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. The goals of the challenge were to 1) make a suet pudding using real suet or as close a replacement as one can manage or is acceptable; and 2) to cook it by steaming or an even more traditional method by boiling tied up in a cloth. I've been on a quest to lose the remainder of my baby weight, so I opted not to use suet. In addition, it's actually a bit harder to find here in the US as opposed to places like the UK or Australia. For those not familiar with suet, it's the back fat of an animal, typically a pig or cow. You can usually substitute lard, shortening, or butter for the suet in most pudding recipes. Also, pudding in this instance refers not to the yogurty textured stuff made with milk and sugar and flavorings, but a dense moist cake, or a filled pastry.
The closet thing in the States to a traditional savory pudding is a casserole or pot pie, but I prefer the sweeter side of life. I chose to make the classic Spotted Dick for two reasons: 1) it sounded relatively tame ingredient-wise, and 2) it's a funny name that elicits the best faces from people when you talk about it. Now before you start taking me to task for my language, "dick" is aparently the traditional colloquial phrase for pudding and the spots of Spotted Dick are from the dried fruits that stud the pudding. You can draw your own conclusions from the shape of the pudding, you dirty birdie!
I strongly encourage you to give it a try, because if anything, the cooking method revealed a delightfully moist and delicious pudding that would be tasty for any special occasion or any time of year for that matter. The prep time took about ten minutes max, then I set it to steam, walked away and came back two hours later. Voila! English pudding.
Spotted Dick English Pudding
3 oz raisins
3 oz dried cranberries
3 oz brown sugar
225g/8 oz flour
2 oz shortening
2 oz butter
2 oz milk
1. Set up a large double boiler/steamer and get the water hot and simmering.
2. In a small bowl, mix the dried fruit with the sugar. Set aside.
3. In a larger bowl, combine the shortening, butter, and flour and mix it with your hands. Add in the milk slowly until you have a very sticky dough.
4. Add in the sugar and fruit and continue to mix everything.
5. Place the ball of dough into the middle of a large piece of parchment paper and shape it into a log.
6. Then, roll up the side of the paper and twist the ends to seal it.
7. Carefully place the roll inside your double boiler and cover it. Allow to steam for a minimum of 2 hours. You may need to add more water as needed to keep the steam going.
8. Once it's finished cooking, pull it out and allow it to cool. Be careful of hot water and steam! Then unroll it and serve.
Some food for thought...
- I am fortunate in that I have a large steamer/double broiler. If you don't, never fear! Another alternative is to place a bowl or plate down in the water to create a stand of sorts that the pudding will rest on. Just be sure that the pudding doesn't get into the water! You can also bake it in a 400F oven for 1.5 hours (please note, I did not try the baking method so I cannot vouch for it if you go that route; the recipe says if you bake it, wrap it in foil and then bake).
- The original recipe calls for currants, but I didn't have any on hand, nor are they easy to find in Central Texas. Use whatever dried fruit suits your fancy!
- Should you actually want to use suet, you will need 4 oz for the above recipe. The person who issued the challenge said she gets hers from her butcher and that he usually lets her have it for free. I believe it is also available in boxes mixed with something else, but I don't remember.
- Do not be fooled by the amount of sugar in this recipe! It is not uncommon for Americans to overdo the sugar content on the majority of the sweets we make (and we wonder why obesity is an epidemic in this country), but this recipe is plenty sweet thanks to the fruit that is added to it. In addition, Spotted Dick is usually served with "lashings of custard" when it is served, thereby adding a bit more sweetness. If you don't have custard, you can use whipped cream or ice cream. Or just eat it plain! I personally would recommend something creamy to go with it to offset the fruit a little bit.