12 August 2014

Gooseberry Curd Puddings, Oven Method

Yesterday Steve turned the tart and unappealing gooseberries from our yard into delightful gooseberry curd.  The recipe (found here) is endorsed by beloved British baker, Mary Berry. We tinkered (slightly) with a lemon curd pudding recipe to use our gooseberry curd and it turned out beautifully.  Steaming in the oven is extremely easy, just like baking a regular cake, but the Evangelist would argue for steaming these puddings on the stovetop to save electricity and because he's a bit argumentative.

Pudding Experiment #11
Date: August 2014
Recipe: Gooseberry Curd (adapted from Steamy Self-Saucing Lemon Curd Puddings)
Method: Oven
Cooking Time:  40 minutes
Result: Delicious!

S.P.E.'s Response: "I feel like myself again with a steamed pudding in my belly."

Recorder's Response: Very good.  You could really eat a cardboard box covered in that gooseberry curd, though, and it would taste wonderful.  The cake was also good, stodgy but in a nice, springy way.

Steve's Response:  It's delicious. Simple and spongy.

Gooseberry Curd Puddings

  • 1/2 C gooseberry curd
  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 50 g butter
  • 6 T milk
  • 1 egg
  • butter for greasing ramekins

  1.  Preheat oven to 425 F, grease sides of 4 ramekins, and spoon 2 T of curd into the bottom of each dish.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and sugar.
  3. Add butter to flour mixture and mix with fork until the butter is integrated in pea-sized chunks (like you would do for pie dough).
  4. Mix together milk and egg in a small bowl and add to flour mixture.
  5. Pour the batter over the curd in the ramekins.
  6. Place ramekins in oven-proof dish filled with enough water to reach half-way up the ramekins and cover the dish with foil.
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
A bread pan fits two ramekins well.

26 July 2012

Roll On, Steamed Puddings

The Steamed Pudding Evangelist has recently moved to Canada, and puddings will soon be steamed again (as soon as he finishes unpacking his extensive collection of railway memorabilia).

28 October 2011

Maple Oatmeal Pudding, Pressure Cooker Method

Steve was very pleased to find this breakfast steamed pudding.

Pudding Experiment #10
Date: September 2011
Recipe: Maple Oatmeal (original recipe here - found on a blog - original original recipe from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham)
Method: Pressure Cooker
Cooking Time:  10 minutes with the vent off, followed by 20 minutes at 15 psi
Result: Nice breakfast that should have been cooked a little longer.  It was still too damp inside after 30 minutes but close enough that we ate it anyway.

S.P.E.'s Response: "There should be a steamed pudding for every meal of the day."

Recorder's Response: It was tasty, but I found it a bit overly sweet.  We normally eat oatmeal for breakfast, but I never put sugar on mine and prefer breakfast to be less sweet.

Steve's Response: Loved it but would cut back the sugar.  Heated up well the next day.

Maple Oatmeal Pudding (with modifications by Steve)

  • 2 C rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 C milk
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  1. Combine all ingredients and pour into buttered, lidded dish.
  2. Cook in pressure cooker for 10 minutes with the vent off and 25 minutes at 15 psi. (Original recipe calls for 1 hour of traditional steaming.)  Water in pressure cooker should reach half-way up the dish.

26 September 2011

War-Time Plum Pudding, Slow Cooker Method

After a long summer of morning sickness (for me), PhD writing (for Steve), and rail travel (for the Evangelist), we are back to steaming puddings.

Steve has been keen to try a steamed pudding in the slow cooker, so he pulled out the old Barossa cookbook last month and tried Mrs. JS Pearl's War-Time Plum Pudding, one of the WWII recipes that uses mashed carrots and potatoes in place of actual plums.

We didn't know how long the pudding would take in the slow cooker, so we guessed.  We filled the slow cooker about a quarter full with boiling water (so it reached below the lid of the pudding basin), placed the filled, lidded pudding basin in the cooker, and cooked it on high for 2 1/2 hours.  When we checked it, the pudding wasn't cooked through yet.  We needed to go to our garden (across town), so we just left the pudding until we came back almost 5 hours later.  After 7 hours, the pudding was cooked but it was a very wet pudding that didn't hold its shape when we turned it out of the mould.

We have since researched and discovered that most steamed puddings should cook in a slow cooker for 3 hours on high or for 6 hours on high.

Pudding Experiment #9
Date: 27 August 2011
Recipe: War-Time Plum Pudding
Method: Slow Cooker
Cooking Time: 7 hours (should have been less)
Result:  Mixed reactions

Evangelist's Response:  The Evangelist was very impressed with the ingredient list and couldn't get over the fact that he couldn't taste the potato and carrot.  He declares that all recipes should claim to be something (like plum pudding) without actually including the main ingredient (plums).

Recorder's Response: It was okay.  I prefer sponge puddings to fruit puddings and this one tasted a bit dark to me.  I tried it on its own and then put it over ice cream, which improved it.

Steve's Response:  "Surprisingly good."  Steve's only complaint was that he disliked the taste of the treacle in the pudding.  Next time he'd like to substitute golden syrup for the treacle to eliminate the sulfur taste.  He also praised the slow cooker method and wants to try several more slow cooker puddings.

War-Time Plum Pudding (original recipe*)

  • 1/2 oz | 15 g four
  • 6 oz | 170 g raisins
  • 6 oz | 170 g currants
  • 4 oz | 115 g suet
  • 4 oz | 115 g brown sugar
  • 4 oz | 115 g mashed carrot
  • 4 oz | 115 g mashed potato
  • 1 T treacle
  • 1 oz | 30 g lemon peel
  • 1 oz | 30 g citron peel
  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Fill slow cooker with boiling water.  Place filled, lidded metal pudding bowl in cooker (water should reach below the pudding bowl lid) and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.

*We halved the recipe and used dried mixed fruit in place of the raisins and currants.

16 May 2011

Steamed Pudding Basics--Terminology and Classification (Steve)

I've always believed that the periphery is where the interesting things emerge.

In the food universe that swirls around a centre of cupcakes and curries, probiotics and pastas, steamed pudding is a fascinating species of food that crosses boundaries, cultures and eras. It is part of a clan of rogue dishes that can be sweet or savoury, a dessert or a main course. It can be dense as a brick or made light as air. It's found at Christmas dinner and everyday meals. It can be made in less than fifteen minutes or literally take months to prepare.

Like many periphery dwellers, it is a threatened species—too often ignored, misunderstood and maligned, victim to the overall decline of cookery skills in the western world. Luckily, we are here to spread the word about this fantastic food.


Before delving into the business of classification we need to address a little matter of terminology. There are some cross-cultural problems with the word 'pudding' as in some countries it is associated with a very specific type of food ie: in North America a pudding is typically a custard-like flavoured dessert product (famously endorsed by Bill Cosby). In the UK a pudding may refer to any sweet dish eaten after the main course, used almost interchangeably with the word 'dessert'. A little Internet research tells us that the word originates from the French boudin, meaning 'small sausage'. It is in this context the Scots poet Robert Burns aptly refers to haggis as the “Chieftain o' the puddin' race”. Aside from black puddings, this usage seems mostly extinct. Without any research into the subject, I would surmise that steamed puddings (often cooked in a cloth) were so prevalent in the Victorian area as an after-dinner treat that they became synonymous with dessert.

Regardless of the past or even the present, we have decided to define steamed pudding as any food product that is steamed in a mould or enclosure (such as a casing or cloth). With that out of the way, we are ready to proceed with a little classification.

The first thing you need to know about steamed puddings is that there are two categories – sweet and savoury. The sweet type is generally served as a dessert and the savouries as an entire main course or part of one.


Sweet steamed puddings come in three main forms – Sponge, Fruit and Other, with the first two being the most popular.

Sponge steamed puddings, such as the British staple, Treacle Sponge Pudding, are a favourite for modern palates. These puddings are identifiable by recipe, which are characterised by the presence of roughly equal weights of flour, fat, sugar and usually egg, very similar to sponge cake. They may contain a range of other ingredients but generally rely upon this backbone. Most often they are light and fluffy with a fine crumb, typically more delicate than the crumb found in an oven-baked sponge. It is likely that these puddings came about because many homes were without reliable ovens in the past and this was a much easier way to make 'cake'. These puddings are most often served with a complementary sauce or cream.

Fruit steamed puddings, such as the archetypal Christmas pudding have fallen slightly out of favour in recent times and are thought of being slightly old-fashioned. These puddings often have similar flour-fat-sugar ratios to sponge puddings but contain a very large proportion of dried fruit, giving them a much denser texture. Prior to the age of refrigeration and rapid transport, people in northern countries consumed massive quantities of dried fruit. Fruit puddings were a great vehicle for this important source of vitamins and fibre. Some recipes call for the substitution of breadcrumbs for flour as these improve the texture of the pudding.

Other sweet puddings exist that do not fall into either category, such as the delightfully airy Czech Meringue Pudding. They may rely on various, more exotic, ingredients and are more common out with the English-speaking world. Southeast Asia and India are home to numerous fantastic sweet puddings that employ bases such as tapioca and sago.


Savoury puddings are a little bit harder to classify as they are a rarer breed. We take the liberty of being quite broad in our classification but also excluding foods steamed directly in water without an un-edible skin of some sort, ie: dumplings or perogies. We break them down into two broad categories – pastry-based and casing-based.

Pastry-based puddings, such as the acclaimed steak and kidney pudding, are designed rather like a meat pie, but steamed in a vessel rather than baked. Like their sweet counterparts, it is likely these came about due to the lack of in-home baking facilities sometime in the past. The only thing these puddings have in common is the pastry case, which could contain anything from beef mince to chicken tikka masala.

Considering they account for the origin of the word 'pudding', it is ironic that casing-based puddings have probably suffered the greatest fall in popularity of any of the steamed pudding family. A few well-known members of this family are haggis, black pudding and the German weisswurst. We don't include regular sausages in this category as they are not commonly boiled or steamed. Yeah, we know that neither is black pudding (although it is initially boiled as part of the manufacturing) and hot dogs are, but seriously, we will NOT include hot dogs.

Crossovers and outliers

As with any classification system there are always puddings that defy classification and puddings that have yet to be discovered and therefore classifications that do not exist yet. A good example of this might be the Clootie Dumpling, a popular sweet Scottish pudding that is traditionally boiled in a cloth skin rather than a mould. In some ways it could easily be considered a casing-based pudding, but its recipe is much more in line with a sweet pudding and it can easily be made in a mould so we call it a sweet pudding. Even then, it's hard to place because it's too stodgy to be a sponge and doesn't contain enough fruit to be a true fruit pudding. In this case we call it a sponge, because its recipe is more sponge-like than fruit-like.

Hopefully this clarifies the wonderful world of steamed puddings.

26 April 2011

Sussex Pond Pudding, Traditional Method

This week I baked a Shaker Lemon Pie.  It was so delicious that Steve and I talked about it all week long (along the lines of, "Hey, don't you wish we still had some of that pie?").  Our pie made from a whole lemon reminded us of this pudding classic that we've talked about trying for months.  The Sussex Pond Pudding is made by enveloping a whole lemon in butter and sugar and steaming it in a suet crust.  When it's finished cooking, the lemon juice and butter spill out in a little "pond" around the pudding.

I first learned about the Sussex Pond Pudding in Laurie Colwin's food memoir, Home Cooking (though she calls it a Suffolk Pond Pudding).  In the book, Colwin recounts her experience cooking the pudding for a dinner party of less-than-enthusiastic guests.  One guest remarks that the steamed pudding resembles a baked hat and another that it looks a bit alien-like.  Both are fair comments.

Pudding Experiment #8
Date: Monday, 25 April 2011
Recipe: Sussex Pond Pudding
Method: Traditional, boiling water method
Cooking Time: 4 hours
Result: Delicious and theatrical pudding!

Evangelist's Response: The Evangelist was thrilled with the results of this pudding.  He announced that this pudding is "worthy of the heart attack it will surely give you."

Recorder's Response: This is an impressive pudding (despite looking like a baked hat).  The suet crust is absolutely delicious and putting a whole lemon inside a pudding is very fun for some reason.  I did find bites of the lemon a bit bitter, but the overall effect of the pudding was great.  I want to try this pudding with more of a Shaker Lemon Pie approach--cut out the butter and macerate the lemons before steaming the pudding.

Steve's Response: Steve loved this pudding too, but found it "disjointed" because the crust is so buttery and rich tasting and the lemon is SO sharp.  Steve believes strongly that a lime is always better than a lemon and is interested in trying a lime version of this pudding.

