Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker

I’ve raved about Beth Hensperger’s crockpot cookbook series “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker” – and she also writes about bread machines and rice cookers!  Apparently she’s a gadget girl…

Her 2007 book, about using the crockpot for entertaining, really intrigued me, so I got it out of the library.  There are some very fancy-looking recipes in there, for when you want to impress the boss or a date with a lovely dinner party. But there are also lots of tips for using the slow cooker to help with a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, freeing up stove elements and oven space that are at a premium when you’re making a large meal.

Sometimes you need a nice dinner on a busy day – an old friend just passing through town, on a Tuesday night or something.  This is the perfect time to use the crockpot.

The book also shows us how to think “outside the crock” – to use the crockpot as a punchbowl, a fondue pot, a gravy boat, a bread oven, plus many other innovative functions.

Here’s a recipe with two inventive techniques for the slow cooker…

New-Orleans Style Vanilla Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

6-7 cups crumbled stale bread

¾ cup dark raisins

¾ cup shredded coconut

¾ cup chopped pecans

4 cups (1L) whole milk

1 ¾ cups sugar

3 large eggs

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg (or use Epicure’s Apple Pie spice blend)

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (Epicure’s, if you have it)

Coat the inside of the crock with butter-flavoured non-stick spray

Place the bread, raisins, coconut and pecans in the crock.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar, eggs, melted butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract until smooth.

Pour over the bread mixture in the crock and push the bread down to moisten evenly.

Cover and cook on HIGH until puffed, and a knife comes out clean, about 2 ½ hours.

Remove lid and cook on HIGH for another 15 minutes.

Pudding should cool a bit before serving, and can be served at room temperature.

Whisky sauce

½ cup (1 stick) butter

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)

2 large egg yolks

¼ to 1/3 cup of bourbon or scotch

Place the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Let the butter melt, then whisk until smooth.  Beat in the egg yolks.

Remove from heat, and slowly beat in the bourbon.  The sauce will thicken as it cools.

You can keep it warm in a small slow cooker, on LOW, until you are ready to serve.