The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge 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.

I was not familiar with suet upon first reading about the challenge, and after discovering that it was actually the hard but flaky fat found on the inside of a cow or sheep around the kidneys (and that area of the body) I was really worried I may have to sit out my first challenge. Luckily, our host anticipated that not everyone may be comfortable or able to use suet and gave us a lot of leeway in this respect. We were working from the definition of a pudding as any dish cooked in a pudding bowl or pudding cloth normally steamed, boiled but sometimes baked. Some recipes were provided, but really the flavors and fillings were left up to the bakers. In fact, we could even choose to do a savory or sweet pudding. The important part was trying the cooking method, so the puddings had to be steamed.

After looking at dozens of steamed pudding recipes I decided on a vegan, steamed pumpkin-date pudding with liquor sauce from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s website. The steaming process was totally new to me, and I had no idea what to expect. I was really anxious to know if things were working, but since the pudding is wrapped up nice and tight during the steaming process you can’t really see what’s going on.

After a one and half hour steaming period I unwrapped the pudding. I really felt like a kid on Christmas morning; I was so excited to find out what everything looked like inside the steamer.

When I was able to remove the pudding from the bowl with ease I literally squealed in delight and went running through the house with it to show my husband. We were both so impressed with the results.The pudding was absolutely delicious and incredibly moist. I plated it with a rum liquor sauce that really knocked it out of the park.

The pudding comes together so easily and the majority of the time is completely hands off. I really enjoyed this challenge and learning this new cooking technique. So much so, that I made two more puddings!

For my second pudding I just wanted to play around and have a little fun. I decided I wanted to toy with the idea of the American pudding vs. the British pudding, and came up with steamed “banana pudding” pudding.

I basically used the same recipe as before, just making some slight adaptations here and there. Instead of using the pumpkin puree I used mashed bananas, and instead of using bread crumbs I used finely crumbled vanilla wafers. The top layer is actually two alternating layers of sliced bananas and crumbled vanilla wafers. The pudding smelled absolutely amazing when I pulled it out of the steamer and it was super moist.

Unfortunately, I think it may have been a little too moist, and actually may have benefited from a longer steaming period. This of course didn’t stop me eating it though!

And last, but not least, for my third pudding I decided I wanted to try my hand at a savory pudding. I decided to try a vegan, veggie packed, steamed pudding.

For the crust, I used a recipe for an olive oil based pastry found at Bryanna Clark Grogan’s blog, and for the filling, I chose chopped portobello mushrooms, sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots. I also used about 1 cup of a pre-made potato and leek soup thinned with some water and a number of different spices. As you can see from the picture, I was little too anxious to get the pudding out of the bowl and wound up cracking the crust. Cracked or not, the pudding was still amazing, and made for quite a delicious dinner!

All in all, this was a great challenge, probably my favorite one to date. I would highly encourage everyone to give it a shot! If you would like to read more about the challenge and see more of the great dishes created by the Daring Bakers be sure to visit the Daring Baker’s website.

For anyone interested make the steamed pumpkin-date pudding here is the recipe I used from Bryanna Clark Grogan:

Steamed Date-Pudding with Liquor Sauce
Pudding Ingredients:
1 and 1/4 c. wholewheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. soft wholewheat breadcrumbs
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 c. chopped pitted dates
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 tsp. vanilla
1 and 1/2 T. oil
1/2 c. non-dairy milk

Liquor Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. cornstarch
pinch salt
1 c. water
1 T. vanilla
3 T. dark rum
optional: 2-4 T. non-dairy margarine (such as Earth Balance)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the sugar, breadcrumbs, dates, and walnuts. In another bowl, beat together the pumpkin, vanilla, oil, and milk. Mix this into the dry ingredients and mix just until it’s mixed well– don’t beat. Spoon this batter into a greased 8 and 1/2 x 4 and 1/4″ loaf pan or a pudding mold, filling 2/3 full. Cover the pan tightly with foil and steam over simmering water in a covered pot for 1 and 1/2 hours. Cool for 5 minutes before loosening the sides with a knife and inverting on a plate. Serve immediately, with Liquor Sauce, or re-steam for 30 minutes before serving to re-heat.

To make liquor sauce:
Mix the sugar, cornstarch, salt and water in a small saucepan. Stir constantly until it comes to a boil, then simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla, liquor, and optional butter or margarine.  Serve hot.