Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Hosting Daring Bakers - British Suet Puddings.

This month has been a very interesting one. I offered a while ago to host Daring Bakers and was given a slot in the summer and then a couple of days before the beginning of this month I got an email, please would I consider doing this month instead? I had an idea of what I wanted to do so all though I hadn't done the prep for it so I said yes and so at the last minute I threw together a challenge post.

This is the blog checking line (for the automatic checking to see if we joined in this month) seems a tad silly when I hosted but just bear with me!!
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.

So there you have it I challenged everyone to make British puddings, preferably using suet. I knew when I set the challenge most people outside Britain wouldn't have used suet, although it is theoretically available anywhere that eats cows or sheet most countries seem to use it only as bird food but here in the UK we have a long history of using every bit if the animal we can. What I didn't realise was how new the idea of steaming a cake or pie would be for the vast majority of Daring Bakers. If I had I would have down played the suet and focused more on the steaming as I put a few people off with the animal fat thing.. However many did try the challenge including many who do not eat animal fat and indeed some of the most fabulous sounding puddings were vegan or vegetarian.

I have included the challenge post as it went up on the Daring Bakers site at the end of this post.
Please do check out the Daring Kitchen site in a day or so when you will be able to see the whole range of puddings and indeed you can check the various blog postings via the blog roll there. Particular mention must go to Audax who is always does multiple versions of the challenge recipe but this time excelled himself and did 16 different versions!!  Plus all of them looked fantastic unlike some of my attempts and he was very complimentary and surprised by some of our traditional dishes.

Even though steamed puddings are a common dish for me I learnt an few things from hosting this challenge.
1) Steam a suet crust pudding like steak and kidney for 5 hours and it becomes golden brown, flaky pastry which is much better than the slightly under done stodgy stuff people sometimes serve.
2) Suet crust works really well on baked pies and is one of the best gltuen free pie crusts I've tried so far.
3) Add some glycerine to it which helps it stay together and it makes a great sausage roll pastry.
4) Because suet melts at such a low temperature it incorporates into the other ingredients very well and you don't get that fatty taste you get with other animal fats and indeed veggy substitutes when it's cold.
5) Most cultures don't steam anything other than the occasional veg !
6) Always butter the dish if you want any chance of turning the pudding out!

Anyway as I didn't have time in advance to make any versions of the recipe here are a few random ones I did over the month.. Well actually the first one was done in advance, several months in advance as it is the last of the Christmas puds I made a month or so before Christmas but properly made Christmas puds last months.

Served with Cream AND Custard :)

I also made a streamed chocolate sponge but forgot to butter the dish so it fell apart so there is no picture of the whole pudding, however it was very tasty with choclate fudge sauce!

 I tried and failed with a Sussex Pond pudding, I think I managed to misread the ingredients of something as others made much better ones, my however seemed to have lost all the moisture inside so there was no source.

A boiled version next because while I've done many steamed ones I don't think I've ever done the boiled in a cloth method.
Now this is NOT a method to use to get a pretty dish to be honest so please forgive the look of the final pudding, Audax has already given us a much better looking one. You will get a better looking dish if you steam it I promise! However I wanted to try a savory rolly polly and you generally boil them plus as I said I've not done a boiled one and was curious to see the difference.
So firstly the pastry, this is the standard suet crust, twice as much flour as suet, this one is a veg suet as I had some left over and had it out to take a photo for the main challenge post.
Not much to say really.. it's white, it's doughy, what else are you going to get with flour and fat really! I used a bought gluten free flour mix but honestly it would be able to same with normal flour. I've added a photo to the challenge post of the pastry.
The most common rolly polly is a jam one.. but i did a bacon and onion one because I wanted a main course pudding not a pudding pudding!.
Roll out pastry, cover with filling.

Roll into a log, squish ends to keep filling in. Wrap in greaseproof paper, then wrap in a floured cloth, in my case an old muslin square. Tie up with string, not to tightly cos it swells up a bit.

Then put it in to boil for an hour and a half, covered with a lid.

