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A few fortunate cooks may have a fluted pudding steamer with a built-in lid that clamps on. Most cooks, though, will have to improvise. Steamed pudding, which is more popular across the pond than in the United States, is a cakey, sweet treat that quickly becomes addictive. The creamy batter is cooked in a pudding steamer mold, often for several hours, over a simmering pot of water.
Many Americans have never tasted plum pudding, but most are familiar with it from holiday songs and nursery rhymes. The name suggests the dessert itself will be a creamy concoction, but that’s not exactly so. Plum pudding’s dense cake is typically served with a lemony sauce that, in combination with the pudding itself, creams it up.
If the cook doesn’t have a ready-made pudding steamer at hand, anything from a glass bowl to a tin can will do. Whatever the mold, though, it’s important to make sure it can stand the heat so it doesn’t crack or explode. The steamer mold must be well buttered so that the finished product will slide out in all its perfection. To make the cake extra pretty, many cooks choose a mold with flutes and swirls.
Once the pudding steamer has been filled with batter, a tinfoil lid must be fashioned and firmly attached unless the steamer comes equipped with a clamp-on lid. The mold is set on a trivet or rack in a pot of boiling water. The water should come up approximately to the halfway point on the steamer. It’s important for the pot to get checked once in a while to make sure there’s sufficient water. This is especially important for steamed puddings that require two or more hours to cook.
Steamed puddings will expand as they cook. The wise cook will allow a little space for ballooning puddings in the foil top. It’s a good idea to butter them well so the batter doesn’t stick.
The choice of material for the pudding steamer will contribute to the length of cooking time. Some pudding steamers are stainless steel, aluminum, or other metals. These will cook the pudding considerably faster than those that are constructed of ceramic.
The art of using a steamer is indeed an art. As the length of cooking time depends upon the steamer’s construction material and shape, the intensity with which the water is creating steam, and the density of the batter, it takes culinary sensitivity to determine when the pudding is done. Inserting a knife in a few spots is the old-school method that works best. If the knife comes out clean, the pudding is ready to pull, briefly cool, and take out of the mold.