Steamed puddings: discover a classic cooking method and make some delicious holiday recipes.
Winter holidays wouldn't be quite the same for some people without plum pudding. Many others, though, have never tried this traditional dish, and don't realize that it contains raisins, not plums, and that it's not a soft custard, but is closer to bread or cake, often topped with a sweet sauce. If this time-honored English holiday dessert has never graced your table, now's the time to try it with our steamed pudding recipes. (After all, you don't need an oven to make these scrumptious steamed dishes, which means that they are ideal candidates for cooking on woodstoves or even over campfires.)
Molds for steamed puddings can be fancy or plain. There are, for example, circular and melon-shaped fluted molds made of tin or aluminum with fitted lids. These range from 3-cup to 2-quart capacities. (Beware of any sharp edges or very narrow flutes; they're no fun to clean!)
Among the simpler molds are tin cans, preferably those opened with a key, so the tin lids can be reused. Or use ordinary cans (lined ones, if possible), and fashion covers by bending aluminum foil tightly down over the rims. (Brown or waxed paper fitted over the top of a mold and tied down with a string was the solution in your grandmother's day.)
No matter what dish you're steaming (including the familiar Boston brown bread), the basic method is the same.
First, select a recipe and settle on a day when you don't mind steaming up your kitchen a bit. Then, mix up your ingredients, and grease your mold well (cooking spray works fine), including the underside of the lid. Pour the dough into the greased mold, generally filling it no more than two-thirds full. (Remember that leavened dough must have room to rise.)
Have ready a large pot with a tightly fitting cover. Set the covered mold in the pot on a rack or trivet, and fill the container with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the mold. Let the water boil continually for the time specified in your recipe. It usually takes about 2 hours, depending on the size of the mold and the moisture content of the ingredients. Check the water level occasionally, adding more boiling water to maintain the level at the halfway position.
The job can also be done in a pressure cooker. (The old Presto Cooker I used produced finished bread in 25 minutes, whereas regular steaming of the same recipe took 2-1/2 hours.) But study the directions of your particular cooker carefully for instructions concerning breads and puddings.
When the steaming time is up, remove the mold from the pot (metal tongs are useful here) and take the lid or covering off the mold immediately. When your product has cooled for about 15 minutes, pry gently around its outer edge with a table knife, and turn the pudding out on a rack to cool further. Don't worry about a few damp spots where moisture may have penetrated the mold's lid, as long as the steamed bread-pudding is quite firm.
The following are some favorite holiday recipes I've collected over the years. Where they call for whole-wheat flour, sifting the flour — or using pastry flour (unsifted) — leads to a somewhat lighter bread or pudding. I've noted the best single mold size for the amount of dough each recipe produces. Feel free, however, to use several molds instead of one. Just remember that smaller molds require less steaming time.
There are almost as many different recipes for plum pudding as there are cooks who make it. This is our favorite recipe. (It's great served with Flaming Brandy Sauce, see recipe below.)
1-1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup scalded milk, cooled
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 beaten eggs
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup yellow raisins
1/4 cup dates, chopped
1/4 cup apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup broken walnuts, pecans or toasted almonds
1/4 cup unsifted flour
2 tbsp brandy
Mix bread crumbs, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices in a large bowl. Add cooled, scalded milk. Cream butter with brown sugar, add beaten eggs. Mix fruits and nuts together in another bowl and dredge with flour. Stir fruits, nuts and brandy into batter. Turn into greased 5-cup mold. Steam 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Top with Flaming Brandy Sauce. Serves 8.
Per serving: 436 cal., 7 g pro., 48 g carbo., 24 g fat, 566 mg sodium, 150 mg chol. U.S. RDA: 16% vit. A, 12% calcium, 66% iron.
Apple Pudding is a real favorite! Its perky flavor is set off well with whipped cream sauce, vanilla ice cream or lemon sauce (recipe below).
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp lemon peel, grated
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup soy flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp skim milk powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ginger
1/ 2 tsp mace (optional)
1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt
1 cup apples, finely chopped
Cream together butter, molasses and honey. Beat in the egg and add lemon peel. Mix together flours, baking powder, skim milk powder and spices. Stir into first mixture, alternately, with buttermilk. Stir in chopped apples and steam in a 5-cup mold for 1-1/2 hours. Serves 8.
Per serving: 212 cal., 17 g pro., 33 g carbo., 7 g fat, 173 mg sodium, 50 mg chol.
This recipe is designed for those extra-busy days or for cooking while camping. At home you can use honey for sweetening, but if you're backpacking, you might find it more convenient to eliminate the honey and simply add sugar to the dry pancake mix.
1 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1 cup pancake mix (a wheat and soy combination complete with leavening and salt works nicely)
1/3 cup raw sugar or honey
2 tbsp melted shortening
1 to 1-1/4 cups milk (less needed when using honey)
If using sugar add to pancake mix. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of pancake mix over the blueberries. Set aside. Mix together shortening and milk (also honey if used in place of sugar). Then add this moist mixture to pancake mix, stirring lightly. Add the blueberries and steam in a 5-cup mold for 2 hours or in a 1-quart mold for 1-1/2 hours. (Use any leftover dough for blueberry pancakes.) Serves 8.
Per serving: 155 cal., 3 g pro., 26 g carbo., 5 g fat, 191 mg sodium. U.S. RDA: 12% calcium.
This is good with a tart lemon sauce or homemade vanilla ice cream. In blueberry season substitute blueberries for cranberries.
1-1/2 cups cranberries, sliced
3 tbsp raw or date sugar
1 1/ 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 /2 tsp salt
1 tbsp skim milk powder
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup honey or sorghum
1/3 cup milk
Toss cranberries in sugar and let stand. Mix together remaining dry ingredients. Beat eggs and then beat in honey and milk. Combine liquid mixture with flour mixture, stirring well. Fold in cranberries and steam in a 5-cup mold for 1-1/2 hours. Serves 8.
Per serving: 207 cal., 6 g pro., 41 g carbo., 2 g fat, 237 mg sodium, 69 mg chol.
Traditionally, the sauce for steamed puddings, especially plum pudding, is Hard Sauce, but most recipes are heavy on powdered (confectioners') sugar and are overly sweet. Try one of the four following sauces instead.
1/2 pound butter or margarine
6 tbsp sugar
1 beaten egg
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 wine-glass brandy
Cream butter or margarine and sugar together. Beat in egg and nutmeg. When ready to serve, heat brandy, pour over sauce, and set briefly on fire. Serves 8.
Per serving: 240 cal., 1 g pro., 34 g carbo., 22 g fat, 243 mg sodium, 96 mg chol. U.S. RDA: 18% vit. A.
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp lemon juice
Whip cream until thick; add honey and lemon juice, beating constantly. Serves 8.
Per serving: 76 cal., 9 g carbo., 5 g fat.
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 cup soy or other oil
2 tbsp honey (or to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pour soy milk into a blender; start blender and gradually pour in oil until mixture thickens. (If your soy milk is on the rich side, it may require less oil.) Add honey and vanilla and mix a little more. Serves 8.
Per serving: 140 cal., 5 g carbo., 13 g fat.
1/2 cup raw sugar
3 to 4 tsp cornstarch (depending on the thickness desired)
1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 medium lemon (grated rind and juice)
Mix sugar and cornstarch thoroughly in a saucepan; stir in boiling water. Add butter or margarine, lemon juice and grated rind. Boil and stir until mixture begins to thicken and look transparent. Remove from heat and cool slightly. May be served warm or cold. Serves 8.
Per serving: 71 cal., 15 g carbo., 1 g fat. 9
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