Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A spotted what?!?

I can finally post my first Daring Baker's Challenge recipe!!

The April 2010 Daring Baker's 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.

So what did I make? Spotted Dick.

I'm sure you have plenty of questions right now. Let's tackle them one at a time.

1. What is Daring Baker's? I explained that here. Read it and this will make a lot more sense.

2. What is suet? It's the equivalent of lard, but from a cow (lard is from pigs).  And yes, I made spotted dick using suet. I really wanted to make everything as authentic as I could.  I'm writing up a separate blog post about how to prepare/use suet if you ever want to try this at home.

3. What the hell is Spotted Dick? It's a traditional British pudding (sponge type) with dried fruits. But British pudding isn't the same as the type of pudding you're thinking about. Which leads us to question #4.

4. What's British pudding?  From the Daring Baker's it was defined as: Pudding — any dish cooked in a pudding bowl or pudding cloth normally steamed, boiled but sometimes baked.  It can be sweet or savory and they fall into two main types.

Type 1 puddings: crust type.  This is exactly like preparing a pastry dough (flour + fat + baking powder + water) and rolling it out.  The biggest difference is that you make the "pudding" in a bowl instead of a pie plate (and it's steamed). The dough can have either a sweet or savory filling. I'll be attempting a savory pudding this weekend...

Type 2 puddings: sponge type.  These are sweet and similar to a cake. But because they're steamed the texture comes out quite different.

5. Wow- you're smart! How do you know all this amazing information? I'll be honest, I hadn't even heard of British pudding before reading this challenge and my initial reaction was "meh- this challenge is lame".  But the more I read the more fascinated I became.  I read the info they give us at Daring Baker's forum. I also scoured the interwebs for all the information I could get.  And in the end it was a great experience.  I'm sooo looking forward to these monthly challenges!

I was also pleased because although I tried so many new techniques and recipes for this challenge (rendering suet, making a steamed British pudding, making creme anglaise), everything turned out awesome.

And with that- let's get to the baking.  I've written separate blog posts for the rendered suet and creme anglaise. So here I'll just focus on the delicious spotted dick.

Fresh from the steamer- it was like a pillowy dream. Moist, soft, spongy, mildly sweet with chunks of brandy-soaked dried fruit on top a bed of custardy creme anglaise.

I literally had no idea how this dish would turn out, so my expectations were fairly low.  But the dish didn't just meet those expectations, it actually blew me away.  I don't even know why- I think it was the tender sponginess. Loved it!

The recipe definitely calls for some interesting ingredients.

Grated suet was one of them (ignore the bluish ting in my photo- suet is a true white color)

You'll never guess what the second odd ingredient was...

The second was fresh breadcrumbs.  The recipe called for as much bread as it called for flour!

It seemed so weird but I really had no idea what I was doing so I just blindly followed the recipe. So glad I did.

After mixing the flour, baking powder, breadcrumbs, sugar, salt, suet, egg and milk.  The texture was very similar to a thick oatmeal.

At this point you can stop and just prepare the pudding as is.  But you can also do a million different things to change the recipe up. Add spices, candied citrus peel, dried fruit, zest from citrus, cocoa powder.  Whatever you want- the possibilities are endless!

I decided to do a variation on spotted dick (which usually has raisins or currants) and add dried fruit.  But to give it an extra kick I boozed it up a bit.  Using a dried fruit mix from Trader Joes (chunks of mango, cherries, cranberries and blueberries) I soaked it in brandy for a few days. mmmmmm, liquor....

Then I folded in the fruit and I was done!

Instead of preparing the pudding in a large bowl, I decided to use individual ramekins. Just butter the insides, or spray with baking spray (it's like Pam, but with flour added. Best invention for baking ever!)

Then top each ramekin with a square piece of parchment paper.  This prevents any liquid from the steaming process from gathering on top of your pudding. Halfway through...

