Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April Daring Bakers Challenge - Traditional British Steamed Pudding

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.

Really when first realised that Esther of The Lilac Kitchen  wanted us to make a steamed pudding with suet I had two thoughts -  steaming, well, that's nothing new and suet - what a heart clogging ingredient! I was almost tempted to opt out of this challenge. Probably this is my thought every time but never more so than this time. Being Australian, steamed puddings are quite normal at Christmas with many people still following British tradition.  In fact I really enjoy a good Christmas plum pudding being first introduced to pudding when my widowed father remarried a lady of traditional British heritage. While cooking is not my stepmother's strong point her Christmas pudding is excellent. However it does not use suet and I was reluctant to use it for health reasons.

So, what is "suet". Suet is the raw beef fat from around the loins and kidneys of the beast. It has a low melting point but is solid at room temperature. Traditionally it is used in steamed pudding and in the pastry of steamed pudding such as steak and kidney pudding where the pastry lines the pudding bowl then is filled with meat and a lid of suet pastry seals the pudding. These puddings are generally steamed for three or four hours. You can read more about suet here.

Never would I have realised how foreign steaming a pudding seems to many people. Steamed puddings are generally steamed in a purpose made bowl which is covered with greased paper and foil and secured with kitchen string. The pudding is lowered into simmering water which should come halfway up the sides of the bowl. The bowl sits on a trivet, scrunched foil or even a folded tea towel int the pot so it does not come into contact with the direct heat. The pot is covered with the lid and the pudding allowed to steam for 3 or 4 hours as required. For detailed instructions follow this site.

I have to say our host Esther was very obliging and gave heaps of scope and options for those who chose not to use suet. To be honest I was only ever going to do one chocolate pudding using butter which would easily be enjoyed by the whole family.

Yes, it was enjoyed by everyone but I felt it was a little too chocolatey, dry and certainly could be improved. Here is the recipe if you would like to follow my journey.

While checking out other Daring Bakers completed puddings I was impressed with a particular steamed jam pudding by Renata Lacerda of Testado, Provado & Aprovado. Renata is a Brazilian currently living in South Korea and new to Daring Bakers. Renata's pudding looked like everything a steamed pudding should be - moist, dense and lusious! 

Then I remembered the cute and colourful mini pudding bowls I had purchase recently while on holidays.

And my mind started to create and imagine possibilities and combinations.

The basic pudding mix I followed was:
180g sugar
180g butter
180g flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
5 tablespoons milk or more if required

Mixing all the ingredients for about 3 minutes in the stand mixer.
Then I divided the mixture into five equal portions. 

Into the bottom of the first pudding bowl I arranged some candied kumquats  and mixed a little of the chopped kumquats and a spoonful of kumquat liquer. Yes, we have an abundance of kumquats growing in our back yard at the moment.

Homemade mulberry jam spooned into the bottom of the next bowl topped off with the pudding mixture into which was stirred one tablespoon of almond meal.

Thinly sliced pineapple sat of top of a brown sugar and butter mix then was topped with the pudding mixture into which was stirred 1 tablespoon of dessicated coconut and a spoonful of white rum.

Of course, I had to satisfy my Nutella obsessed son by spooning Nutella into the bottom of the bowl and topping with pudding mixture into which was stirred 1 tablespoon of ground hazelnuts. YUM!

More brown sugar and butter into the bottom of the last bowl topped with walnuts and pudding mixture flavoured with a spoonful of extra strong coffee.

To steam the puddings I placed some scrunched foil in the bottom of my electric frying pan which was half filled with boiling water. Each pudding was covered with a square of silicone baking paper, then a square of foil and secured with kitchen string. Once the water in the frying pan was boiling I carefully place each pudding bowl securely onto the scrunched foil, covered with the lid and let them simmer for 45 minutes. Be sure to grease the pudding bowls well. I also put a circle of greased paper in the bottom of each bowl.

