgy and less impressive as it got cold. Round two’s was better cooked, more sugary and, I admit, served with French Vanilla ice cream.  It tasted rather nice right out of the oven and the vanilla was a good match although maybe not so authentic. Round two was still dampish but, with the Far Breton texture in the middle, it wasn’t foreign to my tastebuds.

Round three will be tested very soon with bigger dish, I hope, and maybe a slightly higher heat.

The pictures of the results of the first two rounds:


Round 1 results

Round 2 results

The trouble with Apple Puff Pudding is that it is just good enough to keep me trying again and again until I get close to what I think my great-great grandmothers would have been proud to put on their table.I suspect many recipes may be like that in this book.  Hope you’ll join me on my adventures and, for goodness sake, please advise and compare notes with me.

Categories: dumplings and puddings | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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