“Ah, what an excellent thing is an English pudding!” raved Monsieur Misson de Valbourg, during a visit to England from France in the 1690s. While it’s unclear about which “pudding” de Valbourg rhapsodized, it is clear that there are vast numbers of ribsticking creations that get lumped under the deceptively simple title. Ancient pudding renditions included gruel-like mixtures of grain and fruit, and milky porridges served on holiday. But those simple dishes evolved to much tastier fare. Adrian Bailey, writing in TimeLife Book’s 1969, “The Cooking of the British Isles” defined a pudding as “any sweet, filling and satisfying dish that follows the main course.” Today, a pudding may mean anything from baked and fried dough, to steamed cakes, iced creams, syllabubs and flummeries.
For my first adventure into traditional British pudding land, I decided to make a traditional steamed pudding, updated just a bit to include butter in the batter (instead of suet), and a browned butter sauce topper. According to Sara Paston Williams, author of the 1983, “National Trust Book of Traditional Puddings,” College pudding–also known as Cambridge pudding, is reputed to have been the first pudding boiled in a cloth. Studded with currants, raisins and candied orange peel, this tasty pudding has been served to college kids in Cambridge and Oxford since 1617.
Makes 6 servings
College Pudding Ingredients
- 1, 2-quart steamed pudding mold
- 1 1/2 cup self-rising flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp each cloves & mace
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup fresh brown-bread crumbs (2 slices bread, crusts trimmed)
- 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) finely chopped unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1/4 cup candied orange peel
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 eggs beaten
- 3/4 cup whole milk
Browned Butter Sauce Ingredients
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
- Butter inside and lid of a 2-quart pudding basin. Set aside. NOTE: When the pudding is finished steaming, there will still be a few inches of space between the finished pudding and the lid.
- Sift flour, spices and salt together. Pulse bread in a food processor to make into crumbs. Stir into dried ingredients. Pour all into bowl of food processor. Add sugar and pulse. Add butter and pulse until incorporated. Remove to mixing bowl. Stir in beaten egg and milk. Stir in raisins, currants and orange peel. Pour into pudding mold.
- In a cooking pot with 1 1/2 inch clearance around the sides of the pudding mold, heat 3 inches of water to boiling. Place filled pudding mold into boiling water. Turn heat down to low; simmer. Cover cooking pot and simmer pudding for 2 hours, checking level of water occasionally to insure you maintain water level at about 1/3 up the outside of the pudding mold.
- Remove pudding mold to a cooling rack.
- While pudding cools, make browned butter sauce. Heat butter in small saucepan until golden brown. Whisk in powdered sugar and evaporated milk until smooth. Add a bit of salt to taste.
- Unmold pudding onto a decorative plate. Drizzle some of the browned butter sauce over the top of the pudding. Serve pudding immediately with additional sauce.