April 2010 Daring Baker Challenge: British Pudding

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.

Suet. I read through the challenge this month a little more lackluster than most... wondering if I could possibly justify making something that for me was more of an experimentation and not of the "I want to devour this right now" variety of dessert. Suet is beef or mutton fat that is found around the kidneys and loins, and has a lower melting point than most fats. Since British puddings are sometimes steamed, this easily melting fat is a good choice for these baked goods... but all this talk about kidneys and fat and savory puddings did not really serve to whet my appetite. Granted, if I were dining out I could probably give it a go, but in my home I knew I was going to have to change it up to fit my dessert eating audience.

Since I did not go with any type of suet crust and found my own British-style pudding recipe to use, I actually opted out of the challenge this month. I believe than in spirit, I did fulfill the requirements of the Daring Baker credo: to learn more about processes and cultural foods that otherwise I wouldn't have probably given a second thought to making myself.

I chose to do a Sticky Toffee Pudding, based on this recipe. I actually did not really modify it at all, and chose it because I figured I could use the excuse to make English toffee! That, and it did have dates in it, and I know I can use any excuse I can get to add dried fruit to a dessert - it creates the guise of healthfulness that makes any amount of labor or butter worthwhile.

I made the English toffee recipe from Cooking For Engineers. I love this no-frills website; it is a reliable and concise resource. I had no trouble making this butter toffee, excepting that I may have needed to let the mixture get just a little higher in temperature. My candy thermometer said that I hit the 310-315 degree mark, but I suspect my candy would have had more of the traditional "crack" if I had let it go just a minute longer. A more accurate thermometer is certainly on my list. My toffee looks and tastes great, but was just a touch on the "caramel" side of toffee. Since I was going to chop up the portion for the pudding, I suspected correctly it would be just fine. Even the almonds were a good addition to the finished cake.

In January, I came across copper pudding molds in Williams-Sonoma. I love going there in January to see what resides on their clearance table that I just can not live without. This year, it was these two molds, made in France. The smaller is a 4 cup and the larger a 12 cup capacity. Since my base recipe for pudding was a bit on the obscure side as far as yield was concerned, I wasn't sure until the last second what size I was going to use. I do not have a proper pudding basin, but could have as easily used a Pyrex bowl if my amount of batter warranted.

In the end I decided to use the 12 cup mold, even though the batter was shy of the mark:

The only thing I would do differently when I make this again (WHEN I make this again!) is to run the dates through a blender, or my little manual food mill that I used for the Boy-O when he was younger and not picky. I don't think my tasters detected the date fragments, but I did, and their pulpy, fibrous bits would have done well to be more emulsified. I did use weights for this one and you can find a good conversion resource here if you need it.

Sticky Toffee Pudding (from this source, I could not find a name of the author)
  • 4 oz. stoned dates, chopped
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 4 oz. castor sugar (sugar taken for a spin in the food pro or spice mill)
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 oz. self rising flour (1 c. AP flour, with 1 1/2 t. baking powder and 1/4 t. salt added)
  • 1 T. cocoa powder
  • 3 oz. plain melted chocolate (I used unsweetened chocolate)
  • 4 oz. chopped toffee
Combine dates, baking soda and 1 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil (the soda will cause it to rise, so use a medium sized pan). Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes to soften the dates. (This is where I would have then emulsified the dates, keeping the liquid as well.) Fill a roasting tin with water (I used a Pyrex bowl, larger than my pudding mold), place in the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter and eggs. Sift flour and cocoa powder and fold into egg/butter mixture. Fold in remaining ingredients, including butter. (I added the sugar first, and the batter kind of reminded me of a pate a choux until I added the water. It is a stiff batter.)

Pour the batter into a well greased mold (I think 8 cup would probably be perfect). Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour, depending on the depth of your mold, and your preference of done-ness. I let mine go just shy of an hour, and until the toothpick came out nearly clean.

It wouldn't be far off to compare this pudding to a luxorious brownie. It is deep, rich and nearly black, a good thing in the dessert world if you ask me. It is so tender and moist in the center, you can feel yourself already needing to start the coffee as soon as you slice into it. It seems the British protocol to douse puddings with a cream or sauce, and this original recipe called for melting Mars (Snicker's) bars together with heavy cream. I briefly considered making some homemade equivalent, but discarded that notion rather quickly. I have to draw the lines of health somewhere! Instead, Maeckel brought some vanilla frozen custard - which was a good, thick and creamy counterpart to the moist cake, and not to mention it adds a decidedly Wisconsin touch.

Of course, that is until the Schaum Torte Ice Cream was made... I froze half of the cake last week, and since my Mom is coming to visit (and she could be the reason I have the sweet tooth I do) I will pull it out after supper tonight to serve with the ice cream. I have a feeling if I let it melt over the top, it will be the best combination in The Whole World.