Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How 'doing it right' became 'doing it wrong'

I've made any number of steamed puddings since I started this challenge, but I've always used a sort of makeshift version of the usual technique. It's like this: the Edmonds book doesn't actually give precise details as to how to steam a pudding. There are enough hints here and there to get a basic idea though, and I've come to the conclusion that the standard method is as follows:

You spoon the pudding mixture into a basin, then cover the basin with pleated foil or baking paper. This is then tied in place with string, with a string 'handle' over top. The basin is then lowered onto a trivet which sits in a large pot containing enough water to go about 1/3 of the way up the bowl. Place lid on pot, and allow water to simmer, thus creating a steamy environment in which the pudding cooks.

This is pretty much the approved method as I understand it. Except that the first time I went to do it, I didn't have a suitable trivet to keep my pudding basin off the bottom of the pot. I found that my basin would sit inside a saucepan without touching the bottom, so I tried doing it that way instead.

It worked well enough - my puddings took a little longer than it said in the recipe, but I continued to use this saucepan method, always intending to get myself a trivet sometime. The other day, I picked up a cheap metal pot stand for a couple of dollars at the local 'cheap tacky junk' shop (that's not its actual name, but I'm sure you know what kind of shop I mean) and was finally in a position to try steaming a pudding 'the right way'.

This time I decided to have a go at golden syrup pudding (p213), another variation of the plain steamed sponge pudding recipe. I creamed butter and sugar, beat in an egg and then stirred through some apricot jam. Two further steps follow: the sifting and folding in of dry ingredients, followed by the addition of baking soda dissolved in milk. I find doing things in this order makes no sense - after carefully folding until you have a soft dough, you then have to mix thoroughly to combine the dough with the milk, generally resulting in a sloppy, lumpy mixture. I think adding the dry ingredients and the milk/soda mixture alternately would give a better result.

I'd spooned my mixture into the basin, tied on the lid, and had it steaming nicely in my stockpot before I realised I'd forgotten the only element that made the pudding 'golden syrup pudding' as opposed to a plain one: golden syrup in the bottom of the basin.

Well, there was nothing I could do about that - I waited until the 30-minute cooking time was up, tipped out a beautiful-looking pudding and then drizzled golden syrup over the top, hoping to plead that this counted as completing the recipe. It looked quite nice actually, and as the sponge soaked up the syrup, I scooped off a chunk to put in a bowl - only to find that the centre of the pudding was still entirely runny.

Here was my chance: I squirted more golden syrup into the bottom of the basin, placed my scooped-out chunk back in the side of the pudding, then returned the pudding to the basin, and the basin to the pot.

After another 10 minutes' steaming time, I took the pudding out again. The centre was still a bit runny, but it was more cooked than previously. I figured I could eat around the gooey bit. I scooped out my chunk of pudding again, stuck it in a bowl with a bit of ice cream - and a little more syrup, just for fun.

The non-gooey parts of my pudding were really nice. The edge pieces that had soaked up the syrup were particularly nice. I have to admit that in total, I added a lot more golden syrup than the one tablespoon indicated in the recipe - but it wasn't too much. I'd definitely use at least as much if I made this again.

So it seems that whether I'm steaming via my saucepan method or trying to do it the proper way, 30 minutes is just not long enough to steam it through. Next time I'll try 40 minutes, and even then I'll try inserting a skewer before I get too excited about the pudding being cooked.

Still, in the end, I figure it came out not too bad - for a golden syrup pudding that initially didn't have any golden syrup in it!

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