‘Pudding’ is a rather fabulous word, having also in my mind an unshakeable aural association with ‘puddy tat’. The Brits use it as a catch-all for dessert, while in American parlance, it calls to mind a custard of some kind thickened with cornstarch and gelatine. (Wikipedia has a primer on all of this, if you’re so inclined.) No surprise that I prefer the British use of ‘pudding’ as a decidedly homely and unsexy name for all the glamorous sweets falling under the purview of dessert. Blame it on Enid Blyton and the mysterious blancmange that would show up from time to time on the pages of her books.
Even better is than ‘pudding’ is the diminutive ‘pud,’ which sounds like a Nigella-esque affectation I have not mustered up the courage to use in casual conversation. Would it be a short, sharp ‘pud’ as in ‘foot’, or ‘pud’ as in ‘bud’? I’m sure someone could answer this straightaway but it’s more fun to contemplate it thusly. When I look at the word I think of a voluptuous woman with a sharp stare, digging into a deep bowl of dark chocolate pudding, following it up with a cigarette and zero fucks given.
Still, different conceptions of pudding do matter when you’re considering dessert. Before the dried persimmon debacle, we made two puddings with our persimmons – one worthy of the word ‘mind-blowing’, and another which I won’t be repeating during any of my remaining autumns.
The video above is what we made – a pudding of the American persuasion, easily knocked up and resulting in what I can only describe as spoonable slop. It was warm, spicy and faintly sweet – having reduced the sugar – with a deep persimmon fragrance. Texturally, it is creamy and sloppy, belonging to that particular brand of ‘white people comfort food’ (which is how I think of it in my head anyway) that I find novel, having read about it in books and such, but never actually grew up eating. Although come to think of it there is a similar Chinese dessert – orh-nee, which is a sweet, paste-like dessert soup made from yams. It also makes an audible plop when you drop it into a bowl. For the record, I dislike most Chinese desserts. In any case: it was reasonably tasty, but I won’t be making this again. Find the recipe here. This guy’s blog is also fascinating reading and I’ll probably be trying these soy-pickled persimmons next year.
Incidentally, as you probably noticed, we tried brûlée-ing our portions of pudding and failed miserably.
steamed persimmon pudding
Some things you just have to attempt in your own kitchen before they click. I’d had steamed sticky date pudding before, a self-saucing sort plated all posh-like at this English restaurant which cost 12 quid. It was terribly good. The rest of the meal has since faded out of memory but this pudding has not. Nor has the 12 quid, for obvious reasons.
Even after that, though, I never thought of making it at home – baking a cake came more naturally than did steaming one. But when I came across an entire website dedicated to persimmon pudding recipes – and can I just say for the record I LOVE YOU, WHOEVER YOU ARE, ARCHIVER OF PERSIMMON PUDDINGS – this one sounded so delicious I wanted to make it even in the absence of a photo. And that, my friend, says a lot in the age of visual food porn.
Luckily, my housemate had a pudding mould (of course she did, she’s British), and the batter came together quickly between us. It is an incredibly wet batter and so it took an era to steam into something which holds its shape. The batter turned from a pale orange to a deep, dark chocolate brown, releasing pools of grease which I scooped off the surface. While steaming it released invisible clouds of buttery spice and persimmon in the air. We were breathing persimmon air. We were breathing persimmon pudding air for at least three hours.
And what of the taste? This pudding is cuss-spittingly delicious. It makes your eyes roll backwards in your head. How does a dessert with zero chocolate/coffee content taste this satisfyingly dark, rich and complex? More importantly, why have I never tried making steamed pudding before? Like, I would pick this over the average chocolate cake. This pudding would have made people in earlier and less secular days join a cult.
You will need a large pudding mould for this recipe, and because of the single egg, this recipe doesn’t halve so easily. This is not the kind of pudding that holds its shape, because of its low flour content – it collapses into a shapeless mass of ultra-moist cake. It is incredibly un-photogenic. But you will eat all the pudding. Spoon it into a bowl with extra cream and persimmon puree, and you’ll be ready to jam. I also used this as the base for some parfait experiments, but that’s another story for the next post.
The recipe is here. You can thank me later.
And: Merry Christmas from Taipei!