This is what it looked like once i unrolled it.. I rather failed on getting it out of the water and cracked the pastry.. steamed ones being in a bowl are less likly to just fall to bits!

and finally plated up.. Boiled pastry stays much whiter and obviously a bit damper than the steamed versions but it was very tasty..really a huge boiled stuffed dumpling and we all like dumplings too. Very filling too however as I said it isn't going to win and beauty prize.

I also did a suet crest on a great chicken, bacon and mushroom pie.

This time it was baked and honestly I can say it is one of the best pie crusts I've had. It works very well gluten free and with a bit of glycerine added to stablise the pastry when raw it makes great sauasge rolls !

Finally the one at the start of the post is a golden syrup sponge but I cheated on that one as it was in fact microwaved !  We normally steam such puddings but when people want pudding now not in an hour and a half microwaving works really well at least for basic sponge puddings !

(Editted to add - Microwaving takes 3-4 mins depending on your power level. I did 3 mins at 1000, the recipe said 4 mins on full but the age of the book means that would probably translate to about 600, maybe 800 )

The Original Challenge post
The challenge I would like to set you this month is to try a very British dish and a very British ingredient.

The actual recipes (I am giving you a choice) are pretty simple really but the cooking method and the core ingredient are something that many people do not use or do on a regular basis if at all.

Those of you who know me might be surprised that as one of the early Alternative Daring Bakers I’m not doing a gluten-free recipe but we have just had one of those and I wanted to do a traditional British pudding and honestly a gluten-free traditional British pudding is a rare beast but the type I have chosen are very easy to convert.

These are very homely dishes but I thought that would be an interesting contrast to some of the very decorative dishes we often do and I am sure some of our members will still make them look spectacular!

Some of you will know about the British and the word pudding but for those that don't we use the word for many things:

1) Black pudding and white pudding a sort of meat and grain sausage.  Black pudding uses blood as well as meat.
2) Pudding — a generic word for desert
3) Pudding — any dish cooked in a pudding bowl or pudding cloth normally steamed, boiled but sometimes baked.
4) An endearment i.e., "How are you today my pudding?"

For this challenge we are using the third meaning a dish cooked in a pudding bowl or cloth, though many of you may opt to do a sweet version in which case version two also applies!

The special ingredient is suet. Please, please don't worry if you can't get it. I will be suggesting alternatives but if you want to stretch yourselves and try some very traditional British dishes do try and source some as it does make a difference to the texture and Daring Bakers is all about trying things you wouldn't normal do or use. Please remember there are alternatives so please don’t worry if you can’t get or don’t want to use suet !

So what is suet?

It is the hard but flaky fat found on the inside of a cow or sheep around the kidneys and that area of the body. Suet in its raw form crumbles easily into small chunks so much so that my butcher says it covers his floor in bits if he doesn't have it taken out as soon as possible. In fact unless he knows he has a customer for it he has the abattoir take it out and throw it away and when I want some he gives it to me for free! It also melts at quite a low temperature, which has an effect on how it works in cooking. In some places such as the UK it is sold processed which basically means it is grated and combined with flour to keep the individual pieces from clumping together, and it becomes a sort of dried out short strands, almost granular in texture.

For people on a gluten-free diet like myself be careful as most if not all the processed stuff uses wheat flour, though the vegetarian version normally uses rice flour. As I said I get mine direct from the butcher and I suggest if you want to try this challenge fully you go down to your local butcher and ask them if they can source some for you. If they can it will not be expensive as it is just fat and they might even give it you for free!.

For those going “Yuck! Fat from the inside of an animal … no thank you!”, I have some good news. There is a vegetable suet available here and indeed anyone can substitute a hard, white vegetable fat. Wikipedia says the UK vegetable suet is made from palm oil so something of that ilk would work. I am led to believe a vegetable shortening, like Crisco will give you a similar effect. So please feel free to use whatever you feel most comfortable with or can get. Lard is also a possibility. Ideally steer clear of things like butter or soft margarine as you will get a very different texture and taste however if you are not comfortable using any of the fats I've suggested I am providing some links to recipes using butter right at the bottom (and one vegan) but read all the tips before that anyway You could even try substituting something like Coconut oil if you wish but in both these cases try a sponge pudding first as they are more tolerant of such changes.

However, back to the real stuff assuming you feel happy to use it. If you manage to get some from the butcher you will end up with something very much like this.
 The packet stuff looks like this both the meat and veggy versions which is probably easier for most people to deal with if you can get it.
However if you are going the whole hog and trying the fresh stuff then the fat then needs separating from the membrane that holds it loosely together. Personally I normally just pull it apart with my hands and crumble the fat off the membrane but if you wish to make sure you completely remove everything except the pure fat you need to render it.

To render the fat, chop or grate it up and put in a pan. Then you slowly heat it over a low flame until it is completely melted. Carefully, because hot fat is very much not something you want to get on your skin, pour it into a sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove all the little bits of membrane and such like from the pure fat. If it still has bits in reheat until liquid and restrain.

So once you have your suet or suet substitute, what are we going to make with it? The answer to that is of course suet pudding. However I am giving you not one but two forms of suet pudding and both can be either savory or sweet so you have lots of options to play about with the idea.

The two basic types are a suet crust pudding with a filling or a suet sponge pudding. Examples of a pudding with a crust are a steak and kidney pudding or a Sussex pond pudding and examples of the sponge pudding are spotted dick, Christmas pudding and college pudding.

Both types are traditionally steamed in a pudding basin for at least an hour and this is a technique I know some people rarely, if ever, use. However it is very simple and can be done with the simplest of equipment. All you really need is a reasonable size saucepan with a lid, ideally with a heat proof plate or a steamer rack to go in the bottom of the pan and heat proof bowl or similar container to cook the pudding in. You can even go more basic than that and wrap the pudding in a cloth and hang it in the pot of water to boil!

Other uses for suet include dumplings for stew, making mincemeat for mince-pies, mixing with seeds to make fat balls for birds and as an extremely high calorie survival food for extreme environments such as arctic expeditions.

So the required elements of this challenge are:

1) to make a suet pudding using real suet or as close a replacement as you can manage or is acceptable to you; and
2) to cook it by steaming or if you want to be even more traditional by boiling tied up in a cloth.

Due to the short amount of time I ended up having to get this challenge together I have not tried out all the recipes recently, however they are all ones I have either used in the past or from sources I know to be extremely good for these sort of recipes.

Recipe Source:  Recipes come from the following sources: Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, The pudding club (www.puddingclub.com),  Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management and the Dairy Book of Home Cooking and my family’s recipe notes!

Blog-checking lines:  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. 

Posting Date:  April 27, 2010

Notes:  Fresh suet should be kept in the fridge or do what I do and freeze it. I crumble off what I want as I go straight from the freezer. The boxed stuff can live in the cupboard.

The easiest way to steam a pudding is in a dedicated steamer as the water is kept away from the pudding so it can’t boil over. If, however, you don’t have a steamer use a pan large enough to easily fit the bowl you are cooking. Don’t fill the water more than about a third of the way up the bowl or it may boil over and into the bowl. Keep an eye and top up as needed with boiling water.

You need to lift the bowl off the bottom of the pan. This can be done with a steamer stand, an upturned plate or even crumpled up kitchen foil — anything that can stand being in boiling water and lifts the bowl off the bottom of the pan will work.

Make sure you have a well-fitted lid on the pan as you want the steam to cook the pudding not to boil off.

Make sure you put a pleat in the foil or paper you cover the bowl with to allow for expansion and then tie down tightly with string.

This is a bowl ready for the steamer, note the handle made from the string that also ties it together around the top.. this makes it very much easier to lift out when hot and is well worth doing.  

This bowl is actually a Christmas pudding I made before Christmas which is also a suet pudding but unlike most made to keep for months rather than used straight away.

Variations allowed:  You are allowed completely free rein on flavours and fillings and I am very much looking forward to seeing where the Daring Bakers take a very traditional dish like this.

