Saturday, November 8, 2008

Daisy's Chocolate Bread Pudding and Hard Sauce

Our grandmother's cook Daisy was wonderful. She never used measuring cups, and her fried chicken and apple turnovers were the benchmark to which we mere cooking mortals strive to match. She was legendary in the soul-food kitchen, and she had a wonderful intuition. She was the lady who taught me that horsetails in the sky meant warmer weather would come, and blackbirds flocking meant it would get colder. When she met me as a babe in arms, she told Mom, "When God made that baby, He broke the mold," and no matter how hard my mom tried, I'm her only child.

When she started working with Mom's family, Daisy was 45, but she didn't think anyone would want to hire her, so she told Cha-Cha she was 40. Later, at what we thought was her 60th birthday party, she let the cat out of the bag that she was actually 65!

When Cha-Cha died, Mom and I went to Daisy's house to tell her. Daisy was laid up in a hospital bed, her hair neatly braided, the sheets cleanly folded into hospital corners around her. Sister and the family took such good care of her. Her eyes were closed, and she wasn't very lucid. But when we told her about Cha-Cha's death, she smiled big (with her eyes still closed) and said, "Them n-----s took Miss Charley home." I hadn't cried yet until then, but Daisy's calm, prophetic statement and reassurance made tears just fall out my eyes.

When Daisy died, her sweet family had us sit with them at the funeral. It was a beautiful celebration and an interesting social study: her family was wearing all white, and white Mom and I were wearing all black. But all the women of the congregation, including us, were wearing hats. Mom was overcome with grief and leaned over to my shoulder. A nurse in a starched white uniform came over with smelling salts and a handkerchief.

At the end, the family (including us, we were OK not to go, but Sister wouldn't have it - she considered us family, just like we consider her) got up in a line and paid respects to Daisy on the way out the front door to the congregation singing, "I'll Fly Away." Mom leaned over and kissed the sweet, familiar cheek of the woman who had so much influence on her and who helped raise her. A hush fell over the church: it is a superstition in that society that to touch a dead body is to risk having your soul taken.

Mom and Cha-Cha would follow Daisy around while she cooked in the hopes to get her recipes, so they're a little disjointed. But they're treasures, and I'm happy to share them.

12 slices white loaf bread
1/4 cup milk
2-3 Tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 eggs
1 small can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
1 stick butter (for hard sauce)
2-3 cups powdered sugar (for hard sauce)
Scant teaspoon vanilla (for hard sauce)
Bitters to taste (optional - my only personal addition)

  1. Shread bread (with crust: I pull out the food processor to be sure there aren't any lumps) and cover with milk to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Mix cocoa with 1 cup sugar and add to bread/milk mixture.
  3. Slightly beat 2 eggs and add to chocolate mixture. Mix well.
  4. Add remaining cup of sugar to mixture and mash up with your hands well.
  5. Melt butter and pour enough in pan to "grease every spot in the pan really well."
  6. Pour rest of butter in chocolate mixture.
  7. Add evaporated milk and stir well.
  8. Pour mixture in greased pan.
  9. Place in cold oven and turn to 350 degrees (I like my pudding set a little more, so I check it every 10 minutes for 30-45 minutes).
  10. After 20 minutes, shake the pan to see if it's set.
  11. Cream stick of butter
  12. Add powdered sugar to thick icing consistency
  13. Add scant teaspoon and / or bitters for flavor.

Whenever we finish off a loaf of bread, I save the heels in the freezer. Same for odds & ends in burger or hot dog buns until I have enough bread for this dish. The bitters idea came to me while reading the label on the bottle of Angostura Bitters that we bought in St. Lucia.



Made by Lena