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 challenge this month was to make a traditional British pudding using suet as one of the ingredients. From the beginning I was nervous because I had never made, nor even seen a British pudding, and I had no idea what suet was. For those of you that are thinking the same thing here is a brief description of both.
Not being British it took me a bit to wrap my head around the fact that they use the word “pudding” to mean many different things. “Pudding” can be a black pudding and white pudding, a sort of meat and grain sausage. It is also used as a generic word for dessert. It also can be any dish cooked in a pudding bowl or pudding cloth, normally steamed or boiled but sometimes baked. And finally, as an endearment (for example, “How are you today my pudding?”). For this challenge the third meaning, a dish cooked in a pudding bowl or cloth, applies.
Now, on to suet. Suet 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. It also melts at quite a low temperature, which has an effect on how it works in cooking. Suet can be rendered, which is basically melting it and then straining out any larger pieces, or it can be used in its raw form. So basically we would be making our own shortening.
For this challenge we were given the option of making a savory or a sweet pudding, and total control over the ingredients even to the point of substituting butter or margarine for suet. The method of cooking was the main component of this challenge and we were given the option to steam or boil the pudding. As I started pouring over recipes I realized that there were a lot of options. I also knew that I wanted to make a savory and a sweet. When I came across this video
showing how to make Spotted Dick, a traditional British pudding, I knew I had to try it. It is basically a sweet spongecake with golden raisins shaped in the form of a log.
I did use butter in this version because the suet was still frozen from the butcher. The dough was a bit stickier than I thought it would be once it was all mixed together but I was able to get it rolled up decently in the waxed paper. I ended up making two loaves instead of one because of the size of my steamer. You can see that as they steam the loaves swell larger, so they did end up touching each other in the pan but it did not seem to affect their final product. The paper stuck to the spongecake a bit but it maintained its overall structure in spite of it. I made a vanilla custard to go along with it and added some fresh strawberries. My husband and I both thought that the Spotted Dick actually tasted better without the custard but that might be because we are not used to eating custard.
My second British pudding I decided to do a savory pudding with a suet crust. I poured over more recipes and there were a lot, let me repeat a lot, of recipes for steak and kidney pudding. While I know this probably would have been the most traditional I could have gone for I just could not bring myself to buy, cook, and eat kidney. So when I saw this video showing how to make a steak and mushroom pudding I opted for that instead. I did not render the suet, instead I just crumbled it onto the scale to make sure I had the correct amount. There was not much of a smell and it was basically white crumbs, but after crumbling it a bit I did start to get grossed out by the sound it made tearing off the little strips of connective tissue. I could tell it was similar to shortening even at that point when I went to wash my hands and it took hot water and soap to get the greasy feel washed away.
It was very easy to make and tasted delicious, almost like a meat filled pie, but I don’t think I’ll be making it again, at least not a savory pudding. The savory puddings with a suet crust have to be steamed for about 5 hours and I have learned that 5 hours of steaming is not good for my pocketbook nor my house. Why you ask? First off, my gas stove has got be cranked to about medium high to keep the water boiling which creates the steam, and having the burner on medium high for 5 hours straight uses way more gas than I would ever use to cook a meal. Secondly, I didn’t realize that it would put so much condensation into the air that my 110 year old wood framed single pane windows would have water running down the glass and pooling up on the wood frames below. By the way, that process alone created quite the smell. The kitchen smelled great but you would walk out into the living room, dining room, and even our bedroom which is the farthest room away and wonder what the smell was. I realized after my second trip in that it was the wood on my windows releasing an unpleasant odor that only 110 years of being in existence could create. I could have used my slow cooker but there was no way that it would get water up to the boiling point and keep it boiling for the length of time needed to cook the pudding. So while my husband and I enjoyed the final product, we did not enjoy the cooking method as much.
My final pudding was decided on after I saw so many people post the yummiest looking photos of chocolate pudding. I had decided to steer away from chocolate since I do many other desserts with chocolate, but it called my name and since it was relatively easy to do I did it at the same time that the savory pudding was cooking. I’m sure having two steaming pots going, one for 5 hours and the other for about 1 hour, didn’t help the dew point being reached in our house. I think that of the three this is the pudding that I would make again. Go figure, it was chocolate. It only took about 45 minutes to steam and it was like an individual serving of chocolate cake. A scoop of ice cream would have gone nicely but I only had a tall glass of cold milk to accompany it.
This post is already long as it is so I am just going to post the links where I got the recipes instead of actually typing out the entire recipe. Enjoy!
Recipe and Video for Spotted Dick
Recipe and Video for Steak and Mushroom Pudding
Recipe for Very Chocolate Pudding (I made only half of the recipe that is posted and it made two 8 oz. ramekin sized cakes)