Any variations due to restricted diets are of course allowed. Due to the way these recipes are cooked it’s very easy to substitute for gluten-free flours and get very much the same results as wheat. Do try your favorite flour mix as these are much more tolerant of flour changes than most pasty.

They can be made vegetarian and even vegan just by using the vegetarian replacement suet and an appropriate flavour/filling.

Preparation time:  Preparation time is 5 to 20 minutes depending on the filling. Cooking time is 1 to 5 hours so do this on a day you have jobs around the house to do or are popping in and out as you need to occasionally check the pan hasn’t boiled dry! However it is otherwise a very low time requirement dish.

Equipment required:• 2 pint (1 litre) pudding bowl or steam-able containers to contain a similar amount they should be higher rather than wide and low
Traditional pudding bowl so you know what is normally used.

• Steamer or large pan, ideally with a steaming stand, upturned plate or crumpled up piece of kitchen foil
• Mixing bowl
• Spoon
• Measuring cups or scales
• Foil or grease proof paper to cover the bowl
• String

Type 1 Puddings — suet crusts.
Pudding Crust for both Savoury Pudding or Sweet Pudding (using suet or a suet substitute):


(250 grams/12 ounces) Self-raising flour (Note* If you cannot find self-raising flour, use a combination of all-purpose flour and baking powder.)
(175 grams/6 ounces) Shredded suet or suet substitute (i.e., Vegetable Suet, Crisco, Lard)
(a pinch) Salt and pepper  (Note* If making a savory dish, can be replaced with spices for sweet if wished.)
(210 millilitres/a little less than a cup) Water  (Note* You can use a milk or a water and milk mix for a richer pastry.)

1. Mix the flour and suet together.
2. Season the flour and suet mixture with salt and pepper if savory and just a bit of salt and/or spices if sweet.
3. Add the water, a tablespoonful at a time, as you mix the ingredients together. Make up the pastry to firm an elastic dough that leaves the bowl clean.  The liquid amounts are only an estimate and most recipes just say water to mix.

4. Don’t over handle the pastry or it will be too hard.
5. Reserve a quarter for the lid and roll out the rest and line a well-greased bowl.
6. At this point add your filling.. a couple of options are give below but have fun and go wild!
7. Roll the final piece of pastry out into a circle big enough to cover the top of the basin, dampen the edges and put in position on the pudding, pinching the edges together to seal.
8. Seal well and cover with a double sheet of foil – pleated in the centre to allow room for expansion while cooking. Secure with string, and place it in a steamer over boiling water.
9. Steam for up to 5 hours, you may need to add more boiling water halfway through or possibly more often. There is a lot of leeway in this steaming time and different recipes give different steaming times. Delia Smith says 5 hours for Steak and kidney where as Mrs Beeton says 2.5 for a similar dish!  One way to tell that it is cooked is when the pastry changes colour and goes from white to a sort of light golden brown. It is also hard to over steam a pudding so you can leave it bubbling away until you are ready.

This one is a steak and onion one cooked for 1.5 hours. (however as others have shown they come out even better if you steam for longer 3 to 5 hours is much better.)

This sort of pastry can also be used as a topping for a baked meat pie and becomes quite a light crusty pastry when baked.

Savoury Pudding Filling options: steak and kidney pudding.

1 full amount of suet crust (see recipe above)
(450 grams/about 1 pound) Chuck steak
(225 grams/about 1/2 a pound) Ox kidney
1 medium-sized onion
2 teaspoons well-seasoned flour
splash of Worcestershire sauce

1. Chop the steak and kidney into fairly small cubes, toss them in seasoned flour, then add them to the pastry lined basin.
2. Pop the onion slices in here and there.
3. Add enough cold water to reach almost to the top of the meat and sprinkle in a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper.
4. Follow the rest of the instructions in the crust recipe to finish pudding.
5. Cook for at least 2.5 hours (Mrs Beeton) up to 5 hours (Delia Smith).

