I love to bake. But would I consider myself a daring baker? I’m not so sure. Would I make a croissant from scratch? Fuss with the endless layers of an Opera cake? Or be brave enough to tackle homemade marcarons? In theory, yes. But in the actualities of day-to-day life, the simple recipes are just so much, well, simpler. It is time to step it up.
I want to be daring. I want to learn. I want to be able to stare down a recipe with the intensity of a defensive linebacker. I want to bake by buns off. That’s why I finally joined Daring Bakers, a community of food bloggers all looking to challenge their baking skills. Each month, every member cooks the recipe chosen by the host and posts about it. Sometimes it’s a traditional recipe. Other times it’s a difficult one. But more often than not it’s a challenge that hits the sweet spot just beyond your comfort zone. And it’s a chance to make something you’ve never made before.
The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge proves it. It 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.
As Esther explained, suet is the hard but flaky fat found on the inside of a cow or sheep around the kidneys. Um. Hmmmm. I’m not so sure I want to be daring anymore. Where’s my white flag?
Using this very traditional ingredient required not only a trip to the butcher, but also a steel stomach. Something this near-vegetarian is not so sure she has. Once you got a hold of the suet, you would have to separate the fat from the membrane and then render it by chopping or grating it and putting it in a pan until completely melted. And after that, pour it into a sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove all the little bits of membrane so you’re left with pure fat.
I realize that the whole point of these challenges is to try something new, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Luckily, Esther catered to the squeamish. “For those going “Yuck! Fat from the inside of an animal … no thank you!”, I have some good news… Crisco.” Ah, yes. Now that sounds more like it. Still not my ingredient of choice in my usual attempts to eat healthy, but it will just have to do.
With vegetable fat in hand, I was ready. Esther gave us free reign in the pudding flavors and fillings department. Sweet or savory (yes they can be made with mincemeat or steak too), we had our pick. I chose to go with ginger. Because I love ginger, especially ginger desserts, and I also happened to have some crystallized ginger in the house and thought this would be a good excuse to use it up.
The only mandatory (besides using suet or a vegetable substitution) was that the pudding had to be steamed.
This was the best part of the challenge, in my opinion. I’ve never cooked any sort of dessert by steaming it. For 1 ½ hours. I used a pasta pot that came with a steamer basket, and found a glass bowl that fit in it (test it out before you begin to make sure it will work). It was a unique and interesting method, and despite the handful of Crisco, it’s a recipe I would make again.
The outcome was crumbly, gingery, moist and quite good. The texture reminded me of a graham cracker crust. The taste was like a cross between a shortbread cookie and a scone, although nowhere near as dry. It’s the perfect pairing for a cup of tea. I shared it with some fellow ginger fans at work, and it was a hit. If you like ginger as much as I do, how can you go wrong?
Oriental Ginger Pudding
Recipe courtesy of The Pudding Club
180 grams self-rising flour
A pinch of salt
1 ½ heaping teaspoons ground ginger
90 grams shredded suet (or a vegetable substitute like Crisco)
45 grams packed light brown sugar
45 grams preserved ginger, drained and chopped (I used crystallized ginger instead)
3 tablespoons Golden Syrup, warmed
1 egg, beaten
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and ground ginger. Mix in the suet (or Crisco), sugar and chopped ginger. Add the warmed syrup and the egg and mix well. Transfer to a greased pudding basin (or glass bowl), cover securely with foil and steam for 1 ½ hours.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the gram conversions for this recipe. I have this amazing measuring cup from my grandmother that measures grams for all different types of ingredients (flour, sugar, liquid, etc.). Don’t know if you can buy something like that anymore. If you find one, please let me know! Also, I had never used Golden Syrup before, but I found it at my regular grocery store, so hopefully it’s easy to find (Lyle’s is the signature brand). It’s a delicious ingredient and nothing like corn syrup. It’s an all natural syrup made from cane sugar, and it has a nuttier, more toffee-like flavor, but is very delicate at the same time. Not too sweet. I’ll have to find another good recipe for it and do another post soon.
One last note. One of my coworkers suggested embracing the graham cracker crust idea by crumbling up the finished pudding, pressing it into the edges of a spring-form pan, and topping it off with ginger flavored cheesecake. Not a bad idea at all. I’ll have to add that to my list for next time. Phew. My first official daring challenge is officially done!