The puddings were lovely and every thing I wanted a steamed pudding to be though very delicate and didn't come out of the pudding bowls as easily as they should have. I have since discovered that the recipe acutally required 3 eggs and not just the one. Oh well! 

In our hot tropical climate steaming for long periods of time is not generally the prefered method of cooking though I will continue to use this method for individual puddings which require less steaming time.

Thanks to our generous host Esther and be sure to check out Renata LaceradaC Mom Cook and many other Daring Bakers who dared to complete the April Challenge!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Broccoli Pasta

You get home late, everyone is hungry and the nearest take away resturant seems to be the obvious choice. But it doesn't have to be.  I like this delicious, quick meal for times such as this. As long as you have a couple of broccoli heads in the refrigerator along with the pantry staples of pasta, garlic and bottled anchovies you have a great easy dinner. Top it off with fabulous parmesan reggiano or gran padano.  Buonissimo!
 The method is simple and variable to your taste. This is mine!
 Firstly take two heads of broccoli, break it into flowerettes and wash them well.
Put a large pot of water, well salted, on to boil. Meanwhile in a cold frying pan put a good 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil,  4 finely chopped cloves of garlic and 3 or 4 fillets of bottled anchovies. Slowly heat the pan up over the flame, crushing the anchovies until they melt into the mixture. At this point everyone should be gathering into the kitchen to find out what exactly is for dinner because it smells so good!
When your pot of water is boiling rapidly add the broccoli.
By now the anchovies will have melted and amalgamated well with the garlic and oil. Don't burn your garlic! Add a spoonful of chopped chillies if you like heat.
When your broccoli is tender remove with a slotted spoon and add to your pan of oil, garlic and anchovies. Cook 500g pasta of choice in the same water that the broccoli was cooked in until al dente.
I always add a few spoonfuls of tomato passata but that is your choice. Simmer for a few minutes for the flavours to meld. Taste, always taste! Adjust the seasoning if needed - a grind of pepper will be a must!
Drain the pasta and mix with the broccoli sauce adding a good handful of parmesan. Please use a really good freshly grated cheese not the cardboard, smelly stuff the comes pregrated in cheese shakers!
Call everyone to the table and serve with extra parmesan.
 In our household this is enough for about 4 hungry people!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pesche Dolci

Special occasion. Family gatherings. Celebrations. What to make? Do you ever have that dilema? Or are you the sort of person who is always expected to bring your special dish you are famous for? If you are reading this most likely you're like me - always on the look out for the next best recipe, that ultimate dish!
Recently I knew I wanted to bring something special to a family gathering celebrating the engagement of my niece and I knew just where to look. One of my favourite bloggers is Laura at Broxholm Road. Laura is not the most prolific blogger and sometimes I wait anxiously for her next recipe. Instead when Laura posts a recipe you know it's worth persuing. I say persuing because, as in this recipe, some ingredients are not always readily available and substitutions may need to be made.
Peche Dolci mean "sweet peaches" in Italian - so named after the sweet peaches these pastries resemble. A little research on the subject brought to light the fact that they are often made for special occasions such as weddings, at Christmas or Easter. Obviously the reason being because they aren't whipped up in half an hour. These treats take some time to make as do all good things. A sweet of Northern Italy, they are also traditional in Austria and other Eastern Euopean countries filled with a variety of combinations of jam, chocolate and pastry cream.
I have slightly adapted Laura's recipe for Peche Dolce as it called for Alkermes liquor which is not something usually obtainable outside Italy. When I was a child, my dear late mother regularly made a delicous Zuppa Inglese using Cherry brandy soaked savoiardi biscuits so I followed her example and substituted this for the Alkermes liquor. As a leavening agent use baking powder or self raising flour if you can't find the typical Italian leavening. I used my own recipe for vanilla creme patissiere and a chocolate ganache instead of the Nutella suggested in the original recipe. I used dark chocolate but I think next time I would prefer the mild taste of milk chocolate. You can also try them with peach preserves or maybe good raspberry jam. Be sure to not overcook the biscuits as they need to be really soft.
The result is a sugary crusted soft cake-like biscuit filled with a creamy chocolatey centre scented with the Cherry brandy which are a delight to the senses. Do try them! It makes lots!

