Ah summer, AKA dreaded season of extensive potlucks and family barbecues. You may think to yourself, “What’s the big deal, you go to the store and buy a pre-sliced Pumpernickel loaf with a tub of spinach dip.” WE DON’T DO THAT HERE, eh?
You see, I’m originally from the southern US and raised by an era of people who would rather die than serve a guest something that wasn’t made by hand. I’m pretty sure there’s a law that involves tarring and feathering, and nasty whispers about your kitchen skills if you serve anything that came from a store. That’s just how we roll.
My maternal grandmother, who lived in Minnesota but still had all those southern hospitality values, once apologized profusely to my husband for serving him corn on the cob that had been picked two days previously instead of having come pretty much straight off the back of a farmer’s tractor. This same Grandma and I were on my cousin’s wife’s black list after we catered her wedding rehearsal dinner for 50 people by ourselves and put out a better spread than what was served the next day at the wedding dinner (a fact that nobody failed to mention to us in her hearing, and something I still maintain is not our fault. How were we to know that someone would actually order chicken and vegan bean fajitas as the wedding dinner?).
Anyway, my point is: In the south and bread-basket of America, nobody messes with dinner. That stuff be serious, yo.
Now, that said, just because you have to take pride in southern hospitality, that doesn’t mean you have to make life difficult for yourself. Certain shortcuts are allowed if you make it with love, especially if the recipe has history.
Fruit and Vanilla-Almond Cream is one such recipe. It has history. It was clipped out of a Taste of Home magazine when I was 18 years old. I still have it taped into the spiral bound notebook that constitutes my cookbook of recipes that I don’t have memorized or can’t freehand. You know, for reference’s sake.
I’ve made this rich, creamy, fruit and vanilla pudding recipe for dessert dozens of times, winter and summer. Whipped cream gives it a fluffiness that makes it perfect for a light dessert, and the almond pairs so deliciously with the sweet vanilla pudding that it’s almost like eating cotton candy.
It’s flexible and goes with just about any fruit you can imagine (or have available). While the recipe calls for serving fruit on top of the pudding mixture, I usually serve the fruit and pudding separate, so that it can be eaten either as a creamy pudding with fruit on top, or a fruit salad with a decadent topping of the most delicious whipped cream you’ve ever wrapped around your tongue.
Cool Whip ain’t got nothing on this.
Fruit & Vanilla-Almond Cream
- 1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
- 2 1/2 cups cold milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream 35%
- 3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 3-6 cups fruit strawberries, grapes, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, mandarin oranges
Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the instant vanilla pudding mix over the top. Whisk until combined. Set aside.
In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or another bowl with a hand mixer, whip the whipping cream and almond extract until stiff peaks form.
Fold the whipping cream mixture into the pudding mixture. Cover with plastic and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Serving possibilities: Serve in a 2-quart dish with fruit on top (use 3 cups of fruit), or as a whipped accompaniment to be served on top of fruit salad for large potlucks (use 6 or more cups of fruit).
Adapted from Taste of Home, June/July 1997