So, I have to admit that I was NOT looking forward to this month's Daring Baker's Challenge. Esther of the Lilac Kitchen chose traditional English puddings for this month's challenge. Most of the items I bake (and cook) are not made because I want to eat them, I usually partake in a new project out of curiosity. But my usual interest in new techniques and cuisine couldn't even get me excited about this project...that was until I became thoroughly obsessed with the idea that people (the English in particular) regularly eat these puddings - so there must be something redeeming about them. Something.
Esther's original challenge stated that the pudding could be savory or sweet, filled with anything the baker chose. But there were still rules (heck that's what makes the challenge a challenge, right?), and they stipulated that the pudding must be steamed (there are plenty of traditional English puddings that are actually baked) and it must have a crust. The combination of a food item being steamed and having a pastry crust just seemed so wrong. I immediately thought - wet and soggy. Two adjectives that should never be used when describing food (particularly food wrapped in a pastry shell).
So, I set off on a google journey to find myself some recipes on which to base my pudding. I came across a great website called Traditional English Puddings, Putting the Pudding Back on the Menu. There were the usual suspects listed - spotted dick (call me juvenile, but I can't say that without cracking a smile), Eton Mess, and summer pudding. But I was looking for a general recipe for a steamed pudding made with a crust. I finally settled on the steamed apple pudding recipe. I modified the recipe be replacing the suet (No way in heck was I going to use any type of animal innards to make a pastry crust - sorry all of you lard-loving die hards. It just not my cup of tea.) with non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening. I also cut the recipe in half for two very important reasons: 1 - I was convinced it would turn out badly, so I wanted to minimize wasting food and my guilty feelings that I knew would inevitably accompany my misadventure (I promise I'm usually not a pessimist. Honestly, I'm not.) 2 - The only pudding basin (aka Pyrex glass bowl) that would fit into my steamer was only about five inches in diameter. Thus, making the full pastry pudding recipe much too large for my purposes. I also made my own self-rising flour by mixing baking powder and salt into my regular all purpose flour.
I rolled out 3/4 of the pastry, and placed it in the heavily greased Pyrex bowl. I filled my pastry with a traditional apply pie filling: diced apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Then rolled out the rest of the pastry and laid it on top of the filling, pinching the sides of the two crusts together. I covered the bowl with a nice thick, tightly fitted piece of foil. Then into the steamer it went. I steamed it for two hours, and I had no idea when it would be finished. I kept trying to smell the pudding, but I guess the steamer had created such a vacuum that I could smell nothing. Nothing. That made me nervous. After two hours I called it a day. This is what came out of the steamer.
When I lifted the foil, a nice warm apply pie smell filled my nose. That seemed to be a good sign. Honestly, not bad, not bad at all. It slipped easily out of the steaming dish. Yet another plus. Much to my surprise, it didn't look squishy, soggy, or wet. That was definitely another huge plus. Then my ever so lovely husband came wondering into the kitchen (he is so hilariously afraid of soggy foods that he can't even eat cereal) and casually glanced at the pudding and said, "Raw dough. That's a mound of raw dough. Don't eat it, or you'll throw up." I shrugged it off, and plunged a sharp knife into the sucker, and hell, to my surprise, the crust was actually cooked and FLAKY. What? A steamed crust that was flaky? Well, I guess these pudding weren't so bad after all...
This is how I ate my first piece of apple pudding. I had to laugh at myself for turning a traditional English pudding into something so thoroughly American. I made an apple pie, and was eating it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Ha - how ethnocentric of me. How typically American...
Did I enjoy my apple pudding? You be the judge. This is what it looked like after about five minutes: