A few weeks ago, I took a trip to our local cookware/bakeware shop downtown. They always have lots of unique items, and their stock seems to change constantly, so going in is always a treat. Never know what you'll find on the store shelves.
I already have a nice pile at the register: teeny tartlet pans, soufflé cups, cookie cutters. I'm admiring their new popover tins, when something else catches my eye. It's almost like a bundt pan, but much smaller. And it has a lid attached, so it kinda looks like a mini trashcan when inverted. I have no idea what it could be. While I pick it up and look it over, the owner walks up to me excitedly to tell me all about it. It's a French pan, for cooking some sort of traditional dessert. She couldn't exactly remember what it was. They only ordered 1 pan, so once it's sold that's it. Well then, that made up my mind. I just had to buy this thing.
I finish up at the store and head home with my new prizes, including the mystery pan. Thoughts of delicate lavender cakes and chocolate Charlotte floated around in my head. I absolutely could not wait to get home and look this thing up, then start baking cakes so refined and gorgeous that no one would believe it came from my shoebox-sized kitchen in the Midwest.
After some research, I found out exactly what I had purchased: A steamed pudding mold. Yes, steamed pudding. The English "treat" that is so bland and unmemorable that even the English rarely make it these days. Ever heard of figgy pudding? Spotted dick? Both are variations of steamed pudding. As I desperately dug deeper on the subject, I found talk about an "outdated" dessert, I read that it will keep for months if wrapped in a wet towel, and most recipes required suet – yeah, that would be beef lard. Fannie Farmer even recommends that you "keep the lard from several cuts of beef until you have enough for your suet, then combine". Oh, no. No no no. And of course, not a word about steamed puddings in my copy of La Technique.
After much embarrassment (and a fit of uncontrollable giggling), I made up my mind to push ahead. So be it. A steamed pudding mold I had bought, and a steamed pudding I would make. I was on a mission: Find a steamed pudding recipe that would knock people's socks off. In a good way, of course. It turns out that The Naked Chef has a several recipes for steamed puddings, and The Gourmet Cookbook has a very-involved, drool-worthy Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe. I finally decided on Cranberrry Steamed Pudding (from allrecipes.com), and off I went. To steam some pudding.
What amazed me about this dessert is just how complex it was. The steamed pudding uses molasses instead of sugar for its sweetness, so there is a rich, deep, molasses-bitter quality to it (very reminiscent of brown bread). This very moist cake is also studded with plump cranberries, adding just the right amount of lightness (and a great tart contrast). And the recipe included a hard sauce to pour over slices, which was the ideal compliment: it's sweet and buttery, which cut through the cake nicely. This was very very good. I am impressed. And I think this steamed pudding would be absolutely PERFECT on a cold day, with a nice hot cup of coffee.
The cranberry steamed pudding turned out so well, I think I'll break out the steamed pudding mold a lot more often than I originally thought. Recipe is below for those adventurous people (you can make it without the mold by putting it in a loaf pan and covering tightly with foil).
Next maybe a chocolate pudding, or sticky toffee…
Cranberry Steamed Pudding
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. hot water
1 tsp. white sugar
1/2 c. molasses
2 c. whole cranberries
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water. Stir in sugar and molasses, then mix in the cranberries and flour. Pour into a greased 6-cup steamer mold.
Cover the mold, and place into a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water. Cover the steaming pot. Cook over medium heat for 1 hour before checking, but it will take about 1 1/2 hours total. A toothpick inserted into the pudding should come out clean. Loosen the edges, and cool on a wire rack in the mold.
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. white sugar
1 c. white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Make the hard sauce just before serving: Heat the unsalted butter, cream, sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook stirring constantly until heated through and smooth.