Fein tau weiyema, or pumpkin bread pudding from Mexico

Today we’re caravanning to back to college with a longer goal of reaching South America.  I’m aiming to have all you East-Coasters back by dinnertime.

There are several things I enjoyed about undergrad.  I loved the feeling of snatching one of the coveted “double-decker” desks located on the third floor of our library during exam week, the random tapestry and incense sales that would occur outside the student union, it being totally acceptable to wear leggings as pants, and the dining hall’s bread pudding.

 Eating bread pudding at James Madison University was my first exposure to this revolutionary dessert.  I remember eating it, setting my fork down, and thinking “what the f***?” The concoction was somehow both crispy and uncooked. It felt like my grandmother had made it, and yet at the same time it had come out of the vending machine. And it was right next to the frozen yogurt machine, which was like putting the North Pole beside Señor Frogs.

As you can see, I was hooked.  Before the experience, I liked pudding, but it was never something I would methodically seek out. But now, after that first freshman year taste, I was obsessed with pudding and carb combinations. Rice pudding, which seemed like a disgusting snack portrayed in 90s cartoon lunchrooms, was actually amazing. Even tapioca pudding had its moments.  Despite the delicious culinary adventure I was on, it always came back to bread pudding. Especially when JMU decided to start adding Nestlé chocolate chips into the mixture. I literally once used a dining hall punch only to get bread pudding, put some in a tupperwear container, and then took it back with me so I could eat in my pajamas while watching Memoirs of a Geisha.

 However, I have since graduated, and had to wave goodbye to the industrialized bread pudding and hello to my pair of oven mitts.  It’s not bad at all, especially when cans of pumpkin are hitting the shelves at only 99 cents.

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This is not a recipe for bread pudding, rather a recipe for South American pumpkin bread that tastes and feels like bread pudding. I found the recipe in an issue of Saveur and fell in love with its warmth and simplicity.  It provides the same level of comfort as JMU bread pudding, but allows me to play in the kitchen and powder my nose with flour.

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 The article, along with the recipe, highlighted the cuisine of the Garifuna people living along the coast of Honduras. Identity and cuisine go hand in hand, as the Garifunians use the findings from their habitat to provide nourishment.  When it comes to preparation, the focus is on the act of cooking; friends and family gather in the kitchen, massaging plantains while coconut milk bubbles. 

 Comfort and cuisine are good playmates. They hold hands, take turn licking the beaters, and offer a cozy companion when things get a little chilly. 

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fei tau weiyema (or bread pudding from Mexico)

¼ cup canola oil, plus more for pan

2 cups flour, plus more for pan

1½ cups sugar

¼ cup milk

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1½ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. kosher salt

2 (15-oz.) cans pumpkin purée, or 2 lb. puréed, roasted pumpkins or acorn squash

cinnamon-sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9" round cake pan; set aside.

Stir together oil, sugar, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and pumpkin in a bowl; add flour, and stir until just combined. Pour into prepared pan, and smooth top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1-2 hours. Cut into squares or wedges to serve.

I sprinkled mine with cinnamon-sugar, but this is one hundred percent optional!

This recipe was first published in a November 2012 issue of Saveur and comes along with a lovely little story written by Betsy Andrews on Garifunian lifestyle and cuisine.  The bread is very, very moist. I baked it on the longer end of the spectrum, hitting about 2 hours. The exterior is spicy and crunchy, like a cookie, and the inside is like a pumpkin molten cake. 

In other news, I really love this article on living minimally. I especially love the the mason-jar-food-storage system. Feel like a storybook!!! wee!

-stay cozy