"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 almost skipped it. Even absent the specific challenge information, logic told me to stay away*. And then, when I saw instructions that involved rendering your own cow fat** as Step 1, and knotting up some kind of harness with string and foil as step 7, I was pretty much done.
I was just about to post my shamefaced "That's all folks, I'll see you Daring Bakers sometime in May" message to the group when I noticed one key fact***:
The suet was optional. Only the steaming part was required.
Well, that's a whole different story, isn't it?
I was in****. And boy, am I glad about it. This was a rich, luscious and deeply comforting dessert. It was like eating the moistest cake you've ever had, straight out of the oven. But without the oven, and without the fuss. And of course, without that icky suet.
Dark Chocolate Spice Pudding with Cheater's Creme Anglaise
I discovered this recipe using good old google. I think my exact search term was "steamed chocolate pudding recipe." I lucked out. All the spices serve to intensify and magnify the chocolate, making this a wonderfully complex and grown up dessert. My adapted version is below:
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghiaradelli Special Dark 72% baking chocolate)
½ cup butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp finely grated orange zest (I didn't have an orange, so I skipped this part)
¼ cup orange juice
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground dry mustard
Melt chocolate and butter in a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir regularly until chocolate has completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. In a separate bowl, combine eggs and brown sugar until blended. Stir chocolate mixture into egg mixture. Add orange zest, orange juice, coffee and vanilla, and mix well. Whisk flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, salt and mustard together, fold into chocolate mixture just enough to moisten. Pour into ramekins and cover.
crock pot, or set up a large pot on the stove. Place ramekins into the pot, and slowly add boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of your puddings. Cover pan and return water to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook for about 1 hour for small puddings, 90 minutes for larger pudding. During cooking time, add hot water as needed to maintain water level.
Remove puddings and allow to set for 5-10 minutes. Serve warm in the ramekins, or unmold onto plates. Either way, sprinkle with powdered sugar and pass the cheater's sauce on the side.
NOTE: There may be a moment about halfway through cooking where your husband walks by and says, "So, you add chocolate to the water too, huh? That's cool." This will cause you to jump up in panic as you realize your ramekin tops are leaking and there are pools of chocolate goo floating around your puddings. Fear not. It's messy but most of the pudding will still be inside cooking away nicely. Pretend to your husband that this is definitely part of the plan and that it is indeed cool.
Cheater's Creme Anglaise
Take some vanilla bean ice cream out of the freezer about 10 minutes before your puddings are done. Put it in a bowl on the counter and let it soften up a bit. Just before serving, stir it around vigorously so it has the consistency of frosting. Top each pudding with a dollop and play it off as something you learned in cooking school. Works every time.
* A: I'd spent the early part of the weekend cranking out cookies for the bake-off at our school fair, and then spent the fair day eating my way through the various competing entries (for research purposes, of course). I was so thoroughly sugared out that I had eaten dry roasted peanuts for dessert. B: My husband was on an enforced 24 hour liquid diet (don't ask), and the kids were heading to bed so any and all results would have to be eaten by me, and me alone. C: There were new episodes of House and 24 on tonight. Putting it all together: A+B+C = Screw it. QED.
** Per our hostess, "Suet is the hard but flaky fat found on the inside of a cow or sheep around the kidneys and that area of the body." Yeah. Double screw it.
*** Along with some raves from other DB's who had finished their challenges, and a helpful hint involving a crock pot.
**** Plus there was a new factor, D: I had these great ramekins that my mom had from the 60s that I'd been dying to use. The recipe said you could use ramekins! And we could pick any kind of pudding we wanted to make. Putting it all together: D > A+B+C. QED.
***** If yours don't come with tops like mine, you will need to rig up a cover of buttered parchment or wax paper and some foil to make tops, and use string to hold the tops in place while they steam.