Airy and moist British pudding, steamed the traditional way. This Dairy-free, Gluten-free and Paleo recipe is made with ground almonds, suet and honey.
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01. What are Steamed Puddings?
Steamed puddings are made by combining beef suet with milk, sugar, flour and flavourings such as dried fruit or chocolate. The stiff mixture is then spooned into a pudding basin and gently steaming on the stove top for up to 2 hours. Steamed puddings are a British invention, with a pedigree stretching back to the middle ages. Closed cooking ranges, in the form of cast-iron stoves, did not become a fixture of domestic kitchens until the later half of the nineteenth century. Before this, cooking was done in small ovens built into the side of the chimney breast, or in cauldrons suspended over open fires. The cuisine of the day reflected the absence of hot ovens with reliable temperature gauges and affordable cookware. This meant that steamed puddings rather than baked cakes were made in the home, as they could be cooked on an open fire. The mix would be spooned into a damp, floured cloth, shaped into a sphere, and the corners gathered up and tied into a bundle. The pudding could then be immersed in a pan of boiling water and cooked for several hours, without danger of drying out or scorching. Because leavening agents like baking soda and eggs whites require dry heat, suet is used to aerate pudding with a network of tiny air bubbles.
02. What is suet?
Suet is the hard fat that surrounds the kidneys in cattle. Suet is used instead of regular muscle fat because it is flavourless. You should be able to get suet from a good butcher. In its raw form, suet contains membranes and other matter that needs to be removed before it can be used. Your butcher should render the suet for you, so that you are left with a block of pure fat. This should be treated like meat and stored in the fridge. The suet then needs to be shredded into small shavings before it can be used – you can do this using a grater. This is because suet has a high melting point, and chopped cubes will not fully melt and incorporate into the mixture during cooking. You can buy pre-shredded suet from a butcher, or packaged suet from a supermarket, which has been dehydrated so that it can be stored in the cupboard. However, in processed suet, the shreds of fat are coated in flour to stop them from clumping together. This a problem for people who are gluten-intolerant and, more generally, the additional flour will affect the results of the recipe.
03. Why is suet used instead of butter in steamed puddings?
Butter is usually preferred for baking, as it adds richness and flavour. However, animal fat is always used in steamed puddings instead of butter because it has a higher melting point. This means that the pudding batter has time to cook and set around the lumps of suet, before they too cook and dissolve. This leaves behind a network of air bubbles, resulting in a light pudding that is moist rather than greasy. Because suet has a high melting point, it congeals at room temperature. This means that steamed puddings are best eaten warm. If you slice this pudding when it has cooled, it is perfectly tasty but you may see unsightly specks of hard white fat.
04. What gluten-free flour can you use to make a steamed pudding?
Wheat flour is strong, elastic, absorbent and neutral-tasting. This explains why no one ingredient works as a direct replacement, because no one ingredient combines all four of these functions. Shop-bought gluten-free flours are actually a blend of several flours, typically comprising brown rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca flour and potato flour – plus a binding agent like xanthum gum or psyllium husks. Many of the gluten-free flours available have a strong flavour, which effects the taste of the bake (see this guide to gluten-free flours for more information). Ground almonds make an excellent gluten-free replacement in bakes, as it has a complementary sweet and nutty flavour. However, ground almonds are more coarsely ground than wheat flour, which means that bakes made with ground almonds have a denser crumb. Adding a bit of almond flour helps to lighten the mix and create a fluffier texture. Almond flour differs from ground almonds in that the skins are removed and they undergo a finer grind. There is a danger that a pudding may become crumbly and fall apart if the sticky gluten proteins are removed. Egg replicates the sticky properties of gluten, as the proteins contained in the whites coagulate to form a solid mass when heated. Honey is also physically sticky, and helps to bind the mix together.
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for greasing the pudding bowl: