Treacle Pudding

Hubby wanted “treacle pudding”.  I know it’s available in some international markets sold under the U.K. brand of Heinz in tin cans, but I don’t want to open a can.  I want to make Treacle Pudding.  What I was not sure about was what exactly is “treacle”?  I looked in the grocery stores and couldn’t find it.  I asked family and friends.  They’ve never heard of it.  I checked all my cookbooks and there was no recipe either using it, or for it.  Even hubby wasn’t sure what it was or where you bought it. How am I going to make this classic English dessert if I don’t have any treacle?  Time to go online and do a little research.  Here’s what I learned . . .

When sugar cane is harvested, it is crushed to squeeze out the juice. That juice is then boiled down (very similar to making maple syrup).  Depending upon how many times, and for how long the juice is boiled, will produce the depth of color and flavor of the syrup. The syrup can range from a light golden color and flavor, to a medium amber color with deeper flavor to a very dark, thick syrup with almost sweet bitter flavor.  The first boiling produces golden syrup or light treacle, similar to honey in color.  The second boiling produces treacle, which we call molasses. The third boiling produces ‘dark treacle’ which we call blackstrap molasses.

Lyle's Golden Syrup

Lyle’s Golden Syrup

“Golden Syrup” is produced by the Abram Lyle & Sons company and sold everywhere in the U.K.  In the U.S., however, it did take a bit of hunting, but I found it.  I also found out it is available through Amazon, but, honestly, who wants to wait for a UPS delivery before making dessert.

Now to find a ‘good’ recipe for Treacle Pudding.  After looking through all my English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh cookbooks, I found ONE recipe.  Thank you Paul Hollywood!  But why, if this dessert is so popular can’t I find more than one recipe?  It seems this dessert isn’t as popular as hubby had thought. More research has shown that it’s a regional favorite, only popular in northern England and Scotland.  Okay, back to the “world wide web”.

Recipes appear to be either the very same, copied from website to website, or completely hard-to-understand.  What exactly is a 900ml pudding basin?  And do I really want to use suet?  Or a splash of brandy?  No, I don’t think so.  This is suppose to be a nostalgic, humble steamed pudding made from flour, eggs, butter and this sweetener they call “treacle”.

My first attempt was a simple recipe from the BBC FOOD website, very similar to Paul Hollywood‘s.  Quite basic.  Nothing I couldn’t handle.  Throw everything in a bowl, mix and steam for 1-1/2 hours.  But when I unmolded it, the whole pudding fell into a big, soggy heap. Undercooked and cloyingly sweet.  Back to the “world wide web”.

My second attempt was just a little more complicated, beat the butter and sugar til fluffy and add eggs one at a time.  The ingredients were just about the same.  Steamed for 1-1/2 hours, and when I unmolded it, it looked fabulous.  But, it was very dry and not very sweet at all.  Okay, let’s try once more.

Here’s the one we liked . . .

TREACLE PUDDING
Serves 4 to 6
4 tablespoons golden syrup (light treacle)
1 stick butter, softened (plus more for greasing)
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses (treacle)
3 large eggs, room temperature
grated lemon peel

 First get a very large pot with tightly fitting cover.  Put a saucer, ramekin or something in the bottom of the pot so that the bowl you are going to steam your pudding in doesn’t sit directly on the bottom of the pot.  Fill the pot halfway with water and bring to a boil.

While the water comes to temperature generously grease a large bowl, 4 cups or more, in which your pudding will cook.

 Pour the Golden Syrup into the bottom of the bowl.  Mix together the dry ingredients.  In a mixing bowl beat the softened butter with the sugars and molasses (treacle) til light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well.  Add the dry ingredients and grated lemon peel and blend til well combined.


The batter should be like thick pancake batter.  If it’s too thick, add a bit of milk to loosen.  Pour the batter into the bowl. Take a piece of aluminum foil and wrap it tightly around the bowl.  This needs to be sealed tight so that the moisture doesn’t get in when boiling.

