Cook the Books Club selection was Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, her charming, somewhat bucolic, and idealized novel of early American farm life, as seen through the eyes of a young boy. Mostly biographical, as it was based upon her husband's upbringing in upstate New York.
I enjoyed the story, with all of the homegrown vegetables, grains, and meat, the home cooking, preserving of food, weaving, spinning, and their whole life of self reliance and living on and from the land. Even using the straw for hats, leather for shoes, etc. Talk about going back to the land. We have come so far from that sort of life. Refreshing to read about.
Even the "bad boys" at school get their comeuppance. This is definitely not a dysfunctional family. Though of course we know there were lots of those at that time as well as in our own. She spared her young readers, many of whom likely wished themselves on the little house planet.
Our Farmer Boy certainly packed the food away. Their whole family had plenty to eat, a surplus, which more than lasted them through the winter months. So many good things were mentioned, among which was Bird's Nest Pudding, something I'd never heard of, even though it is an old time American dish. Also called Crow's Nest Pudding, it featured in an early White House cookbook, as well as the Little House Cookbook, and was served variously with sweetened cream, a tart sauce or maple sugar. You can tell where this is going. My choice of inspired from the book cooking. What we do at Cook the Books - make something inspired by our reading selection.
I served it with sour cream, which was a nice complement to the sweetness of the apples, laced with sugar as they were. In my case palm sugar. Really delicious. Even my husband was taking pictures for his Facebook friends.
Another nice thing, you can use as many apples as you have people to serve. Just increasing the custard amount and size of dish. One apple with some pudding crust is enough for each serving. I used the amount in the recipe here, the only changes being to 4 apples and 1/2 cup sugar. So, vary it as you wish.
Bird’s Nest Pudding
From the Little House Cookbook
- 1⁄2 teaspoon butter
- 6 tart apples (about 2 pounds)
- 1 cup brown sugar *as noted, I used 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar and 4 apples
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup homogenized milk
- 1 teaspoon maple flavoring
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon cream of tarter
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 pint heavy cream
- Butter a baking dish (2-quart). Peel and core the apples and place them in the dish. Fill the holes with brown sugar, pressing slightly, and sprinkle half the nutmeg on top. Place in preheated 350 ° F oven to start baking while you prepare the batter.
- Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into a larger bowl and the whites onto a platter. Beat whites with a fork or whisk until they no longer slip from the tilted platter. Beat the yolks until they change color; stir in maple flavoring and milk. In smaller bowl mix flour, cream of tartar, baking powder, salt, and any remaining brown sugar. Stir this mixture quickly into the liquid. Fold the egg whites into this thin batter.
- Pour the batter evenly over and around the partly cooked apples and return dish to the oven, baking it until the crust has browned, another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- While the pudding bakes, stir the powdered sugar and remaining nutmeg into a pitcher of heavy cream. Take the finished pudding directly to the table before it falls, and turn each serving onto a plate so the apple is nested in the fluffy crust. Pour sweetened cream over them. Or serve with sour cream.
This made a great Sunday breakfast with a side of bacon. For us, a bit too much for a dessert, which we usually skip anyway, aside from a bit of chocolate for me. :) Be sure to visit Cook the Books and check out everyone's cooking inspiration. Or read before Sept. 30th and join in. Linked also to the September Foodies Read Challenge and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking.