After completing my first Daring Baker's challenge last month, and being a bit disappointed about the results, I was anxious for the unveiling of this month's challenge.
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.
I put off completing this challenge for a few weeks for a variety of reasons. Mostly, my time is a wee bit limited nowadays. With no time, I couldn't research traditional British puddings, compare recipes or brainstorm flavor combinations.
Secondly, I admit, I was initially not very excited about the challenge. After all, the host described these puddings as "homely". Also, I had absolutely no idea how this "pudding" would taste.
Lastly, the less than plentiful crop of early spring fruits was creating a bit of an obstacle. For the first few weeks in spring, the farmer's market had only potatoes and onions.
But, sometimes, procrastination does pay off. I put this challenge off long enough to be greeted by the bright red stalks of fresh rhubarb. Funny how just the sight of this fruit seems to signal an end to the long winter and gesture in the warmer, happier days of spring.
I purchased just two stalks, as rhubarb is a bit on the expensive side, enough to be poached for the two individual puddings I had decided to create.
I lightly poached the rhubarb in a combination of water, blood orange juice, vanilla and honey. While the poached rhubarb was cooling, I reduced the poaching liquid to the most beautiful, shiny red glaze I had ever seen. There was just enough glaze to be drizzled over the dessert as the final, sweet touch.
As the top layer of the steamed pudding, I incorporated a thin crumb layer, just to add a little extra sweetness to the rhubarb.
Finally, it was time to venture into unmarked territory. It was time to actually create and steam the pudding.
Confession: I whimped out. I did not use suet. I used butter instead. But, I promise you - it will be okay. Butter makes everything better!
Using a small, mesh sieve to rest the pudding on, I could only fit one individual springform pan in the pot. I brought it to a boil, then lowered the heat at let it do it's thing.
I snuck a peek here and there. But nothing seemed to be happening. Just a lot of steam and gurgling.
Most recipes instructed a steaming time of at least two hours, but for a full-sized pudding. So, I checked mine after an hour. I inserted my little cake tester and it emerged with just a few stray crumbs. Time was up!
I might have forgotten I used leavener in the recipe. I might have filled the batter all the way to the top of the pan on accident. But I admit nothing.
It was an easy enough fix after all.
See? Now I had a flat bottom for the steamed pudding and I could taste just a little piece.
It was heavenly. Amazing. The most moist, creamy cake I had ever eaten with a deep, yet light flavor.
I added the cooled, poached rhubarb - now a bright, beautiful pink hue - on top of the creamy, crumb layer and drizzled the reduced poaching liquid over the pudding.
I served the steamed pudding with homemade frozen yogurt, although I think it would have been even better with a tart, lemon sorbet instead.
This month's challenge was a major success on many levels. The visual result was exactly what I had envisioned when I picked up that first stalk of fresh rhubarb. The taste far exceeded my expectations and I created a recipe which I will keep in my repertoire for years to come.
The success of this challenge reminded me how important it is to continally expand your skills, even if you are not overcome with enthusaism at first glace. Thinking about how you can turn a recipe into your own, into a recipe that you are truly proud of, takes time, energy and patience.
But aren't those successes, the ones we didn't see coming, the sweetest?
Rhubarb Crumb Steamed Pudding
from Allison M. Veinote
makes 2 individual 1-cup bundt cakes
2 stalks rhubarb, sliced about 1/2" thick
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon blood orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Pinch table salt
1/2 cup whole milk
Place water, blood orange juice, honey and vanilla in saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil.
When liquid is boiling, add sliced rhubarb and gently stir.
Poach rhubarb for 2 minutes, then transfer to rack to drain. The rhubarb will continue to poach while cooling.
Reduce the poaching liquid over medium-low heat, until thick, but still pourable, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Pour melted butter over dry ingredients. Stir until well combined and crumbly.
Divide topping between two individual bundt pans, prepared with non-stick spray. Gently press crumb topping into an even layer in the pan.
Place butter and dark brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixter fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add large egg and vanilla to butter-sugar mixture. Paddle until fully combined.
Meanwhile, combine flour, baking soda, table salt and lemon zest in medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of milk.
Pour pudding mixture over crumb topping, until pan is about 2/3 full.
Place a small piece of parchment over each pudding, securing with a rubber band or piece of kitchen twine. Cover parchment with aluminum foil.
To steam the puddings, place a round rack (or small, mesh sieve) on the bottom of a large stockpot. Depending on the size of the stockpot, you will be able to fit 1-2 individual pans on the rack. Pour enough water into the stockpot to reach halfway up the side of the pans. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Allow puddings to steam about one hour, until a cake tester emerges with only a few crumbs.
Carefully remove pans from water. Remove foil and parchment. Allow to cool 5 minutes in the pan, before turning out onto serving plates.
Add poached rhubarb in a tidy circle around the pudding. Drizzle with reduced poaching liquid.
- Homemade frozen yogurt or lemon sorbet
- Lightly sweet dessert wine, such as the one we so thoroughly enjoyed: Sweet Mountain Laurel by Chateau Morisette