As the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen! I love how every time we breeze through a mild December, people act like winter spared us this year. That's never how winter works here. Our frigid season arrived right on schedule, just in time for Valentine's Day.
Here at A Book of Cookrye, as January turned to early February, we gleefully seized on others' complaint that the house was cold and skin-itchingly dry. Instead of wrapping myself in an extra blanket and basting myself in lotion, I snatched the chance to boil a massive pot of water for four hours in the name of dessert!
We decided to revisit the Golden Treasure Pudding, but this time we would actually boil it like a proper pudding. After all, the recipe is called Golden Treasure Pudding, not Golden Treasure Cake. Baking your pudding like cake is for lazy people (or anyone with common sense). Therefore, we are bringing a bit of traditional Britain over the Atlantic and into our kitchen. I don't know much about traditional British foods, but it seems oddly appropriate that our little foray into the UK involves boiling our food for multiple long hours.
|Golden Treasure Pudding|
½ cup butter
1 cup molasses
1 cup finely cut figs, or the dried fruit of your choice*
Grated rind of ½ lemon
1 cup sour milk†
½ tsp baking soda
2½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
Heat oven to 325°. Grease a 9" square pan. Or, leave the oven cold and alone, and instead bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put something in the pot, like a small rack or a layer of loosely wadded foil, so the pudding won't touch the bottom of it and burn. Have a pudding cloth ready.
Combine dry ingredients, set aside.
Beat butter until creamy and light. Gradually add molasses, beating the whole time. Then add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat the whole mixture well afterward.
Add sour milk, mix well. Then mix in the figs.
Sift the dry ingredients onto the mixture, then stir just until mixed.
Spread into the pan and bake 1 hour.
Or, dip your pudding-cloth in boiling water and immediately coat it in flour. Then mound the batter in the center of the rag. Bring the edges of the cloth together in the center and tie it up with cotton twine. Put a lump of flour in the top of the cloth where you tie it up, and be sure to leave room in the bag for the pudding to expand. Boil for two hours. Allow to cool a bit before untying the bag and freeing the pudding.
This is best if you make it at least a day before you serve it. The flavors of the spices gets a lot stronger as the cake sits overnight. Serve warm with Golden Sauce.
½ cup butter
¼ cup thin cream‡
1 cup brown sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
In a small saucepan, beat butter with sugar and salt. Gradually beat in cream. Add lemon juice and nutmeg.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Taste to make sure no sugar grains remain.
Keep refrigerated. Any leftover sauce freezes very well, and is very good on top of pound cakes, vanilla ice cream, and a lot of other things. The sauce reheats in the microwave very well.
*The recipe says "finely cut," but I recommend you leave them in big pieces. The figs' flavor kind of disappears when you cut them too small.
†I used sour cream.
‡I used half-and-half.
B. A. Tindall, 511 Greenwood Ave, Trenton, New Jersey; Philadelphia Inquirer Recipe Exchange, January 10 1936, page 11
We made two changes to the recipe. First, in the interest of economizing, we used raisins instead of dried figs. Second, keeping in mind that the previous Golden Treasure needed a day for the flavor to ripen, I thought I might circumvent the overnight flavor delay by melting the butter, stirring in the spices, and letting it sit out for a while to hopefully infuse. This would end up making no difference, so if you want a bit of Golden Treasure in your own kitchen, you needn't bother with unnecessary steps.
But let's get to the fun part. Having chosen a ratty, worn-out T-shirt, we would briefly elevate it to a higher purpose before sending it to the municipal hereafter! I think "olde-English pudding bag" is a more interesting final use than the rag bin.
We had what I thought was the perfect pot for our boiled undertaking until I realized lacked a lid. It turns out the lid is surprisingly crucial to boiling a pudding. It won't cook right without one. Half of the pudding will keep bobbing above the water, and you really need to trap the steam in the pot long enough to cook it while the other half of the pudding is immersed and getting boiled. I tried to improvise a lid with foil, but I don't think it worked well. Does putting foil over a lidless pot ever really work?
With our pot as covered as we could get it, we left the pudding to steam until... well, I didn't know how long I should leave it to boil in the pot. The kitchen soon smelled like laundry day and spice cake at the same time. It turns out that without a lid to put on the pot, these things are a lot fussier than they should be. You can't drop it in the water and leave it. You must regularly check the water level (you did remember to keep a second pot of boiling water ready to add to the main attraction at a moment's notice, right?), turn the pudding over so that the cold side gets cooked, and otherwise keep coming back to the stove and fussing over the thing.
I should note that most of my boiled pudding problems were self-inflicted due to the aforementioned uncovered pot. Foil is not a substitute for a lid. It either drips all over the place, or the steam literally pushes it up and off of the pot. Either way, foil is useless. The lack of a pot lid was particularly galling because the pot was otherwise perfect for boiling a pudding. It was even big enough to accommodate the platform we used for keeping our pudding from touching the bottom of the pot. You may recognize it from when we used it as a rack for roasting our duck. This pot can fit anything.
To me, the most irksome part of boiling a pudding is that there's no way to check if it's done. You can slide a half-baked cake back into the oven, but you can't tie this dripping hot mess back together and return it to the pot if it's not quite cooked. I ended up letting it boil two hours and hoped it was right. The smell started to change around the end of our "baking" time, which seemed as good a sign as any that our pudding was done.
We undid the strings of the ex-shirt and found that our boiled pudding looked like the waste from an autopsy.
I know people write about boiled puddings having a "pudding-skin," but so British people really crown their Christmas tables with something that looks like this?
I asked two British friends what they thought of it. One of them said he wouldn't know because no one does boiled puddings anymore. The other more or less said that our pudding was aesthetically correct.
With that in mind, I have to wonder why boiled puddings haven't made the leap from Christmas to Halloween. No amount of fondant artistry could produce a cake that so convincingly looks like the vital organs of the damned.
|This pudding looks like we've gone from cooking to medical photography.|
If you look closely, you can see that the shirt left jersey-knit impressions in the alleged pudding.
As for the taste, this pudding was exactly the same as the one we baked. My attempts to make the pudding flavorful without waiting overnight by spice-infusing the butter didn't work. Just like the previous Golden Treasure Pudding, our boil-in-bag version was bland the day we cooked it and delicious the day after.
Also, it didn't look so bad after you cut it up and served it. A lot of the credit for the pudding's good looks goes to the Golden Sauce, which apparently makes anything photogenic.
If you're cooking for people who don't get squeamish over unfortunate-looking foods, boiling a pudding in a rag is an entertaining edible craft project on a cold night (or day). You get a delicious albeit repulsive cake out of it. Besides, the steaming pot will make the kitchen (and a good deal of the adjacent house) wonderfully cozy. If, for whatever reason, boiling your pudding like Charles Dickens is still alive seems a bit ambitious for you, keep in mind that Mr. BA Tindall got a $2 basket of groceries (which is like $45 today) and his name in the newspaper for baking the pudding instead.