Summer has finally caught up with us here in Chicago. The heat is upon us and the humidity won’t let us forget it. One of the best things about summer time is that it’s also peach season – and ya’ll, I love peaches. I grew up on them, peeling them in the back yard and eating them with the juice running down my chin and my hands . . . everybody knows different foods can have very emotional meaning for all of us. And there’s something about peaches in the south – everybody loves ’em and everybody has their favorite ways to prepare them.
I would say peaches and banana pudding run neck and neck as favorites in the south. Last weekend – I decided to combine the best of both and make a peach pudding!
I wanted to make the pudding from scratch – and, sadly, the first effort for this last Sunday morning did not work out. And looking back, here’s why – all the recipes I looked at said to cook the pudding over low heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken. Low heat. Every recipe. So I added the ingredients exactly as my recipe called for – and stirred over low heat. And stirred. And stirred. I must have stood there and stirred for at least 40 minutes (no joke) and it never thickened. So, of course I started thinking that maybe some of the ingredient weren’t right. Maybe I used self rising flour by mistake? I used 2% milk – should I have used whole? Should the egg yolks and milk have been at room temperature? I didn’t get it – and I was frustrated. Of course, having a whopper of a hangover that morning didn’t help things either, but that’s a whole different story.
The next day I tried Paula Deen’s recipe – which you can find here at FoodNetwork.com. I used whole milk and did exactly what her recipe called for. And the same thing started happening again – it wasn’t thickening up, dang it! So I killed the heat on the stove and came back to my computer to review the recipe more closely. I started reading the comments below and the folks commenting had the same problem I was happening with the pudding not setting up. Turns out, whether you’re using flour or corn starch as your thickener, it won’t start binding with the milk and eggs until it reaches near boiling point. So the heat has to be gradually increased until near boiling and the pudding will get super hot and then thicken. I went back and tried this with the batch on the stove – Bingo! It thickened up magically and came out really well.
The pudding ended up being a success. I had gotten 6-7 peaches from the store – peeled them and sliced them up and let them sit in the fridge with just a dusting of powdered sugar on them. They actually sat longer in the fridge due to my first attempt not working out well. So they were extra ripe and sweet and PERFECT.
Once I had the pudding ready to go (finally!), I started layering it with the peaches and some vanilla wafers. I added a layer of wafers to the bottom first, then with peaches and then topped that off with pudding. I repeated this until all my ingredients were gone and my dish was filled up!
Now, I think there’s 2 schools of thought when it comes to pudding desserts like this – some folks prefer meringue and some folks prefer just some crushed wafers on top. I love meringue and have made it very well at different times in the past . . . but I think my preference is to crush some wafers on top. Simple and understated. Which is what I did here – I sprinkled some on top and voila! It came out beautifully.
One more thing – every good Southerner knows that these types of fruit puddings – whether banana, peaches, strawberries, or what have you – is served best after it’s been made and chilling in the fridge for awhile. When the wafers have had time to soften up a bit and the pudding is super chilled – then you KNOW it’s gonna be some good eating. And that, my friends, is why this peach pudding is the perfect dessert to help you chill out this summer – enjoy!