A few years ago my generous uncle gifted me a wooden crate packed with vintage molds collected during his travels. Underneath the copper fish mousse molds and gelatin rings were three pristine lidded pudding molds and I just about cried with joy. You see, I have a weakness for vintage recipes, and these three molds represented a new opportunity to try my hand at an old-school dessert technique mostly – and unfortunately – forgotten here in the U.S. I’ve since experimented with several recipes and I’m here to tell you that adding steamed puddings to your repertoire will add a whole new dimension to your desserts; plus, you’ll impress your friends with your “vintage-chic” sensibilities. Feeling like a slave your usual stand-bys? Well, if you’re looking for a sexy dessert, this is your lucky day. I’ve told a few foodie friends that I plan to be the Justin Timberlake of this sweet delight: I’m bringing puddings back.
In the U.K., steamed puddings are commonplace, and a quick internet search can yield a million recipes. My research suggested that there are two schools of steamed puddings: the denser cake-like variety and the impossibly light soufflé permutation. In my recipe testing, I found that each variation offers a unique experience depending on the technique used to prepare them. The denser variety is easier to put together and more rustic in its appeal: it’s what you’ll want after a hearty meal. The soufflé type, slightly more complicated in its technique, is better suited as the crown jewel of an upscale menu. Steamed puddings are generally cheap to make and they’re definitely forgiving in their preparations: so be gone with the shackles of cream pies and cookies for dessert. Steamed puddings make up for the things they lack.
Steamed puddings can be healthy as well, though many of the 18th and 19th century recipes I’m interested in certainly don’t start that way. One French-style recipe required 8 eggs and a quarter pound of butter. “The Black Whale Cookbook,” another killer gift from the same uncle, is a collection of pioneer recipes from the Gaspé coast of Québec. Nestled in a collection of recipes traditional to my Acadian ancestors—including “Sea Bird Pie” and “Dandelions Creamed with Ham” are several old-school pudding recipes. Aside from the blood pudding recipe (yes, you read that right) are ginger puddings made with lard and chocolate puddings bound with breadcrumbs. The resulting puddings were dense and delicious, but unless you too are a pioneer, they’re pretty bad for you.
One intriguing recipe was one calling for blueberries. I realized that with the myriad health benefits blueberries offer, I might be able to produce a tasty yet healthy steamed pudding. So I’ve adapted that recipe here, and my technique is a hybrid of the dense and the soufflé-type puddings. My recipe starts with a low-fat flour-based batter, much like a cake, that is lightened in the end with beaten egg whites. Learning to fold whites into batter is a clutch skill, and this 1 star recipe is a great way to practice; if you mess the technique up or it just misbehaves, you still have a nice end product. Regardless, if you’re not up to the challenge (an overstatement), don’t fret: just whip the ingredients together, add the blueberries, and steam away.
My Blueberry Steamed Pudding is perfect for dessert, but it also makes for a classy brunch component.
It’ll make your guests wonder what else you’ve got behind your back. A forgotten art, steamed puddings can function as a conversation starter, a sweet treat, and a healthy bite. But let’s face it: you know you want to bring puddings back too, so as Justin Timberlake once said, “go ahead be gone with it.”
About the Expert Chef
Erin Dow balances three food worlds. As a mother of three young children, she’s fighting the battle every parent faces: how to keep her kids interested in the foods that keep them healthy.
As the chef and owner of her catering company Eatswell Farm, she utilizes original recipes and techniques–focused on enhancing the enjoyment of locally-sourced ingredients–to best interpret the client’s vision. And as Consulting Executive Chef for Falmouth-based Professional Catering Services, a business specializing in production and backstage catering for concerts, she develops and executes menus that accommodate the strict nutritional requirements of the music industry elite.
Erin and her family raise their own chicken for meat and eggs, have dabbled in pastured Narragansett turkeys, and have a very weedy but very large and productive garden.