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.
Our DB's host introduced us to two important elements of traditional English pudding: the ingredient, suet (sugna), and the cooking method, steaming (al vapore).
Information on pudding and suet, and various recipes for pudding, both savory and sweet, can be found here.
To start with, I decided to look up the work pudding in my dictionary, and this is what I found:
1 a dessert with a creamy consistency (chocolate pudding, rice pudding).
• chiefly Brit. any dessert.
• chiefly Brit. the dessert course of a meal (what's for pudding?).
2 a sweet or savory steamed dish made with flour (Yorkshire pudding).
• the intestines of a pig or sheep stuffed with oatmeal, spices, and meat and boiled.
So, pudding has a broad application, as you can see also by scanning the different recipes presented by Esther here. [The Italian word budino corresponds to the first meaning: a dessert with a creamy consistency.]
Back to the DB's British pudding challenge, what was there for pudding at our house? Follow me and you'll find out.
I have never used suet or seen it in the stores where I shop. On the other hand, I grew up in a household where rendered pork fat (strutto) had specific uses. Since I had just made strutto for the first time, I decided to use that instead. Lisa of Champaign Taste, my partner in the Novel Food event, recently wrote a post about her experience rendering lard, which worked as the prompt I needed to push me from planning into action. I asked the butcher at our local Co-op to set aside some lard for me, and soon I had about two pounds of it to experiment with. The process went smoothly and at the end, I got a nice jar of strutto.
The purchase of the first rhubarb (rabarbaro) of the season made me look for a recipe for pudding that would allow me to use rhubarb and butter. Among the ones listed by Esther under the heading "Butter based versions of steamed pudding," I found one that looked perfect: Rhubarb Steamed Pudding.
I decided to substitute only a small quantity of butter with strutto, since I was a bit worried it would impart too strong of a taste (this being my first experience with it). I also made a few adjustments to the recipe, namely:
- I bought the rhubarb before finding the recipe, and had 250 g (8 oz.), instead of 350 g.
- I added 50 g of sugar to the rhubarb and then 100 g to the batter.
- I added a tablespoon of water to the rhubarb before cooking it. That resulted in a bit of juice at the end, which I added to the batter.
- I used freshly grated ginger (zenzero) instead of ground ginger.
- I used 6 tablespoons of butter (85 g) and a tablespoon of strutto instead of 125 g of butter (approx. 9 tablespoons).
- Since I did not have self-rising flour, I weighed 165 g of all-purpose flour and added to it half a teaspoon of salt and 1 and 3/4 teaspoons of baking powder.
I did not have a pudding basin and could not find one at the local kitchen store, so I decided to use a quart-size pyrex measuring cup instead. I had to be a bit creative when it came time to tie a string around the measuring cup to secure the waxed paper (carta oleata) and foil, since the handle got in the way, but I managed, and I also tied a string around the bottom to use as a handle to lower the cup into the steaming pot and then lift it out of it at the end of the cooking time. I used my pressure cooker as pot and placed a round rack in it to avoid direct contact between the measuring cup and the bottom of the pot.
The steaming method of cooking was a bit unnerving, because I could not check the progress without disrupting it, and since I had never steamed a cake before, I did not have references to help me. I patiently waited the required amount of time and then lifted the measuring cup out of the hot water bath (the handle came out very handy). Seeing that the pudding had risen was a pleasant surprise (photo above), as I had prepared myself for some sort of failure. I ran a knife around the pudding to detach it from the container and then turned it over onto a plate. It looked quite nice.
The head of my Quality Assurance department (i.e., my husband) immediately got on the job and tasted a slice. He approved it with a suggestion to further lower the sugar content next time, then ate another slice. We are only at the beginning of rhubarb season, so I will make this again, using the correct amount of rhubarb, a bit less sugar and substituting more of the butter with strutto. Stay tuned for updates.
A special thank you goes to our host for her choice and her efforts. It was an interesting and fun challenge. I hope you will take the time to go around and look at the creative output of my talented fellow Daring Bakers.