Sunday, March 23, 2008

The proof is in the biscuit pudding

People deal with grief in different ways. Me? I eat. These past two weeks, I’ve gone through countless casseroles, half a ham, pints of homemade pimento cheese (which a very sweet woman from my grandma’s church made for my family because I had written that it was funeral food), a five-pound brisket I smoked myself (more on that later), jars of salsa, bags of chips, loaves of bread and countless cheeseburgers. My appetite has been voracious. But one of my favorite things I’ve eaten is something I hadn’t had in a long time: biscuit pudding.

When you leave unexpectedly for a trip, you don’t plan ahead. So when I went to Texas, I had fresh homemade biscuits and a new quart of milk, which by the time I returned a few days later were both nearing expiration. I hate to see things go to waste, and I most certainly didn’t want to throw away biscuits, so I decided that making them into a sweet pudding would not only make good use of them but be satisfying to eat as well.

There’s something about bread puddings that makes me feel cozy and warm. Biscuit puddings are no different. They’re easy on the mouth—each bite soft and slightly sticky. But the occasional burst of tart dried fruit, crunchy nuts and bittersweet chocolate keep things lively enough that you don’t get completely bored. I don’t make bread puddings often, but when I do it always reminds me of college when we’d eat pans of it while pretending to study for exams.

At my school one of the core classes required for all was something called Heritage of Western Culture. Yes, it was as broad and exhausting as it sounds, with three semesters devoted to learning everything from Aristotle to Zeno, with a lot of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Hegel and Newton thrown in between. When it came time to take a test, a large group of us would decamp to the local pancake house for all-night study sessions. While it was kind of a depressing place, we chose this restaurant because it was open 24 hours, had unlimited refills on coffee, few other customers, and a salad bar that offered amongst the vegetables a huge tray of bread pudding.

While the coffee was weak and the salad was wilted, the bread pudding was surprisingly phenomenal. It was cold, soft and dense, each bite spiked with pecans and raisins. We couldn’t stop eating it, and you could mark how much time had passed by how much bread pudding had been consumed. I never learned much in these group study sessions, but I always attended for the opportunity to eat bread pudding all night long.

Now if you should find yourself with days-old biscuits (though I must think that would be a rare occasion), I highly recommend turning them into a pudding. I added tart and bright dried cherries to mine, with some pecans from the farm and dark-chocolate chunks that melted into pockets of bittersweet cream. Fresh from the oven, the pudding is soft and a bit molten, but when it cools, it turns more spongy and solid; I like to eat it both ways. Some people enjoy adding whipped cream or powdered sugar on top of their biscuit pudding, but I prefer mine plain.

I don’t enjoy grieving, but it has been a kind of perverse pleasure going crazy with my appetite. I’m done with that, however, and will now return to my normal eating schedule. But I am pleased that my hunger gave me the energy and impetus to make biscuit pudding—a forgotten friend that I have enjoyed becoming reacquainted.

Biscuit pudding
4 cups crumbled biscuits (about 6)
1 cup of milk
1 cup of half-and-half
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Crumble the biscuits into a greased loaf pan, and let soak in the milk and half-and-half for fifteen minutes.
3. Beat the eggs with the sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt, and stir into the milk and soft biscuits making a batter.
4. Mix the cherries, nuts and chocolate into the batter.
5. Bake for one hour, or until solid. If you insert a knife to test for doneness, it should come out mostly clean, though the melted chocolate may coat it a bit.
Notes: You can add 3 tablespoons of cocoa to the batter to make a chocolate biscuit pudding. Can also add any dried fruit or nuts you prefer.

Ahem, I have a couple of announcements:
If you have Sirius radio, I’ll be talking about barbecue on the Maxim channel on Tuesday, March 25 at 12:30 pm, EST. 

Also, if you’re in Austin or the Hill Country, I did a short Q&A with Carol Dawson, author of House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall and Revival of Luby’s Cafeterias, which appears in the current issue of Edible Austin.

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Bee said...

Do the biscuits have to be stale to make good biscuit pudding? The only way I'm going to have any of your biscuits sitting around is if I make them fresh-for-purpose, or if I keep them in a locked safe!

BTW, I made your biscuits with the addition of fresh chives and "Wexford Velvet" cheddar to go with my Easter ham and they were the only entirely perfect thing about the meal. I am deeply grateful for this recipe . . . and can't wait to graduate to the next step of "pudding!"

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Having made your biscuits once before, I can't for a moment imagine having any left over for pudding. But this recipe looks so good, I might just have to try.

Tea said...

I hope the pudding and all is helping you feel a little better. Losing those we love leaves an awfully big hole behind. Sending my best to you and family.

Lore said...

I've never tried to make bread pudding before. Don't ask why...I guess I forgot about its existence. Your biscuit pudding has all the cozy flavours I like.

Babycakes said...

The pancakes on a Saturday is a lovely idea and tradition to have. And it will always be a nice reminder of your granddad.

Brave Sir Robin said...

I love bread pudding! But has never, ever occurred to me to make it from biscuits! Donuts, yes, biscuits, no. We shall have to remedy that.

Hmm, I'm with Bee, I can't imagine ever having many left over. I guess I'll hide them.

Olivia said...

Hey that's a great idea. It's sort of like when my aunt gave my mother one of her dastardly fruit cakes - not to my mother's or my liking - rather than throw it away, we put it in the blender and recycled it into a new, smoother cake!

Kari said...

While the biscuit pudding sounds fantastic, what really caught my eye is the book at the end of the post. I could really go for some Luby's fried okra...Ah the Luann Platter...

Homesick Texan said...

