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.
I’ve never been one f0r deadlines. I was always the kid who was up all night with a pot of coffee the night before a big exam, or mysteriously sick the day a term paper was due. While I love the idea of Daring Bakers and have participated in several (most even on time!), the posting date always sneaks up on me and I usually find myself scrambling. I’ve missed the last couple DB challenges (shh, don’t tell the blogroll moderator) and thought I would miss this one as well, but I got a last-minute burst of inspiration.
Our hostess gave us a choice between a sweet or savory pudding (note: in Britspeak, “pudding” has a much more general meaning than in the U.S.), and gave total free reign with the fillings/ flavorings. The dessert puddings looked much more foolproof, but the savory ones appealed to me more. Besides, I was fascinated by the idea that you could steam a pastry crust and it would come out browned and/ or flaky. I decided to go with a fairly simple steak & mushroom filling; I used the hostess’s dough recipe and then made up my own filling based on looking at a few other recipes. I went to Western Market in Ferndale for the ingredients because they recently started carrying local beef (from C. Roy Meats in Yale, MI). I was also able to pick up organic lettuce and MI asparagus and mushrooms there. (The mushrooms were Aunt Mid’s, which I know is a local brand- not sure if they’re grown here or just packaged here.) Last but not least, I used Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout both in the recipe and to quaff along with dinner. Cheers!
The main part of the challenge was to make a pastry dough using suet. When I asked for suet at the butcher counter, they gave me (for free) several hunks of beef fat; however, I’m not really sure if it qualified as suet based on the description given in the challenge. The challenge hostess made it sound as if you could just crumble it up as-is; however, what I had needed to be rendered to be usable, as it still contained a lot of connective tissue and even a bit of meat. But I just set it over low heat and filtered the liquid fat through cheesecloth, then stuck it in the freezer to chill. The pastry “recipe” was really loose, with specific amounts given for the fat and flour but not for the water. I think I added too much water because I ended up with a pretty sticky dough which I had to flour quite a bit in order to roll out.
For the filling, I just used cubed chuck steak, mushrooms, a yellow onion, salt, pepper, some fresh thyme, a few dashes Worcestershire sauce, and a bit of stout to moisten it all. I tossed the meat in a couple Tbs of flour so that a gravy would be produced when the meat & veg released their juices, and it worked perfectly. Fortunately the quantities I used were also just the right amount to fit perfectly into my 2-quart bowl!
For my steaming apparatus I just used a stockpot with a pasta insert- this worked great because I could easily monitor the water level and lift the insert (with the pudding in it) in and out of the water. The directions said to steam the pudding for anywhere from 2 ½ hours to 5 hours… I steamed it for about 3 ½ but by then it was getting late and we needed to eat before it got ridiculously late. Unfortunately my crust didn’t get fully cooked, I’m not sure if a longer cooking time would have helped, or if it was simply because I had used too much water in the dough. It had the consistency of a dumpling more than a flaky crust. Still, the filling was so good that we just picked around the dough and mostly ate the meat and sauce. I have a little leftover dough that I may use to make some other small pie, but I may try baking it instead and see how that turns out. Cheers to Esther for a great challenge!
Steak & Mushroom Pudding with Stout
a 2-quart bowl, at least as tall as it is wide
a stockpot with a pasta insert (barring this, you may have to improvise some sort of rack to keep the bowl off the bottom of the pan- an overturned plate, a trivet, etc.)
1 quantity suet pastry (you can get Esther’s recipe here, just scroll down)
1 lb cubed chuck (approx. 1-inch pieces are good)
8 oz button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (if larger, cut them in sixths or eighths)
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
about 2 Tbs flour
a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
about ⅓ cup stout beer
salt & pepper
I did have some difficulty getting the suet crust to turn out via the steaming method, but as I said, I’m not sure whether it needed to cook longer or whether I just used too much water in the dough. You may want to read around some of the other Daring Bakers posts to get some clarification! I can, however, fully vouch for the filling, which was delicious.
Fill the stockpot with water enough to come about a third of the way up the sides of your bowl (put the insert with the bowl in while you’re filling it so you can check the level). Remove the bowl and insert and set the pot of water to boil.
Put the mushrooms, onion, and thyme in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the flour over the steak until well-coated (I like to use a tea strainer so there are no lumps). Add the steak to the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle in the Worcestershire (I’d say a scant tablespoon). Season generously with salt and pepper, tossing to mix.
Grease your bowl. Set aside ¼ of the dough. Roll out the remaining dough and line your pudding bowl with it (you will likely have extra if you use the recipe I did). Place the filling in the bowl and pour the stout over the top. Roll out the remaining dough and place it over the top, sealing it around the edges. Take a large square of foil or wax paper and place it over the top of the bowl; secure with string or a rubber band. Arrange it so that it “poufs” up and does not touch the dough (mine did touch, and tore the crust when I removed it. Boo!) .
Place the bowl in the pasta insert and lower it into the boiling water. Put the lid on and steam until the crust is cooked, 3 to 5 hours (it will turn from a pasty white to a golden brown). Check the water level a couple times and top off if necessary; it shouldn’t fall below the bottom of the bowl. When done, invert the bowl onto a plate and serve.
The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800′s in England.
As usual, I left this month’s Daring Bakers challenge until the last possible minute! Fortunately, it was a pretty easy one to throw together. We made a Bakewell Tart, which I am to understand is a classic British dessert (or “pudding”, as they say across the pond). It’s basically a pastry crust with a layer of jam spread on top, filled with a batter of eggs, butter & ground almonds (aka frangipane). Thanks to the help of my food processor and stand mixer, I was able to put this together Thursday after work and before band practice. (I went up north Friday, so had to have it done before we left.) Fortunately, the intense heat of the past couple days subsided just in time for me to heat up my kitchen with a 400-degree oven!
The results of my tart were somewhat mixed. It’s hard to say if it was successful since I’ve never tried or seen one of these with the exception of looking at other DBers’ photos, but the first thing I noticed was that my frangipane didn’t puff up whatsoever; it was fairly dense. Also, the quantity of pastry crust called for seemed much more suitable to a 10 or 10.5″ tart pan rather than a 9″ (I used the whole quantity as specified, and ended up with a pretty thick crust that didn’t fully cook through).
Perhaps I would have had a better result if I had cooked the tart 5 minutes or so longer, but the top looked slightly browned and felt firm so I thought it was done. However, my crust ended up pretty pale. I don’t want to call the result a “fail”, but it just wasn’t to my taste. I’m not a fan of baked goods that seem so moist that you feel you’re almost eating raw batter (I can’t stand doughy cookies or overly “fudgy” brownies), and this tart was verging on that texture. I was, however, quite pleased with the flavor combination I chose. I used apricot-orange preserves from Trader Joe’s for the jam, and the flavors of the fruit paired brilliantly with the almonds.
Verdict: If you’re a fan of almonds, and are looking for a fairly easy dessert recipe to put together, I would give this a go. You may just want to bake it a little longer, or possibly add another tbs of flour if you prefer a less damp texture. Also, the ground almonds I used were not skinned, so perhaps that’s why my tart had a denser texture (although the recipe did not specify skinned ground almonds). I think skinned almonds would have lent a more refined appearance and possibly allowed the frangipane to puff up more.
6/29 Update: I went away for the weekend and stuck the remainder of my tart in the fridge; I had a piece today, cold, and liked it much better! The texture was more like a firm bar cookie rather than a squidgy undercooked tart.