When I was young I read several books featuring Pippi Longstocking, a redheaded Swedish girl who lived by herself (well, with a horse and a monkey) and had amazing adventures with her neighbors, Tommy and Annika. The series was lighthearted, more than a little silly, and featured several descriptions of tasty-sounding Swedish food. Case in point:
“Now shut your eyes while I set the table,” said Pippi. Tommy and Annika squeezed their eyes as tightly shut as possible. They heard Pippi opening the basket and rattling paper.
“One, two, nineteen, now you may look,” said Pippi at last. They looked, and they squealed with delight when they saw all the good things Pippi had spread on the bare rock. There were good sandwiches with meatballs and ham, a whole pile of sugared pancakes, several little brown sausages, and three pineapple puddings. For, you see, Pippi had learned cooking from the cook on her father’s ship.
When I was trying to come up with ideas for a new fictional dish to try out, pineapple puddings came to mind. It took some thinking to figure out how I wanted to approach the dish– clearly these were individual puddings, rather than one big bowl of pudding, and the fact that they were served as picnic food (and in Sweden, where “pudding” doesn’t necessarily mean a thickened dairy dessert) made me think that they weren’t the standard pudding you get in the U.S. When I’d thought about it at all, I’d pictured the puddings as baked in individual ramekins and being somewhat firm, kind of like a particularly dense flan. Since they were transportable, though, they probably didn’t need refrigeration, or at least weren’t served chilled.
Combining these ideas with my knowledge of general cookery and what could pass as a “pudding,” I decided to make baked custards enriched with cream cheese, which would help them hold their shape even after removed from the refrigerator. I co-opted the caramel-bottom flan idea to make a sort of pineapple upside-down flan, with a ring of pineapple in the bottom and brown sugar for extra flavor.
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbs. butter
20 oz. can pineapple slices
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup pineapple juice (from canned pineapple)
5 eggs, room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a small saucepan, melt brown sugar and butter together and simmer over low heat for about 3-4 minutes until bubbly. Spoon into ceramic ramekins or custard cups. It will be stiff and crystallized, not smooth, but don’t worry.
3. Place one drained pineapple slice on top of the sugar/butter mixture at the bottom of each ramekin and set aside.
4. Using a blender, hand mixer, or whisk, mix remaining ingredients together until completely smooth. This will be easier if you start by beating the eggs separately, then adding them slowly (a few tablespoons at a time) to the cream cheese, beating completely until smooth at each addition. Then add the remaining liquids slowly to avoid lumps.
5. Pour custard mixture into ramekins. Be forewarned that if your ramekins are any larger than, say, 4 oz., it’s entirely possible your pineapple slices will float to the top. (Smaller ramekins make for a tighter fit on the pineapple, so it stays at the bottom)
6. Line the bottom of a 13×9″ pan with a folded tea towel. Place the filled ramekins into the lined pan, then put into the oven on a middle rack. Just before closing the oven door, pour hot water into the pan to form a water bath around the ramekins.
7. Bake 30-45 minutes, until a knife inserted halfway to the center comes out clean, or until there is only the slightest jiggle in the center when you shake the ramekin gently.
8. My larger ramekins ended up with the pineapple at the surface of the custard. Made it a little harder to check for doneness (needed to use the knife test) but it looked fine.
I flipped one of the small ones (pineapple stayed at the bottom) to get a somewhat attractive dessert, but the sugar at the bottom didn’t dissolve well.
Final verdict: these are good, but not quite what I was envisioning when I thought of pineapple puddings. There’s not much pineapple flavor, for one. And the custard texture was extremely thick– almost like cheesecake. It was tasty, but not quite what I was looking for. As you’ll see in my notes below, I would make many, many revisions to this recipe to get it to be the pineapple pudding of my imaginings. However, I feel the need to emphasize that this is not a bad dessert at all– it’s delicious and I even had one for breakfast (hey, it’s got eggs and milk and fruit in it) one day. Go ahead and try it, with or without revisions, and you’ll enjoy it!
- To turn out of the ramekins, run a butter knife around the outside edge to break the seal and invert over a plate. Alternately, you could dip the ramekin in hot water for a few seconds to warm the edges of the custard and get the same seal-breaking effect.
- Okay, these aren’t particularly pretty when you flip them, probably because the custard soaked between the sugar layer and the bottom of the ramekins in spots, so you don’t get that lovely glazed pineapple ring look. Still tasty.
- Next time I would cook the pineapple slices (and possibly cut it into pieces or use crushed pineapple) in the bubbling butter/sugar mixture for a minute or two before putting into the ramekins– my pineapple wasn’t as caramelized as I wanted it to be after the custard finished cooking.
- I would also probably halve the cream cheese to make it less cheesecake-y and more like custard, and add more liquid dairy.
- You can see that the thicker parts of the brown sugar didn’t dissolve all that well. I think in the future I might consider using regular caramel and perhaps adding a little molasses to it for the brown-sugar flavor.
- As you can see from the photos, I made four large ramekins (I think they’re 8 oz., they might even be larger) and two small (4 oz.). The small ones were a bit small for a dessert (especially with the pineapple slice taking up room), and the large were definitely too big. I’d go with 6 oz. ramekins, ideally, for a nicely-sized dessert portion. But you might need more than one 9×13″ pan to hold all of the ramekins.