Wednesday, December 30, 2009

holiday dessert wishlist item #4: happy happy

Happy birthday, Candy!

It's my Greek stepmother's birthday today. I won't be with her to celebrate—she's in California for the holidays, I'm cold chillin' at the Shus in Maryland—so I'm going to give her a virtual birthday cake (actually, it's a virtual birthday dessert) with the promise of a literal version early in the new year.

Mrs. Snead's Snow Pudding is the lemony, airy confection my Greek stepmother asked for in lieu of cake on her birthdays growing up. I had it for the first time this past spring, and was immediately smitten. It's hard to describe this combination of frothy egg whites and rich custard, and I assumed it would be hard to make, too. But I was able to (literally) whip this up after work one night and bring it to friends' house for dinner; the snow and the pudding chilled while we ate.

I'm including it on my holiday dessert wishlist because it's the perfect dessert not only to celebrate the birth of my Greek stepmother, but also to ring in the new year (both events go well with champagne, too). It's elegant but unusual, festive, and quite delicious. So if you're looking to celebrate a momentous occasion—say, the beginning of a new decade or the birth of one of your very favorite people—get to your kitchen and start whipping.

Mrs. Snead's Snow Pudding

Ingredients for the snow:
1 (¼-ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ cup cold water
1 cup boiling water
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large egg whites

Ingredients for the pudding [custard]:

2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks

Making the snow:
1. Stir the gelatin into cold water in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in hot water, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice until sugar has dissolved. Set the bowl in an ice bath and stir often until mixture is cold and thickened (consistency will be similar to that of raw egg whites), about 45 minutes.

2. Beat gelatin mixture with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until very frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, beat whites until they hold soft peaks.

3. Add the whites to the gelatin mixture and beat at high speed until tripled in volume and very thick, about 5 minutes (longer if using a handheld mixer). Transfer to a large serving bowl and chill until set, about 3 hours.

Making the pudding [custard]:
1. Bring the milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt just to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let sit for several minutes (you don't want the milk mixture to be so hot it curdles the egg yolks).

2. Put yolks in a small bowl and whisk about ½ cup of the warm milk mixture into the yolks, then whisk this new mixture back into the remaining milk in the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer.

3. Transfer custard sauce to a bowl and chill, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 2 hours.

Spoon a puddle of the pudding into a glass or bowl, top with snow, and drizzle with more pudding.


  1. Yummmmm.... even virtual this is delicious. Mrs. Snead lived down the street and brought this for the first time when we were all sick with Strep throat. From that inauspicious start sprang my love affair with snow pudding; my mother, each year disappointed that I wasn't picking out a real cake, would mold it and stick a candle on top. Happy Birthday to me!!

  2. HAP-py BIRTH-day DEAR E-BIH-dieeeeeeeeeee! HAP-py BIRTH-day to YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!

    (Today is my mum's birthday, too!)