1.28.13 What's For Pudding?

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photos by gluttonforlife
As you may well know from being an Anglophile or watching Bridget Jones, the Brits use "pudding" as a generic term for dessert. It's a bit perplexing given that no shortage of actual pudding is served for pudding there, but it's a rather comforting word and in the end there doesn't seem to have been too much confusion. But to further complicate things, what we call pudding they would most likely refer to as custard. No matter; I think we can all agree that steamed puddings—the stuff of Dickens novels and old-time American holidays—are simply delicious. You don't see them on menus much any more, but with so many traditional folkways and recipes being reclaimed, it wouldn't surprise me if we were in for a resurgence. And we should be. If you've never made a steamed pudding, it will be a revelation. All you do is stir together a batter, pour it into a mold or casserole and steam it. It emerges thick, dense and slightly sticky, ready to be eaten warm topped with a cool cloud of cream. From the rich spices to the stovetop preparation, for dessert or breakfast, steamed pudding is the ultimate winter indulgence.
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the persimmon, sometimes known as "God's pear"
It's also a great vehicle for whatever's knocking about your pantry. Besides some eggs, butter and flour (gluten-free works just fine), you can add fruit purees, dried fruits and nuts, molasses or honey, chocolate and any combination of spices. (Those of you who have Reims can substitute it for the cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom in this recipe!) I made this molasses-cranberry version a couple of Christmases ago and was instantly smittten with the whole concept. Recently I had a few super-ripe hachiya persimmons to use up and realized their soft, sweet pulp would be perfect in a steamed pudding.
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the beautiful star-shaped calyx is often still attached to the fruit
Persimmons 790 xxx
orange is commonly associated with amusement, the unconventional, extroverts and danger
There is a type of persimmon native to the Northeast, and the word derives from the Algonquin pessamin, meaning "dry fruit." It does, in fact, dry well and can be preserved in thin slices. I find the taste a bit insipid, but it adds a rich sweetness when used in baked goods. There are two types of persimmon commonly sold in markets here: fuyu, which is round with a flattened top and bottom, and hachiya, which is shaped more like an acorn. Fuyu are best eaten when still crisp; hachiya is highly astringent and must be ripened until soft and custardy to be palatable.
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as you can surmise by its color, persimmon is rich in beta carotene
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one from my collection of vintage molds
Part of the reason I was initially inspired to make a steamed pudding is that I had come across some of these vintage molds in a junk shop upstate. I love their patina and their shapes. I've used them to make aspic and it's always such a thrill when your finished dish plops out in one perfect piece.
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another design with a clip-on top
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go nuts
This persimmon pudding is stuffed with golden raisins, toasted pecans and sharp crystallized ginger.
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batter up
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after steaming
You pour the thick batter into a well-greased mold (there are tons of vintage ones for sale on ebay) or heatproof bowl, cover it and lower it gently onto a rack set into a pot of hot water, so that the water comes about halfway up the sides of the mold. Then you put the lid on the pot and walk away, letting the pudding steam for about 3 hours. I accidentally forgot mine for an additional hour-and-a-half and it still turned out just fine! So forgiving.
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pudding perfection
You let it cool for a bit before unmolding it in all its glory: a deep mahogany masterpiece, wafting sweet spice into the whole house.
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cut into it
Serve it warm, garnished with Calvados-spiked whipped cream, thick yogurt or vanilla custard, or a generous drizzle of hard sauce. I eat the leftovers cold for breakfast and love how it gets very, very firm. You can gently re-steam it if you prefer. However you slice it, you will not be disappointed.
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Steamed Persimmon Pudding

serves 6
  • — 2 generous tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing mold
  • — 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used C4C gluten-free)
  • — 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • — 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
  • — 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • — 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • — 1/8 cup Calvados or other brandy
  • — 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • — 3 Hachiya persimmons, very ripe
  • — 1/2 cup whole milk
  • — 3/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • — 2 medium eggs
  • — 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • — 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • — 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 1/2 teaspoons hot water
  • zest of one orange
  • — 2/3 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • — 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • whipped cream, for serving

Butter a 6-cup pudding mold or heatproof ceramic mixing bowl. Fill a large pot fitted with a steamer insert with enough water to come halfway up mold (test this with an empty mold); set aside. Sift flour, spices and salt in a bowl; set aside. Put Calvados and raisins into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes. Drain; discard liquid. Set raisins aside.

Meanwhile, slice tops off persimmons. Scoop out flesh, and press through a sieve into a bowl, discarding skins (you need 1 scant cup persimmon puree). Whisk in milk; set aside.

Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and lemon juice. Add persimmon mixture in 2 batches, scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. Mix in baking soda mixture. Beat in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in orange zest, pecans, raisins and ginger. Pour into prepared mold; cover with buttered parchment paper and lid. If using a ceramic bowl, cover tightly with buttered parchment paper then with foil.

Bring water in prepared pot to a boil, then reduce heat to reach a simmer. Carefully lower mold into steamer. Cover pot and steam until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure water level is maintained, and add hot water as needed.

Transfer mold to a wire rack. Immediately remove lid and parchment (being careful of emerging steam). Cool for 15 minutes, then gently unmold pudding onto a plate. Serve cut into slices, garnished with whipped cream, that has been spiked with a little Calvados (or not).

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Used Reims in a cheesecake crust (made from crumbled whole grain cookies), yet another success!
kristina on January 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm —
Great idea - sounds delicious!
laura on January 28, 2013 at 8:16 pm —
I serve persimmon pudding every Christmas. Where I grew up in California, many gardens have persimmon trees, and the owners never know what to do with the fruit. I think the success of this has to do with well-ripened, actually squishy Fuyu persimmons. The harder Hachiya are too dry for cooking, but they make great salads.
Rick Rodgers on January 29, 2013 at 10:19 am —
Yes, this definitely goes back to my California roots as well, Rick! The Fuyus can actually be eaten when firm; the Hachiyas are the astringent ones that must be ripened until very soft.
laura on January 29, 2013 at 10:43 am —
Hi Laura, so lovely! Are you still getting persimmons in the east? All finished here in California... I love the Hachiyas out of hand. We're now in our version of the hungry gap for fruit... oranges, stored apples, pears and I sneak a baked sweet potato in for the kids' breakfast now and then. Looking forward to spring...
kathleen duich on January 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm —
Yes, I'm still seeing them in the markets, though not quite sure where they are coming from. I just ordered a bunch of Meyer lemons from California and the in-laws keep us stocked with oranges and grapefruit from Florida. I know it's cheating, but I can't help it!
laura on January 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm —