Wednesday, 22 January 2014
My Christmas pudding (which turned out beautifully, by the way) was my first attempt at a steamed pudding. I set my heart on trying a steamed sponge pudding next. Pudding Month needed a chocolate recipe, so steamed chocolate pudding became my goal.
As I hadn't made a sponge pudding before, I decided to try making a recipe from a cookbook as written. I ended up with a pudding that slumped heavily onto the serving plate, cracking open to let the raw centre flow; a bowl of gluey, excess batter and a heap of chocolate-streaked washing up.
After such an inauspicious start, I decided I had to go back to the basic components of pudding.
"Let us seriously reflect of what a pudding is composed."
Though he would not have been referring to a steamed-in-a-basin sponge pudding (as the method changed in the 20th century), Dr Johnson "indulged in a playful fancy", recorded by Boswell in his Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785), of writing a 'Meditation on a Pudding' after ridiculing a passage about the moon in Hervey's Meditations (perhaps here or here?). You can read it in full here.
According to the Oxford Companion, a sponge pudding is composed "from equal weights of flour, butter, sugar and eggs, and steamed in a basin".
I swapped some of the flour for cocoa powder and added a bit of greek yogurt to loosen the mixture to dropping consistency. I was really pleased with how it worked, though I overcooked the first one (though, really, it didn't make much of a difference). After a few experiments I hit on the right steaming time and a dash of coffee to liven it up.
I bought a 14cm/5.5" enamel pudding basin for my Christmas pudding and I love it - it's attractive, cleans easily and feels like it will last for ages despite being reasonable (you can get it on Amazon here). A 12cm one would also be good - this recipe only fills 2/3 of the 14cm so it wouldn't need changing. The 14cm one takes about 750ml.
Now I've got used to it, I've realised that steaming is a lovely, homely way to cook a pudding. It's especially useful if you've got lots of trays in the oven for the main course or - gasp - don't have an oven.
The batter becomes a light cocoa sponge - it's not heavy or stodgy - and the sauce is a silky, pourable milk-and-cream ganache. The sauce sinks into the sponge, the ice cream melts, the three meld and you have a rich and very pleasing pudding.
Steamed Chocolate Pudding
For the pudding:
55g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
55g soft brown sugar
45g plain flour
10g cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 tbsp greek yogurt
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder + 1 tsp boiling water
For the sauce:
75g dark chocolate (70%)
50g double cream
15g/1 tbsp brown sugar
Carefully butter a 12-14cm (roughly 5") pudding basin, using plenty of butter so the pudding doesn't stick (I wasn't careful enough with the one in the photos). Place a circle of parchment into the bottom and grease it too. Cream the butter and sugar together. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into the bowl then add the egg, yogurt and combined coffee and water. Beat just until the mixture comes together. Transfer to the buttered basin and level out. Crease a fold into a sheet of parchment-lined foil or a piece of baking parchment and a piece of foil and place over the top of the basin. Secure with a rubber band or a piece of string.
Pour plenty of boiling water (I use at least 3 inches after it boiled dry the first time) into the bottom of the steamer then place the top half with the pudding on top. Place over a high heat to bring back to the boil then turn down to medium-low and leave to steam for 45 minutes.
While it steams, make the sauce. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in bowl. Combine the cream, milk and sugar in a small saucepan and heat until steaming and starting to bubble at the edges. Pour over the chocolate and leave for a few minutes then whisk until smooth. Transfer to a jug.
Take out of the steamer and remove the toppings. Check the sponge is cooked by inserting a cake tester or toothpick into the centre - it should come out cleanly. Loosen the sides of the pudding from the basin with a blunt knife. Place the serving plate on top of the basin then flip over. Lift the basin and peel the circle of paper off. Pour some of the sauce over the top of the sponge then let everyone add more to their bowls at the table.
If the sauce has cooled and thickened then re-heat by placing the jug in a saucepan of hot/just simmering water and stirring until thin (you can do this if you have any left, too - both can be kept in the fridge but the sponge isn't as nice as fresh when reheated). Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Three more chocolate puddings:
Hervé's Two Ingredient Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate Coconut Milk Cake