All Steamed Up

I’ve been pretty busy with other projects lately, but St. Paddy’s Day was just enough incentive to get me back into the kitchen. In honor of the big day, I wanted to come up with a more traditional dessert that was not another green concoction. Thus began the adventure of the Pear and Ginger Steamed Pudding.

Of course, steamed puddings have been around for centuries, but I’ve never attempted to make my own. The whole process seemed just a bit too daunting – and what about all that special equipment and ingredients like suet? I soon learned that many of the Irish versions include barley, oats, bread crumbs and such – a tad over-the-top. Let’s face it, there’s nothing light about steamed pudding, anyway. As my model, I finally settled on a tempting British Steamed Caramelised Apple Pudding that I found at the British Good Food Channel site

I was duly warned when I read that it is classed as Intermediate and it takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to prepare (or longer). I was also a bit put off by the total amount of cream, butter, and sugar required; but the good news is that this particular recipe uses far less than many, and I trimmed where possible. Besides, it’s St. Patrick’s Day (which is slowly getting lost in translation). 

This lovely begins with the preparation of a fairly straight forward butterscotch sauce. Instead of the suggested heavy cream, I opt for low fat condensed milk conveniently sitting on my pantry shelf – and it works quite nicely. With that done, we move on to a quick sauté of the apples (or pears, or other fruit) in butter. Then you are ready to get down to some serious work.

First, understand that pudding is a loose term used for desserts of many descriptions, and not just the creamy version familiar to most Americans. The basis of these steamed puddings frequently includes a sponge, which refers to the addition of a sponge cake batter of sorts. But wait, before actually preparing the sponge batter, it’s best to gather up your equipment:

  •  Mold (baking pan, or approx. 2 qt. ovenproof bowl)
  •  Parchment paper and or foil – and some butcher twine
  •  A large steamer pan or a pot with a lid large enough to hold the mold plus a trivet or rack to elevate it
  •  Kettle of boiling water

The sponge batter is pretty straight forward:  just remember to beat the butter until light, slowly add the sugar, and whip it well. The secret to creating a light and buoyant sponge cake is to add the beaten eggs very slowly. Fold in the dry ingredients and you are almost there. Carefully arrange the fruit in the buttered mold and pour the batter on top of the fruit.

The parchment paper layered over the baking dish protects the pudding from excess water damage;  if you remember how to fold and seal parchment from previous baking adventures you are set; if not, forget it and use 2 layers of foil secured with string. Now, lower the mold into the steamer and onto the trivet. Pour boiling water around it and half way up the sides of the mold. Cover and simmer for approximataely 2 hours, occasionally checking the water level and topping if off as needed.

Since you will have a neatly wrapped package on your hands, be sure and cook your pudding for at least 1 hour and 45 minutes, or 2 hours if in doubt. The idea of discovering that your pudding is not fully cooked after removing the parchment and foil is beyond contemplation.


Of course, in the British or Irish tradition, one would serve this beauty warm with a bit more butterscotch sauce and a dousing of heavy cream. I opt for a simple and convenient vanilla caramel-laced ice cream and rejoice. The butterscotch and ginger flavored pears provide the perfect foil for the incredibly moist, appealing sponge lingering beneath. All of this, set off with a dabble of ice cream tells me it is well worth the work.

Pear and Ginger Steamed Pudding
Inspired by Galton Blackiston ‘s Caramelised Apple Pudding
Butterscotch Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup cream, or low fat condensed mik
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter, divided/ reserve a bit for buttering the mold
3 large pears or apples, peel, core, slice
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
2/3 cup light brown sugar (not packed)
3 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Prepare the Butterscotch Sauce: In small saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter and 3/4 sugar over medium heat until the mixture begins to turn amber and caramelizes. Lower the heat, carefully slowly stir in the cream or condensed milk, and the vanilla. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Saute the pears: In hot pan, gently saute the sliced fruit quickly in about 1 Tbsp butter, add the ginger and cook until they soften and begin to caramelize. Set aside to cool slightly.

For the sponge: Beat the remaining butter until light; slowly add the sugar. Add the beaten eggs very slowly, beating until light and creamy. Sift the dry ingredients and fold in.

Butter the bowl or mold and carefully arrange the fruit partially up the sides of the mold, arranging the remaining fruit on the bottom to fill in. Drizzle about 1/2 of the butterscotch sauce over the fruit. Pour the sponge batter over the fruit, smoothing the top evenly.

Cover the mold first with pleated sheet of baking parchment, and then with a sheet of foil. Securely fasten the sheets to the rim of the mold with string.

In a large pot suitable to hold the mold, place it on a trivet or steamer, and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Cover with a lid and steam for 1hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours, until skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Make sure the pan does not boil dry, topping off with more boiling water as needed.

Turn the pudding out onto a plate and serve with a generous drizzle of the butterscotch sauce. Serve warm with custard sauce, whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 4-6 ~~

Note: After accomplishing all of this, I later came across the idea of using a crock pot. What an amazing use of technology! Include a small trivet and cook on high for 2-3 hours.

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