Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The April 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.
No suet around here and I looked. I ended up using Crisco, so what I made is not the traditional British pudding but perhaps a facsimile. I've never had a steamed pudding which means I don't really know how close I got. I was not extremely enthusiastic about this. While Esther said we could make something savory, like steak and kidney pudding, that didn't really sound too appealing either. Because we are not big dessert eaters and because this was not something I could ship off to the starving students in Boston or the "I'll eat anything chocolate" friend in the neighboring city, I wanted to make something more manageable for the two of us. Rather than make one 4 cup steamed pudding, I decided to make smaller versions and choose a different filling for each.
The filling is the main ingredient (fruit, chocolate, etc.), combined with sugar and butter. All is put into a bowl which has been lined with a suet pastry - or in my case, a Crisco pastry - and then topped with more pastry. The result is covered in foil, sealed up with a string and steamed for whatever period of time seems to work. I did mine for 4 1/2 hours to be sure the crust was golden and the interior all melty.
The pastry was quite fragile. It rolled out pretty well but fell apart when I lined the ramekins. I ended up just pressing the crust into place, which probably contributed to its failure to come out in one piece. Frustration number one.
I used a bamboo steamer I usually use for potstickers and dumplings. It worked pretty well, although I had to watch the water level closely. Subsequently, I read some finished challenge posts on the Daring Kitchen website and realized I could have used a slow cooker, which would have been so much easier and I could have done all four of the puddings at once. Maybe next time, if there is a next time. Frustration number two - spent all day steaming puddings that could have been done all at one time using the slow cooker.
The flavors I chose were lemon (using a whole lemon), chocolate, cherry and mango. And the results? The lemon I liked, but probably no one else would because it was really pretty tart. The recipe said to use a whole lemon, pierced through the skin with a skewer. Maybe a Meyer lemon would have been a better choice, but I didn't have a Meyer lemon. The seeds in the lemon were annoying to deal with when eating it, but it did transform into a lovely lemony sauce which went well with the pastry - even if the whole thing was ugly to look at since it did not pop out but had to be scraped out in pieces.
The chocolate (I used bittersweet) was not quite as successful or interesting. Both the mango (Bob's favorite) and the cherry (which I really liked) were much better. The fruit was soft and succulent, the butter/sugar melted together to form a caramelly sauce around the fruit and the pastry added some texture. So to sum up: looked horrible, tasted OK to pretty good. Would I do it again? Not without reading a lot more about technique and maybe tasting one done properly. Trip to England is essential, obviously.