In each city I visited on my book tour, I was shepherded around by an “escort,” whose job it was to get me from A to B, to make sure I didn’t fail to show up at the venue (radio or TV station, market or bookstore) that expected me. This was a smart hire on the part of my publisher. I have trouble finding the elevator in a hotel, let alone a TV station in an unfamiliar city. Left to my own devices and Avis, I’d have ended up in a neighboring state.
I spent a fair amount of time with these escorts, and being the nosy, irritating person that I am, I invariably picked their brains for recipes. (This is something I have taken to doing ever since I became a crabby cook, in search of fresh food ideas for my picky family. I have extracted recipes from the tailor, the facialist, the physical therapist, the ear doctor, the manicurist, the computer repair guy, the dental hygienist, the voice coach, the kindergarten teacher, several taxi drivers, and the puppy trainer.)
Kristen, my escort in Austin, gave me a winner: Puddin’ ‘N Dab. A Southern dish, it is simply buttermilk pound cake with boiled custard sauce, and if you’re a vanilla head like me, there is nothing better. Try this, and get ready for Southern comfort.
Puddin’ ‘N Dab
For the pound cake:
2 cups sugar
cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (plus extra for the pan), room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for the pan)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 325º F. Butter and lightly flour two standard loaf pans. (This recipe yields two cakes. Use one for the Puddin’ ‘N Dab and freeze the other for future use.)
2. Place the sugar and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, Beat the mixture on medium until it’s light, fluffy and very well combined, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture, one at a time, until well combined. Add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl in three parts, alternating with buttermilk, mixing afer each addition just until the ingredients are combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Spread the batter in the two pans and bake for about 70 minutes, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan, then remove the cakes from their pans, set aside, and make the custard sauce.
For the custard sauce:
2 cups milk
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Pour the milk into a small saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, corn starch and salt and whisk the mixture into the milk. Heat the milk over medium low heat until it barely starts to boil. Turn off the heat.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Gradually whisk in about ¼ cup of the hot milk mixture, then add the egg mixture to the pan. Turn the heat back up to medium low, and, whisking constantly, heat the sauce until it thickens enough to coat your spoon, 3-4 minutes. Pour the custard into a bowl and allow it to cool, then refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it.
To finish the dessert:
Slice the pound cake into 6-8 pieces. Place one piece on a dessert plate and pour about 1/4 cup of sauce over it. Repeat with the other slices and serve.