Sussex Pond Pudding

  • 200 grams self-rising flour (self-raising if you're in the UK or Commonwealth)
  • 100 grams shredded suet
  • cold milk to mix
  • 100 g cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 100 grams soft brown sugar
  • 1 large, unwaxed lemon
  1. Butter a 1-litre pudding mould.
  2. Combine the flour and suet and add just enough milk to make a cohesive ball.  Knead for a few minutes and let rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry and line the pudding mould with it.
  4. Toss together the butter and sugar and place half the mixture in the pastry-lined mould.
  5. Puncture the lemon all over with a fork or sharp skewer and push down into the butter/sugar mixture.
  6. Top the lemon with the remaining butter and sugar.
  7. Roll out the remaining pastry and place over the top of the pudding basin.  Crimp together the two crusts and cut off the excess pastry.  Make two slits in the top pastry.
  8. Cover with parchment paper and foil, tie up with a string and steam for 4 hours.  (See the Evangelist's notes in the sidebar for detailed steaming instructions.)

Here's the recipe in photographic form:

Start by making the suet crust.  The author of the recipe we used notes that "you could put suet pastry inside suet pastry, steam it for 3 or 4 hours and still please some folk."   I believe I may be one of those people.

Using scales to measure ingredients is the easiest way to cook (no measuring cups to clean!) and gives the best results.

Our suet looks a bit like ground meat.  We get it for free at the local butcher's shop.  It is delicious and unholy.

Your suet crust should have a texture similar to pie dough.

Let the extra pastry hang over the sides of your mould.

Then mix up the butter and sugar and pierce your lemon for the inside.

The lemon's in there.

Top crust completed.

Our pudding basin has a metal lid, but with the lid on it won't fit in the pot I wanted to use, so I tied it up in the traditional way.

Boil for 3 or 4 hours and don't be distressed that it doesn't look like a beautiful pie when you unwrap it.  It's a pudding.

We weren't sure if we'd ruined it or not when we first took off the foil.  It looks very extra-terrestrial here.

The lemon stays pretty well intact, but it's very, very soft.  Tasty!

18 April 2011

Caramel Apple Steamed Pudding, Pressure Cooker Method

It's common for steamed puddings to be cooked with a fruit mixture on the bottom of the mould. When the pudding is turned out, the fruit makes a nice topping, a bit like the pineapple upside-down cake concept. This caramel apple upside steamed pudding came from Martha Stewart via a friend who made it for her brother's wedding.

Pudding Experiment #7
Date: Sunday, 10 April 2011
Recipe: Caramel Apple Steamed Pudding (original recipe)
Method: Pressure Cooker
Cooking Time: 25 minutes (vent off) followed by 25 minutes (at 15 psi)
Result: Cake was well cooked, but there was disagreement about the topping.

Evangelist's Response: Loved the cake but turned up his nose at the topping.

Recorder's Response: I thought it was good, but the topping was burned. I tasted the topping before the pudding was steamed, and it tasted burnt to me at that point. I think it's a good pudding, but it wasn't executed quite right this time around.

Steve's Response: Steve did all the actual work on this pudding, and he found it quite aggravating. He hated the caramel-making and apple-frying prep work and wants to try to simplify the recipe. He suggested using plain chopped apples and sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of the mould. He agreed that the actual cake had a nice brown sugar taste.

Caramel Apple Pudding (1/2 recipe)

  • 55 g plus 1 1/4 t granulated sugar
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground ginger
  • 1/8 t nutmeg
  • 1/8 t ground cloves
  • 4 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • 50 g packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 40 g molasses
  • 70 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/8 t baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 70 g bread crumbs
  1. Combine 55 grams granulated sugar and 1/2 tablespoon water in a small, heavy saucepan; set over medium heat. Cover and cook until sugar has melted. Remove cover and continue cooking, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar turns a deep amber. Carefully pour caramel into pudding muold; tip so caramel coats mould evenly.
  2. Place half of the apple chunks in a small saucepan, and add 1 tablespoon water, 3/4 tablespoons granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Place saucepan over low heat, and cook, covered, until apples fall apart, 10 to 12 minutes. Uncover, and cook 5 minutes more, stirring often. Set the applesauce aside.
  3. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in a small saute pan; add remaining apple chunks and remaining 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar. Cook over medium-high heat until apples turn brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Place apples in the bottom of the mold, distributing evenly so they reach up the sides.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together 4 tablespoons butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and molasses; mix well. Add the reserve applesauce, and mix well.
  5. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; stir in breadcrumbs. Add to the applesauce mixture. Stir batter until just combined.
  6. Fill pudding mould with batter; clamp on lid. Pressure cook for 25 minutes with the vent off followed by 25 minutes at 15 psi. Transfer mould to a wire rack to cool, 15 minutes.