Steamed Pudding 101

It seems as if steamed puddings are rather underrated these days.  Most of us have abandoned the tradition of steaming desserts over a burner for hours on end, opting for baking our delicious sweets instead.  I admit that I don't steam puddings too often, but whenever I do, I know that the end results are always unbelievably good.

In essence, steamed puddings are nothing more than cakes which have been steamed in bowls, molds or cake pans.  Just about any good butter cake recipe can be made this way if so wish.  However, it's always best to choose those which have deep, spicy flavors.  Pumpkin, persimmon, ginger, chocolate, apple and fig are just some examples of steamed puddings that have the perfect assertive flavors for steaming.

An apple spice cake recipe that I make every single year was turned into a set of steamed puddings over the weekend, and the results were well worth the effort.

From the eggs, flour, butter, sugar, fruits and spices, make sure that your ingredients are ultra fresh.  The more impeccable the contents, the better the end results.

Whenever I get my ingredients ready for baking, I like to spread out at least one or two clean kitchen towels on my counters so that I can catch any ingredients that fly out of the mixer, bowls or canisters. It makes cleanup so much easier.

Steamed pudding bowls are easily found at kitchenware stores and online. These are usually made of porcelain or ceramic, but they can also be made of ironstone or glass.  They come in several sizes, with 1qt. and 2 qt. being the most common.  If you plan on using one of these bowls to steam your pudding, keep in mind that you will have to create a lid for it while the dessert is steaming.  The best thing to do in this situation is to cover the bowl with a piece of parchment paper, once it's filled with the batter, and then tie it with a piece of butcher's twine.  This can then be covered with a heavy plate or a piece of foil wrap so that condensation doesn't make its way into the pudding.

The tilted steamed pudding mold has been used countless times.
You can see how the simmering water has marked this tin over the years.

Steam pudding molds made from tin come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Some have inner tubes much like bundt pans, but some do not.  These come with lids that are either held down with clasps or with with small indentations on the rims of the tins.

Whether you use a pudding bowl or a pudding tin, find a stockpot that is deep enough to hold the vessel with the pot lid closed.  Find a small round rack (as shown above) to keep the bowl or tin from touching the bottom of the pot as it is steaming.

While you're making the batter, set a teakettle full of water to come to a boil. After you've made the batter and have poured it into your prepared tin or bowl (make sure you've securely closed the vessel), center the pudding onto the rack in the stockpot.  Pour enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pudding tin or bowl.  Set your flame to keep the water at a gentle boil and steam according to your recipe.  In general, steamed puddings made with butter will take anywhere from 1-1/2 hours to 2-1/2 hours to fully cook through.  Back when steamed puddings were made with suet, this took anywhere from 3-4 hours.  All baking times will vary according to the recipe and the size of your pudding(s).  

Steamed Apple Puddings Unmolded

When the puddings are done, make sure that they have rested in their tins or bowls on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before unmolding.  

Steamed Apple Puddings with a Caramel Glaze

Glazed or not, steamed puddings are indescribably tender and very flavorful.  I liken them to bread puddings that resemble small cakes.  They're a good alternative to fruitcakes if you don't happen to like them during the holidays, but they're also great to serve at small dinner parties or gatherings in wintertime. Depending on the recipe and the mold that you've used, a steamed pudding will serve 6-8 people.  

Have you steamed a pudding lately?