Last spring I invited Chloe readers to try one of the old recipes I collected while writing Tradition of Deceit
. Mary M., who is experienced with period foodways, volunteered to try a couple of steamed pudding recipes. I decided to save her report until the holiday season. If you’ve always wanted to try a steamed pudding, read on!
Old cookbooks tend to assume the users have a lot of experience/knowledge. Mary kindly shared some general instructions; read through those before trying one of the recipes.
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Steamed puddings are basically a cake baked in moist heat and a covered container, as opposed to baking in an oven’s dry heat in an uncovered pan. Steaming was a practical method of baking in the days when ovens were small and stoves were kept burning all day (for example, to heat water).
Use: A pudding mold with a lid. You can find these in specialty kitchen stores or online. It’s important to butter or coat mold with nonstick spray, and equally important to butter/spray the lid, too.
Or use: A large coffee can, buttered or sprayed. Don’t use the original plastic lid of the coffee can! Instead, tie heavy-duty foil over the top of the coffee can, and remember to butter/spray the foil.
(Note from Kathleen – A few years ago my younger sister and I experimented with a Christmas pudding. Since we didn’t have a mold, we used coffee cans.)
You can use: A metal mold intended for desserts or decoration. I tried using my mom’s old decorative copper mold (with a foil “lid”). It worked fine for the pudding, but was a nightmare to clean…and my mom’s mold never looked the same again.
Use: I found a round metal rack that fits perfectly in my Revere Ware dutch oven. It sits a good 1/2″ above the bottom of the dutch oven.
Or use: If you have trouble finding a rack small enough, you can use 2 or 3 metal rings from canning jars. (Don’t use the flat removeable metal lids that go inside the rings; just use the rings.) This works fine.
(From Kathleen: I used canning rings, just as Mary suggests, for the rack. I fastened them with twisties.)
Don’t use: Once I tried using a decorative cast iron trivet that barely sits above the bottom of my dutch oven. This did NOT work! There has to be room between the bottom of the pot and the bottom of the mold so that the water can circulate.
Keep the water in the pot boiling or simmering throughout the steaming process.
The water should come up at least halfway up the pudding mold. Check the water level and add more boiling water if necessary. (Just don’t let the water level get so high up that it goes under the lid and gets into the pudding.)
Once steaming is done, take the mold out of the pot and remove the lid. IMPORTANT! Don’t unmold right away! Test the cake for done-ness (with a toothpick or skewer, or check to see that it’s pulled slightly away from the sides of the mold). If the pudding is done, let it sit for at least 15 minutes. This allows extra steam to escape and helps the pudding keep its shape. Unmold and then let cool.
After you butter/spray the mold, you can put a little sugar inside, put the lid on and shake to distribute. This can add a tiny bit of “crust” (for a nice “mouth-feel”) before you add the batter.
I have also spooned some seedless jam into the bottom of the mold before adding the batter, to add a nice color and flavor. (Unfortunately, this didn’t work well with the Whole Wheat pudding.)
The puddings Mary steamed came from the Gold Medal Flour Cookbook (1909).
WHOLE WHEAT PUDDING
The verdict: Hands down, this was the easiest pudding I’ve steamed, though at 3 hours, it was the longest steaming, too. Results were like a moist, less-spicier-than-gingerbread type of cake.
2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 t. soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. milk
1/2 c. molasses
1 c. stoned dates
Sift soda and salt with the meal; add dates until they are thoroughly floured; add milk and molasses. This will make a soft batter but the dry flour absorbs a great deal of the moisture. Steam three hours in a closed mould. Serve with any plain pudding sauce or whipped cream.
If sour milk is used add one level teaspoon of soda. Raisins, figs, prunes, or chopped apples make a pleasant variety.
It didn’t taste heavy like I expected of whole wheat flour, though I used King Arthur Unbleached White Whole Wheat.
Final thoughts: very easy, made with usually-at-hand ingredients, pleasant tasting, not exciting, but a simple recipe that would be good for a first-time steamer.
Instead of dates, I chopped up a honeycrisp apple. And I also tried one thing that’s worked well for me with other puddings; I put a bit of seedless raspberry jam in the bottom of the mold. With other puddings, I’ve found that adds a nice color and flavor once the pudding is unmolded. But with this pudding, the jam never melted into the cake and remained a slightly gooey mess once I unmolded it. On the good side, the jam actually stuck with the cake and came cleanly out of the mold. But I wouldn’t add the jam the next time I make this.
The verdict: I have a new favorite pudding recipe! This one is just as easy as the Whole Wheat pudding. But it’s tastier and steams for only 1 hour (instead of 3).
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
2 c. flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. milk
1 pint blueberries
I creamed the butter and sugar, then added an egg. Then I added half the dry ingredients, alternating with half the milk, then dry, then milk. The batter was smooth and thick.
I used frozen blueberries. I wasn’t sure how much flour to use to flour the berries, but I wound up using two tablespoons.
I steamed the pudding for just over an hour, then took it out, removed the lid, and let it sit for 15 minutes still in the mold.
When the pudding was still in the mold, the bottom looked pale and not so appetizing. But unmolded, (and flipped right side up), it had a nice brown color. (Although sadly, the blueberries hide my pudding mold’s decorative fluting on top.)
The pudding is surprisingly light tasting and refreshing…though the batter was heavy, the final cake is not. Very good and I’ll look forward to making this again. I wonder if it works with apples or currants or other fruits…
The recipe suggests serving the Blueberry Pudding with Creamy Sauce:
1/4 c. butter
2. c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
Cream the butter, add the sugar; cream together; add the cream, the egg well beaten, and flavoring. If it should separate set it over hot water and stir until smooth. Serve cold.
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If I’d had Mary’s instructions, I probably wouldn’t have had trouble unmolding our Christmas pudding. (It tasted fine, though, and we enjoyed it anyway.)
But now I’m psyched to try one of these puddings. If you steam a pudding, let us know how it goes! And huge thanks to Mary for sharing her time and knowledge.