Peche Dolci


600g Plain Flour
300g Caster Sugar
100g Butter, softened at room temperature 
4 Eggs
Vanilla essence
1 sachet of Bertolini Lievito Vaniglinato or a similar instant leavening agent for desserts
Cherry brandy
Crema Pasticcera
 Half cream half chocolate ganache or Nutella

First of all prepare the Crema Pasticcera according to the link in my Cannoli post.  Place some clingfilm over the surface and chill. The clingfilm will prevent a skin from forming.

Grease an oven tray and preheat the oven to 180C. Put the eggs and sugar into a food mixer and whisk for about 10-15 minutes. Add the softened butter and the vanilla essence and continue to whisk to obtain a soft and creamy mixture. Sift the flour. Gently fold the flour into the egg mixture.

Make little dough balls (approx. 20 grams each) and place them onto the greased oven tray.

 Cook for 7 minutes.At this point they will not seem cooked enough but they are really meant to be soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool down a little bit. 

Make a little hole with a small sharp knife into each peach half and discard what you remove or use in another recipe (maybe rum balls)  and fill one with Crema Pasticcera and one with chocolate ganache. Join the two halves together.

Dip each peach into Cherry brandy. Then roll in granulated sugar.

Place the peaches in cupcake cases and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. They will soften beautifully. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Marshmallow Easter Bunny

Easter is here! Easter has different meanings for everyone. For many a great four day weekend for boating, fishing and camping. For others - a family gathering that may only come once or twice a year. And for quite a few of us the most important event on the religious calendar when our Lord Jesus died on the cross for us. For many children it is a time of great feasting on chocolate bunnies and eggs!  And why not, it is a time of rejoicing and celebrating.

Every year I have a bit of fun producing this family of marshmallow bunnies for my children. Sometimes they help - more often than not they just simply devour!

These bunny molds are easily available from good kitchen shops in large, medium and small sizes.

After oiling the molds ( and the instructions that come with the molds specifically says not to oil but I am yet to find someone who can remove the marshmallow without oiling so ignore that) I make a simple marshmallow recipe adapted from the Womens Weekly Cookbook.

1 1/2 tablespoons gelatine
95ml cup cold water
190ml hot water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice 

Put cold water in bowl. Gradually stir in gelatine; let stand 5 minutes. Put hot water and sugar in large saucepan Bea sure to use a fairly large saucepan because as it boils it will come up the sides quite quickly so watch it carefully. Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Add gelatine mixture, stir over low heat until gelatine has dissolved. Bring to boil, boil gently uncovered, 9 minutes. Remove pan from heat, let cool to lukewarm. Put mixture into bowl of electric mixer, add vanilla and lemon juice. Beat on high speed 5 minutes or until thick and creamy. It may take longer if it is still a bit warm.


You can colour and flavour your marshmallow any way you like. I prefer the lemony, vanilla taste so I leave it plain. Now this quantity should fill a large bunny, 2 medium bunnies and 4 baby bunnies with a little bit let over for the cook!
Set the marshmallow in the fridge.

The bunnies will remove easily (if you remembered to oil the molds!) by holding the mold in one hand and picking up the exposed marshmallow on the tips of your fingers. A very sticky job, indeed!
Don't panic if there are air bubbles on your  marshmallow, a bit of food colour and a ton of coconut will hide everything.

This part is the fun bit.Get out all your food colour a couple of paint brushes and call the kids! You can really do what you want but  I like to outline the features of the bunnies in some very unrealistic colours!

Then all you need to do is roll your bunnies in coconut and arrange on some green tinted coconut  "grass".


So from my family to yours have a safe, happy and blessed Easter.