My first kitchen escapade of the new year was to attempt the Woodford Pudding that I posted about a little while ago, from the Economy Cookbook. I was so excited - this is the first sponge-style pudding I've ever made, or even eaten.
One big reason I've been so excited about this cookbook and these recipes is that Jeff gave me the complete set of Anne of Green Gables for Christmas - these are some of my favorite books of all time! I have been working my way through since Christmas morning, and am now at Book 4, Anne of Windy Poplars. The first Anne book was written in 1908, which means that these recipes and those books are contemporaries - these are recipes for foods that Anne Shirley would have eaten! Oh the joy! I was so excited to try some recipes that would bring me closer somehow to that esteemed character.
So I set out to try and make Woodford Pudding, because it looked simple and yummy. The biggest challenge of this pudding was, for me, interpreting the 1910 directions to my 2008/9 kitchen and mindset. For instance, when I bake the pudding do I cover it? What temperature should it be set at? Does the jam have to be blackberry or can I substitute something else? Would I get better results using a spoon or an electric mixer?
So here is the recipe in its original form, and my interpretations thereof.
Take 3 beaten eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons sour milk, 1 cup blackberry jam, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, 3/4 cup flour. Bake 1/2 hour.
Okay, the first part is self-explanatory. Break three eggs into a big bowl and beat them. Check. At this point I planned ahead a little bit. I don't usually have sour milk on hand, of course. So I just mix a bit of lemon juice into some regular milk and set it aside to curdle for a few minutes. I did that at this point. Since it was only 2 tsp. of milk, I just added a few drops of lemon juice. I also measured out a cup of jam. Not having blackberry jam, I scraped out the last bits of peach jam and crabapple jelly that I had in the fridge, and filled out the rest of the cup with plum jam.
Then back to the recipe. I used a whisk and added the sugar and (softened) butter. Then I dissolved the teaspoon of baking soda into the soured milk and stirred that in. Then I added the jam. At this point, the soda really started doing its job and the batter started puffing up really big! It was exciting to watch it grow.
For the nutmeg and cinnamon, I added about a half teaspoon of each, then measured in the flour.
The recipe merely indicated that the pudding is to be baked 1/2 hour. Not being sure of what temperature to use, I went with a nice medium 375. I greased a 2 1/2 qt. glass casserole dish really well, and poured in the batter. I also covered the dish, but I'm not sure that the size of the dish or the use of the lid were the correct decision. The pudding continued to grow long after I put it in the oven...
After half an hour I checked on the pudding, and the top was pressed up into the lid and nicely browned. The sides were spilling out onto the oven floor. When I took the lid off, I found that only the top was cooked; the rest of the pudding was still wet batter. So the lid came off, the pudding went back into the oven, and a baking sheet was placed on the lower rack to contain further spills. And there were definitely further spills.
Long story short, I think this recipe needs a lot more space than 2 1/2 quarts. Which is slightly unfortunate because now I'm not sure what pan I have that would be big enough. I think I should try to find a similar recipe online, one that's already translated into modern instructions, and see how they say to do it. Maybe a flatter dish (like a 9x13) would let it cook more evenly. I think that a deep dish like this would work for a steamed pudding, because of the longer cooking time and even heating of the water, but for a baked pudding a flat dish with more area will result in a better pudding.
In the meantime, I checked on the pudding again after a while only to find that it had turned very brown indeed, and had shrunk to about 2 inches tall. Oh despair! I pulled it out of the oven and bemoaned its fate.
But when I tasted a bite of the spongy pudding from the drip pan, I was relieved to find that apparently it's supposed to be that color, because it still tasted good. So I forged on with the sauce.
Sauce - 1 cup brown sugar, 1 large tablespoon butter, 1 dessertspoon cornstarch. Water to make proper consistency; flavor.
The problems of interpreting this one are obvious, at least to me. How big is a dessertspoon? What is the proper consistency? What do I flavor it with? And am I supposed to cook it?
I decided that, with cornstarch as one of the ingredients, it should be cooked after all. So out comes the saucepan. Since approximately half of the pudding had been rendered nearly inedible by being smeared all over the oven, I only made a half recipe of the sauce.
I combined half a cup of packed brown sugar, a half tablespoon of butter, about a teaspoon of cornstarch (guessing as to the meaning of the word "dessertspoon") and about a quarter cup of water. I boiled it on the stove for a few minutes, stirring constantly, before removing it from the heat and flavoring it with a half teaspoon of almond extract. We thought the almond would go well with the cinnamon and nutmeg of the pudding.
Then came the difficult task of photographing the whole mess. Here's a shot of the pudding by itself. Not very pretty, but in this light the brown is nicely golden, at least.
And here's the pudding with the sauce.
After these pictures, I finally got impatient and dug in. The result? Despite all the trouble this pudding gave me while I was trying to make it, I was pleased to find that the flavor is actually quite delicious! Expect to see this recipe again sometime, only using a flat baking pan instead of the big, deep casserole dish. I'm sure it will be beautiful.
And I can take some small bit of comfort in knowing that, had I made this pudding for Anne Shirley, she would have sympathized with me nicely, having gotten herself into many scrapes with her own cooking, and eaten it with great enjoyment. She is a kindred spirit.