Things are getting a little steamy
It's finally happened! We're actually making an honest-to-god, true-to-life, dinki-di steamed pudding. For a 'pudding calendar' we've been pretty heavy on the 'served chilled' and pretty light on the 'boil all day', so this aspiring pudding maker is pretty chuffed about finally getting to the real deal.
I made this for both my parents and grandparents as guests, and my grandfather has definitely had a few traditional puddings in his time, so there was a little bit of pressure to get it right. This one was a solo effort since it needed to cook for so long, but my mother and co-conspirator was going to be there for the eating bit, so that's alright. Things started out well, with our freshly-picked garden apple and the rest of the batter coming together to form a tasty little mixture with a consistency that hinted at all the right things.
Just a short aside in appreciation of breadcrumbs, a staple ingredient of the 1950’s housewife that has fallen by the wayside in this enlightened, carbohydrate-conscious modern world that we live in. I always enjoy cooking with breadcrumbs, they pour with a very satisfying weight, can be relied upon to thicken things up in a really substantial way, and though it always seems like they'll make it weird, things always seem to work out alright after all. Bring on the breadcrumbs, I say.
The recipe calls for a pudding basin, which seems like the sort of thing an aspiring pudding cook should have, but I don't own. There's number of suggestions online about how one could fashion a tight seal using alfoil and rubber bands but it all looked a little daunting for a boy running on a few hours of sleep, so I settled for just floating my mixing bowl inside my biggest pot, laying a tea-towel over the lid and hoping that would do a good enough job keeping the whole thing hot enough to actually cook through.
I settled down to wait for the pudding to steam for a couple of hours while I worked out the rest of the meal. I'm sure keeping a pot on the simmer for hours on end was a common and simple enough thing in the age of the perpetually burning kitchen stove, but it's not something I so all that often, and I had a lot of difficulty restraining myself from checking in on it regularly. Doing so proved to be a very anxiety-inducing activity, as there was little to no change at all until the mix finally started obviously browning around the 90 minute mark, but it did fill the house with this pleasingly nutty spiced apple aroma, so there was just enough hope to keep me from despair.
When it came to serving, the pudding came out of the dish nicely, making enough for six generous serves or eight genteel dinner party serves. We served it with a raspberry topping and ice-cream, because it wasn't exactly clear to us what the recipe called for when it said 'sweet sauce', but my grandfather laughed at this and asked why we hadn't asked, as any ‘old person' could tell you that 'sweet sauce' is a kind of light custard, and sure enough when I actually thought (post-hoc) to google 'sweet sauce for puddings' plenty of good-looking hits came up to try for next time a CWA member tries to pull that one on us.
It might not have been what Mrs. B.W. Wibberly of Tumby Bay intended, but the raspberry sauce worked fine, giving a sweet punch to what was otherwise a surprisingly light dish, though there was enough depth of flavour in the pud that it didn't really need the lift. The whole thing was also pleasantly moist, even on reheating the next day, which was a bit of a relief, as it had the general demeanour of something that could have been a little hard to get down without being drowned in cream.
The flavour was also surprisingly rich considering there wasn't any spices in the mix, as the lemon zest does a lot of heavy lifting and really makes the difference. My guests were all very satisfied, and my father went as far as to say that this was the first real success of the pudding project so far. I think that's selling a couple of the others we've already done a little short but appreciate the enthusiasm, and will definitely be looking to do this one again sometime on a cool autumn day when the apples are in season. With a proper sweet sauce.
The numbers so far:
Eggs: 20 (17 separated)
Sugar: 4 11/12 cup, 8 tbsp
Butter: 3 3/4 oz, 1/4 cup, 4 tbsp
Milk: 1 quart, 2 pints (none this time)