Bee--To test the recipe I made the pudding with fresh biscuits, and it tasted just as delicious. And I love your addition of fresh chives and Wexford Velvet cheddar to the recipe. I'm planning on growing a chive plant this spring so I can't wait to try that.

Lydia--Ha! I have to agree, there are seldom leftover biscuits, though it's just as good with fresh.

Tea--Thank you. There is a big hole, and I know that no amount of food will fill it, though eating certain things has been comforting.

Lore--It's not something I usually think about either, but it's fun to eat when it's around.

Babycakes--Thank you and I agree, pancakes are a delicious legacy.

Brave Sir Robin--And I've never thought to make it with donuts but that sounds divinely decadent!

Olivia--That's brilliant! I've never heard of anyone "recycling" their fruit cake like that!

Kari--Oh, what I would do for a Luann Platter myself right now! I'm a big fan of the fried fish.

Rebecca said...

Oh yummy! I love the idea of bread pudding made with biscuits! But I would have the same problem as everyone else-no leftoveer biscuits!

Kevin said...

This sounds like a great way to use some leftover biscuits.

Life in Recipes said...

I understand when you say the dish is "easy on the mouth". During a lengthy period of grieving, I recall that I could barely chew or swallow....anything. Puddings (both sweet and savory) somehow nourished me through.

Kris said...

Aww, honey, I'm pretty sure we'd all cook for you if it would help you out any.

Homesick Texan said...

Rebecca--That does seem to be a common problem, though I reckon you could also make it with regular bread or even cornbread.

Kevin--Thanks! If you enjoy bread pudding, you'll enjoy this as well.

Life in Recipes--It's strange how grief effects your appetite, but soft foods, such as puddings, are very welcome.

Kris--You're so sweet, thank you!

Victoria said...

Hi! I just wanted to say I really appreciate your blog. I was born & raised in Texas (San Antonio then north of Dallas), and am now at college in North Carolina. I didn't realize how much I took for granted in terms of food, and I gorge myself on good home cooking and Tex-Mex every time I'm on break.

The posts make my mouth water - with every one, I'm longing for my dad's chicken fried steak or my church's breakfast tacos.

Your blog turns me into your title - the homesick Texan. I'm loving your combination of personal anecdotes, recipes, and background about the food. What a fantastic concept - thanks for doing all this!

Bee said...

I'm just eating some warm, ungarnished, biscuit pudding; and you're absolutely right, it is first-rate comfort food!

Hope you are feeling better --

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

I LOVE biscuits so much that I'd probably have to make a double-recipe in order to have some over for pudding, but it sounds so good, I will!

Mike said...

Just missed you on Sirius yesterday...another time perhaps

A food item in a round-about way...Mom was born in Eagle Pass (only San Angelo is an uglier city frankly)....but the tradition of cascarones on Easter will never die in our family...don't recall Easter without them. Neighbors look at us as if we're nuts when the confetti rains down.

Good Stuff per usual HST

Nan said...

Your biscuit pudding sounds delicious! I'm a huge fan of bread pudding, yet I'd never thought of using biscuits. Glad to hear you're feeling maybe a little bit better?

RecipeGirl said...

Much like bread pudding, eh? I'm a big fan of bread pudding, so your biscuit pudding looks like a wonderful unique take on it!

Anonymous said...

Your classes sound like Heritage classes at Austin College in Sherman! I too had that experience and it makes me smile to remember. From one homesick Texan to another, I understand your if I can just find a decent margarita in Minnesota, I'll be happy!

Cynthia said...

This is so exciting, I've bookmarked it to try.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Austin College in Sherman!

Go 'Roo's!

Janna said...

I made this and it was a BIG HIT!
I had made homemade biscuits and gravy 2 days before I saw your recipe. So tasty. You can't go wrong with chocolate and cinnamon. So homey, fragrant- comforting.
There wasn't even a spoon full leftover.

Linda said...

this looks amazing. i cant wait to try it! biscuits make everything taste better.

Annie K. Nodes said...

Sorry to read about your granddaddy.

I'm sure he's in the kind of heavenly place where he can enjoy pan upon pan of delicious biscuit pudding!

Homesick Texan said...

Victoria--Thank you! My cousin is also at college in North Carolina and he has the same problem as you. And your church has breakfast tacos? Wow! Where is this?

Bee--Hey, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Mevrouw Cupcake--Yep, that what I do sometimes.

Mike--Cascarones! I think they sell those at Fiesta. I'd forgotten about those.

Nan--I am feeling better, thank you. Kind words from dear readers such as you have helped immensely.

RecipeGirl--If you like bread pudding you'll enjoy this as well.

Anon--Yep! I'm a Roo! When did you graduate?


Brave Sir Robin--Did you also go to Austin College?

Janna--Yea! I'm so glad y'all enjoyed it!

Linda--They do make everything better.

Annie K. Nodes--I used to have a recurring dream that heaven was a potluck supper, so I bet he's hanging out with all my other relatives eating themselves silly!

AT said...

Hey, I picked up your Edible Austin interview! I want that Luby's book. Sounds awesome.

Lydia said...

Hello! I just made this for my in-laws last weekend and it was a huge hit (they needed some Texan love since they live in Arkansas. Boo!). With no time to make my own biscuits, I just used Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits from a can and it was still fabulous. In fact, I am making it for my family gathering this weekend. Thanks for sharing!

Skimono said...

I know this is an older post, but I love your recipes.

On that note, I'm currently a student at Austin College and rather glad that there isn't heritage anymore (they stopped it in my freshman year). It sounds like it had changed in current years.

Go Roos said...

I graduated from AC the last year they had Heritage. I was one of those people who would have majored in HWC, given the option!

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