The people who complain about long-winded recipe introductions will be happy with this one. I'll be short and sweet. Lillie Castleberry King was a lovely dowager from Talladega, Alabama. A true Southern lady in every sense of the title, she was noted for her baking, and these simple puddings were an after-school treat for her children when they were growing up in the 1940s.
She shared the recipe with me almost forty years ago. For a long time it was a regular part of my dessert repertory, but through the years that I was actively writing cookbooks and a regular newspaper column, it somehow slipped away. One very distinct blessing of the pandemic was rediscovering it. Now I'm looking forward to sharing this delightful old-fashioned treat with my grandchildren.
Lillie's Little Lemon Puddings
2 large eggs
1 large lemon
2 tablespoons plain, all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon homemade Bourbon Vanilla or ½ teaspoon regular vanilla extract
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350° F. Bring a teakettle full of water to a boil. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large copper, stainless steel, or glass bowl and the yolks in a glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Grate the zest from the lemon into the yolks, then halve and squeeze in its juice through a strainer. Whisk until smooth.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and a small pinch of salt. Gradually beat this into the yolks a little at a time, then stir in the milk and vanilla.
3. Beat the egg whites to firm peaks with a whisk or electric mixer. Gradually fold/stir them into the batter. Set 5-6 individual custard cups in a roasting pan or 9 by 12 baking pan with sides at least 2 inches deep. Divide the pudding batter equally among the cups, and pull out the center rack of the oven and put the pan on it. Carefully pour boiling water into the pan around the cups until it comes halfway up their sides.
4. Bake until the puddings are set and lightly browned on top, about 30 to 35 minutes. Carefully lift the custard cups from the pan and let the water cool before removing the pan from the oven. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
Recipe adapted from Essentials of Southern Cooking: Techniques and Flavors of a Classic American Cuisine. Copyright © 2013 by Damon Lee Fowler, all rights reserved.