Sweet Pudding Options: Sussex Pond Pudding

1 amount of suet pastry (see recipe above)
(120 grams/4.2 ounces) Demerara Sugar
(120 grams/4.2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 large lemon

1. Cut the butter into small pieces and put half in the basin with half the sugar.
2. Prick the whole lemon (preferably one with a thin skin) all over, using a thick skewer.
3. Place on top of the butter and sugar in the basin.
4. Cover with the rest of the butter and sugar.
5. Finish building the pudding as per the pastry recipe.
6. Steam for 3 ½ hours, or longer (for a really tender lemon), adding more water if needed.
7. To serve, turn the pudding into a dish with a deep rim, when you slice into it the rich lemon sauce will gush out.
8. Make sure each person is served some of the suet crust, lemon and tangy luscious sauce.

Type 2 puddings – Steamed Suet Pudding, sponge type.
(100 grams/4 ounces) All-purpose flour
(1/4 teaspoon) salt
(1.5 teaspoons) Baking powder
(100 grams/4 ounces) breadcrumbs
(75 grams/3 ounces) Caster sugar
(75 grams/ 3 ounces) Shredded suet or suet substitute (i.e., Vegetable Suet, Crisco, Lard)
(1) large egg
(6 to 8 tablespoons) Cold milk

1. Sift flour, salt and baking powder into bowl.
2. Add breadcrumbs, sugar and suet.
3. Mix to a soft batter with beaten egg and milk
4. Turn into a buttered 1 litre/ 2pint pudding basin and cover securely with buttered greaseproof paper or aluminum foil.
5. Steam steadily for 2.5 to 3 hours
6. Turn out onto warm plate, Serve with sweet sauce to taste such as custard, caramel or a sweetened fruit sauce.

Spotted Dick -  Add 75g/ 3oz currants and 25g/1 oz of mixed chopped peel with the sugar.
Syrup or Treacle or Marmalade Pudding – put 2 Tablespoons of golden syrup, treacle or marmalade at the bottom of the bowl before adding pudding mix.
My Fair Lady Pudding – Add finely grated rind of 1 medium orange or lemon with the sugar.
Ginger Pudding – replace the sugar with  100g/4oz of treacle, and add 1/2 tsp ground ginger.

Additional Information: 

Suet:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suet.

Suet substitutes:  http://www.practicallyedible.com/edible.nsf/pages/suet.

Vegetable suet:  http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Dictionary/V/Vegetable-suet-6708.aspx.

Delia Smith shows you how to make suet pastry with step-by-step photos here: (http://www.deliaonline.com/how-to-cook/baking/how-to-make-suet-pastry.html).

Video of the whole process of making a suet crust pudding.

Video of making a steamed pudding:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afQ6g0R8pMc.

A very good place to find recipes for many British puddings is the Pudding Club website http://www.puddingclub.com/.

Steamed Pudding:  http://www.puddings.net/desserts/puddings/steamedpuddings/preparing.shtml

Mrs Beeton of course had many suet based puddings in her book and thefoody.com lists many of them. Some are described as boiled but nearly all can be steamed in a bowl in the same way as the full recipes I've give here including Staffordshire Fig Pudding: (http://thefoody.com/mrsbpudding/staffordshire.html), boiled raisin Pudding (http://thefoody.com/mrsbpudding/boiledraisin.html), Boiled Rhubarb Pudding (http://thefoody.com/mrsbpudding/rhubarbpudding.html), ginger pudding (http://thefoody.com/mrsbpudding/gingerpudding.html) and several more.
Christmas Pudding

Bacon and Leek Pudding:

Butter based versions of steamed pudding


Found a vegan one I can't vouch for it but thought it might be a starting point for someone.

The whole of Mrs Beeton on line
and just the puddings

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sorry for the absence

I have been really busy and even missed both a Daring Baker and a Daring cook challenge of the last few weeks. However I will be back and with a big post in about a week as one of the reasons I have been so busy is at the last minute I agree to host this months Daring Baker challenge. What i chose you will have to wait and see.

I have also been busy as part of the team making a giant mouse!!