The Oregon saying, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes” is befitting of a place that is home to as many sprouting businesses as mossy shoots from the ground. I’m a New England transplant whose idea of a snow day was an excuse to hunker down inside and fill the house with warm and delicious smells while watching others skate aimlessly on icy streets and bear the cold to build forts and snowmen. By February, the snow piles are piling so high it seems like they will never melt or reveal a speck of green grass again. And thus brings us to Groundhog Day, when everyone runs horridly to turn on the radio to see if a tiny little creature has dared poke his head out into the cold.
Now, this storybook holiday actually finds me holding hope of spring blooms popping out of the dew at any moment and those breaks of sunshine over the Willamette Valley becoming more prevalent. But there is one part of childhood winters I could go for all year long, though like most great treats and memories, it often came just once a year, at the Christmas table. It is a white, cold presence that manages to have a lightness usually associated for the wisps wind of warm-weather breezes. This treasured recipe is like no other, a phenomenon perfect to revisit on the day we all look hopefully for the tiniest sign of spring. It’s called Snow Pudding.
Take one part calm, cool Swedish demeanor and determination, one part long, sunless winters celebrated in billows of whipped cream and meringue, and one part of unusual American traditions that come from the mixing and mingling of Swedish entrepreneurs with equally strong-minded multicultural immigrants. Fold this all together with just enough richness to make it worthy of Sunday dinner, and you have Snow Pudding. This otherwise illusive dessert happened upon my great grandmother one day as she perused the Boston Cookbook, akin to the Joy of Cooking. Great Uncle Bob quickly came to request the treat at every Sunday dinner, watching it jiggle like Jello in the bowl, yet sparkle and melt in his mouth like nothing out of a package ever could. Making it more special, a vanilla custard sauce, like liquid ice cream, would be poured over top, like springtime coming to melt the snow all away.
If you were my grandfather, coming to visit his wife’s family for the first time and while transitioning to life in America- you demanded that every bowl of Snow Pudding come complete with that richness. He happily described the white lemony gel as magic that “goes phoomph in your mouth” and made such a puddle of the custard in his bowl, that the treat soon became a simple luxury reserved only for Christmas. Recipes, like traditions evolve. And so, in memory of my grandfather, and, having not indulged in this treat amidst new family and a new era this holiday season, I give you this delicious, veganized taste of snow. I hope you enjoy the way it goes “phoomph” in your mouth. It is surprising that something so simple can be so delicious and spark such hope and joy, like a Groundhog popping out of the snow to declare that spring is truly on its way.
- 1 1/2 tbsp. agar flakes
- 1 1/2 tsp. potato starch or arrowroot
- 200 g. (1 cup) sugar
- 275 g. (scant 1 1/4 cups)
- water 85 g. (3 oz., 6 tbsp.)
- lemon juice Pinch of salt 92 g. (heaping 6 tbsp.)
- aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas Custard Sauce, recipe follows Berries or cookies, to garnish)
- Combine the agar, starch, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly to insure that the agar and sugar get fully dissolved and don’t stick to the bottom.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10-15 minute more. At this point, if you have a clear cover, you should be able to see the mixture starting to rise up in a foamy bubble towards the top of the pan, and when the mixture is stirred, it should look clear with no flakes of agar visible.
- Pour the mixture into a heat-safe serving bowl. Add the lemon juice and salt and whisk to combine.
- Place the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes while you prepare the foam.
- For the foam, pour the aquafaba into a very clean mixer bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment or a hand mixer with whisks (though stand mixer is highly preferable). Turn on the mixer to low, then gradually increase the speed to high and let it beat for 7 – 10 minutes, or until a stiff, white, stable foam is achieved. When the bowl is removed from the mixer and the whip is pulled out and turned upside down, the foam should stand stiffly from the whisk, with a slight curve to its peak.
- Remove the agar mixture form the freezer. Use a large balloon whisk to add in a large spoonful of the foam, whisking vigorously to insure it gets fully combined into the viscous liquid.
- Add about half of the remaining mixture and gently incorporate into the lemon mixture, using a swooping motion to pull liquid from underneath over and atop the foam to partially fold it in and partially whisk it. If it is not getting incorporated, you can use a little harder whisking motion, but you want to get gradually gentler in your touch and motions.
- Fold in the final portion of foam, keeping as much air in it as possible while trying to get it interspersed evenly within the agar mixture.
- Cover and let the mixture chill until set, at least 4 hours but overnight is preferable.
- Serve by dolloping large spoonfulls of pudding into serving bowls and topping with a puddle of custard sauce and a few berries or a cookie.