Note: If you're going to be steaming the pudding in a larger bowl the process to cover it is a little different.  This video can show you how.

Then, steam your pudding.  To do this you can either use a pan or your slow cooker. All you have to make sure to do is use something to "lift up" your ramekins/bowl so they're not touching the bottom of the pan.

You can use a steamer plate, cookie cutters, or foil rings.  Whatever works.

Here's a pan I have with a steamer plate.

Here's my slow cooker with cookie cutters to lift the ramekins.

Then fill the pot/slow cooker with enough water (~1/3 of the way up the sides of the bowl), bring to a boil (or set temp to high for slow cooker), then reduce heat to make sure it's nice and steamy (leave temp on high for the slow cooker).

I steamed the ramekins for ~1 hour, larger bowls can take 2-4+ hours to steam! It wasn't a big issue for me since they cooked up fast, but if you're doing a long steam just check once and a while to make sure there's enough water in the pan.

Another trick that helps is using a hand-towel under the lid.  This prevents any liquid from gathering on the lid and dripping into your delicious dessert while cooking (or when you remove the lid).

Once its all done, carefully remove from steamer and invert onto a plate.  Serve and eat immediately, preferably with some creme anglaise.

If you don't eat it right away, I found that the pudding can get harder and a bit more "solid," even with just sitting at room temperature.  To soften it up, a quick trip in the microwave works like a charm. Just enough to steam it back into softness.

I also found myself playing around with the plating a bit. It's a dish with such humble origins but can really be jazzed up.

A little leftover liquid from my frozen fruits provides a nice punch of color, along with flavor.

Buen Provecho,

Steamed sponge suet pudding, from Daring Baker's recipe


(100 grams/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
(1/4 teaspoon) salt
(1.5 teaspoons) baking powder
(100 grams/4 ounces) fresh breadcrumbs
(75 grams/3 ounces) sugar
(75 grams/ 3 ounces) shredded suet or suet substitute (i.e., Vegetable Suet, Crisco, Lard)*
(1) large egg
(8-9 tablespoons) cold milk
¼ tsp nutmeg

*fresh (unrendered) suet can be found at some butchers shops.  Read my post about how to render suet yourself. Boxed suet (shelf stable, ready to use) might be found in a market or speciality store- I never really looked to see where I could get it from.


1. Sift flour, salt and baking powder into bowl.
2. Add in breadcrumbs, sugar and shredded suet.
3. Add beaten egg and milk and mix (by hand) to a soft batter.
4. For variations on the recipe, see below.
5. Place mixture into a 1 litre/ 2pint pudding basin (or bowl).  Alternatively, divide equally among 6 ramekins and cover securely with buttered greaseproof parchment paper or aluminum foil.
5. Steam steadily for 2.5 to 3 hours if using a bowl.  Steam ~1 hour if using ramekins.
6. Turn out onto warm plate, serve with sweet sauce to taste such as custard, caramel or a sweetened fruit sauce.


spotted dick: add 3-8 oz fruit (currants, raisins, dried fruit, etc).  I soaked my dry fruit in brandy before adding.

syrup or marmalade pudding: put 2 TBSP of golden syrup or marmalade at the bottom of the bowl before adding the pudding mix (~1/3 TBSP in each ramekin if using)

my fair lady pudding: add finely grated rind of 1 medium orange or lemon.

You can also add candied citrus peel, cocoa, additional spices, etc.


Tamara Marnell said...

The only spotted dick I've seen is the kind in a can, which wasn't too appetizing, but this looks fresh and wonderful! I'm too lazy to go through all that work (especially filtering and shaving the suet) but I can live vicariously through you :D

Jacqueline Benjamin said...


I'm not sure I'm the most exciting person to be living vicariously through. :) If you were interested in the dessert though you could easily substitute the suet with shortening. Or just google for recipes that use butter (it was actually harder to find recipes using suet). Mixing together the cake and steaming it was soooo easy otherwise.

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