 Place the bowl into the pot, setting on top of the saucer or ramekin.  I used a steamer basket, which worked beautifully.  Make sure the water comes up to the middle of your pudding bowl. Cover the pot and steam for about 1-1/2 hours.  The water should be a soft boil.  If the water isn’t hot enough, the pudding won’t cook.  Check the water level every now and then.  You don’t want the water to boil away.

After 1-1/2 hours your pudding should be done.  Carefully remove the bowl and lift the foil.  With a cake tester, puncture the the pudding to see if it is ready.  If the tester comes out clean and dry, the pudding is ready.

Carefully run the tip of a knife around the top of the pudding, then place a plate on top of the bowl and invert. Pour a bit more Golden Syrup around the top of the pudding and serve warm. Traditionally this dessert is served with custard, but we like vanilla ice cream with ours.

 Sticky, sweet and gooey, everyone will love this humble, old fashioned dessert.

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References:  Lyle’s Golden Syrup, Wikipedia, BBC Food

Toad in the Hole … my way!

For  hubby, this is comfort food to end all comfort foods!  Toad in the Hole … really?  Who am I to say what is comfort food.  For me, it’s Mac ‘n Cheese!  At least with Mac ‘n Cheese you have an idea of what it is. Toad in the Hole . Bubble ‘n Squeak . Jam Roly Poly . Spotted Dick . where do the Brits get these names?

The origins of Toad in the Hole, which are sausages baked in a Yorkshire Pudding (aka Popover) batter, generally served with onion gravy, are sketchy.  Some food historians theorize that this dish originated in the late 1600’s when a flour and egg batter (now known as Yorkshire Pudding) was placed under the meat while it was cooking on an open spit, in order to catch the drippings. Others say that “no, it wasn’t until the early 1800’s” that this type of batter was used.

Today this very economical dish is traditionally made with bangers (sausages).  But in The Modern Housewife by Alexis Soyer (1850), she suggests using “any remains of cooked beef, veal, mutton, pork, roasted or boiled, salt or fresh, game and fowl”.  As a result, you can see that this dish was probably not served to the aristocrats or royalty, but rather to the working class and poor. Dishes like this, however, are what we have all come to love.  Comfort food!

Where did the name come from?  No one is really certain.  Does the finished dish look like toads poking up out of a quagmire?  Was the dish originally made using toads or frogs?  Or was it named after a pub game of tossing discs into holes in a pub table?

All I know is, tonight I’m making Toad in the Hole – My Way!  Why am I calling it My Way? Because I think the original recipe is a little bland, so I am kicking it up just a bit with Harissa and adding onions coated in a mixture of Ketchup and Chili Sauce.  Like many family recipes, there are quite a few variations. Give this one a try and let me know what you think.

TOAD IN THE HOLE (my way)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
salt and pepper
1 tsp Harissa seasoning (or more to taste)
8 to 10 good quality pork sausages (sweet or spicy)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 onions, sliced
olive oil
4 tablespoons sausage drippings

Make the batter first  and then set it aside for at least 30 minutes (up to 3 or 4 hours).

Into a bowl sift 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste and the Harissa seasoning.

Mix together and make a well in the center.  Add 4 eggs and beat well.

Add the milk while beating the mixture.  Be s ure to beat til smooth and lump free.  Set aside.

 

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and brown the sausages.  I prefer spicy sausages, but you can use sweet, or flavoured.

When nicely browned put the sausages into an ovenproof baking dish (approx. 13″ x 9″).

In the same saute pan add a bit more olive oil and, over medium heat, saute the sliced onions. Season with salt and pepper. When they are soft (about 10 minutes) add the ketchup and sweet chili sauce, coating the onions well.  Pour this over the sausages in the baking dish.

If you do not have 4 tablespoons of drippings after cooking the sausages and onions, make up the difference with olive oil.  Add it to the baking dish and then put the baking dish into the 400° oven for 5 minutes until everything gets very hot.

Remove the dish from the oven and quickly pour the batter over the sausages and onions.  Pop the dish back into the oven and bake for 35 minutes.  Don’t peek!  You want the Yorkshire Pudding to puff up and if you are opening and closing the door, it will deflate.

When the pudding is golden brown, and still a bit soft in the middle, it is ready.  Serve immediately with a crisp green salad.  Hot, crisp and soft with a bit of heat from the Harissa … English comfort food!!

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References:  BBC Food, The Telegraph, Britain Explorer,

Eton Mess??

The oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world has just ended and Serena Williams from the U.S. and Novak Djokovic from Serbia are the official champions in the men’s and women’s singles. All of Great Britain, as well as quite a few other countries, are celebrating! And where there is celebrating, there is food!  The classics will all be served ….. from cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches, to chicken and leek pies, bacon with brie quiches and, of course, Eton Mess ….. all washed down with a refreshing Pimm’s.  Strawberries and cream are so classically English, Eton Mess is the perfect summer dessert for any Wimbledon celebration.

This pudding of crushed light-as-air meringue cookies mixed with luscious, seasonal strawberries and rich, sweetened cream is thought to have originated from the famous school of the same name, Eton College.  It seems this recipe was not, as legend says, the ‘accidental mess’ created by a dog said to have sat on a picnic basket containing the pavlova which was to be served after the cricket match.  The dessert was actually created by the chef at the elite school in the 1930s to be this ‘messy’ sort of pudding.  Bananas were the original fruit, but it is traditionally made with strawberries now (although any fruit would work beautifully).

This time of year, it’s all about the strawberries, so, let’s give it a go!

Eton Mess
Preparation for meringue cookies:
3 extra large eggs (whites only)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

You can buy meringue cookies at the supermarket which takes a lot of the work out of this recipe (but I just had to make them).  

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Preheat the oven to 250° and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer, in a super clean bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and salt. Continue beating and then add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated.  Don’t rush this – it should take about ten minutes.  Add the vanilla.  The egg whites should now be very stiff and glossy.

 These meringue cookies are going to be broken up into pieces so there’s no need to be careful about spooning them onto the baking sheets.  If you want to use a pastry bag and pipe them, feel free.  Otherwise, using two spoons drop mounds onto the parchment paper.  They won’t spread out, so you can fit quite a few onto one sheet. Makes approximately 18 cookies. Bake for 1-1/2 hours at 250°.  Then turn OFF the oven and leave the meringues inside the oven to dry out – two hours or more.

For the pudding
2 lbs. washed, hulled strawberries
lemon juice
4 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
1 pint heavy cream
4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

To prepare in advance, whip the cream and keep refrigerated.  About an hour before serving, slice the strawberries and sprinkle with the sugar (more or less to taste) and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Let this mascerate while you whip the cream, if you haven’t already done so.  Add the sugar and vanilla to the cream and whip until it mounds (but before it becomes butter).

To assemble
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATake half the strawberries and mash up with a fork or potato masher and set aside.  Squeeze in a little lemon juice.  Break up the meringue cookies and add them to a large bowl.   Add the whipped cream and the other half of strawberries .  Fold it all together.  You can serve this in one large serving bowl, individual bowls or fancy glasses. Spoon the mixture into the serving dishes and top with the mashed strawberries.  Garnish and serve!

This recipe will easily make 8 to 12 servings, depending upon the size of each serving.  The recipe can be cut in half.  Experiment with different fruits if the strawberries are past season.  Next time I’m going to try blueberries with white chocolate shavings and toasted almonds!  Have fun with it!!

(Tip:  don’t make meringue when the air is very humid.  They’ll never dry out.  I learned the hard way.)
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Resources:  Epicurious, Just Like Mother Used to Make by Tom Norrington-Davies, The Kitchn