Sunday, January 10, 2016

Downton Abbey and Golden Syrup Sponge Pudding

I don't know many details but I do know tonight's Downton Abbey brings together two of my great loves... agriculture and dessert.

From what I can tell, the preview shows our favorites at a livestock show.  I am really looking forward to see how the characters handle agriculture... and of course what the livestock look like.  During that time period, livestock were more compact, a little squattier compared with today's standards.  You can see a picture of a Hereford bull in the 20's here.  The Hereford breed originated in England!
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I guess only those involved in agriculture would notice these details.  Even if the livestock look fairly modern, I won't hold it against the production team.  I mean, I am just thrilled they are highlighting agriculture!!  If you want to learn more about the Hereford breed or any livestock for that matter, check out the Oklahoma State University's Animal Science website.

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Did you notice little Marigold's hat?!  I am without words.  I wish they made that hat in adult sizes!

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They all look pretty dapper for a livestock show, don't you think?!  I soo wish I could find hats like this... although I am not much of a hat-wearer.  While modern day livestock shows are dressy occasions in their own right, heels and overcoats aren't typical attire.  Most attendees wear a lot of denim and rhinestones.

Those who follow the blog at this time of year are likely wondering, "Enough of the agricultural talk. What did you make for dessert?"  I hear you so let's move on.

This week, I chose to make a Golden Syrup Sponge Pudding with Vanilla Custard Sauce.

I have to say, with having baked along with the show for a number of seasons now, I am beginning to run out of ideas.  I had to do a bit more digging this time.  

Golden Syrup is one of those ingredients the British seem to really adore.  It finds its way into a number of sweet treats (like Gingernuts) and some even eat it on pancakes!  Golden Syrup is not an ingredient sold at my local Ralph's but thankfully, I can find it pretty easily at Cost Plus World Market!  On my last trip, I purchased two bottles... just in case an upcoming Downton recipe features the ingredient.

Here goes the play-by-play.

Pudding Ingredients:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (plus a bit more to butter the pudding dish)
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (plus more to drizzle)
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
If you are like me and do not regularly purchase self-rising flour, it is easy to make your own with ingredients from the pantry.  Sift together 1 C flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.  Prepare as much as you might need for any recipe.

To prepare the pudding, select a 1 quart heat-proof baking dish or pudding basin and make sure it can fit inside of the cooking vessel (ie. stock pot).  Once selected, butter the dish and pour golden syrup in the bottom.
Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. 

Add eggs one at a time, incorporating with each addition. 

Stir in flour and milk, alternating in batches.  

Spoon batter into baking dish, on top of syrup.  Smooth surface.

Layer a sheet of parchment on top of foil and place a 1 1/2 inch pleat in the center of the foil.  Cover the dish with the foil, paper side down, and secure to the dish by tying with kitchen string.  Fold foil up over the string to ensure it does not come in contact with the water.  Pardon my messy counter.  It took me a while to find the right tool to be able to lower my dish into the pot without getting burned!

Place a few large metal cookie cutters or a heat proof ramekin into the bottom of a a large stock pot.  Pour in 2 inches of water and heat.  Place the baking dish atop of the cutters and carefully pour boiling water from a tea kettle into the stock pot until it reaches halfway to 3/4 of the way up the dish.  Do not let the water touch the foil. I found this was a pretty difficult task, as I kept splashing water on top of the foil and over the side of the pot.  To make it work, I filled a large glass measuring cup with boiling water and used it to pour the water.

Cover the stock pot with a lid and turn the heat to medium-high.  Allow the pudding to steam for 1 1/2 hours, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Periodically check the pot to make sure it does not run out of water.  To ensure a steady supply of boiling water, keep a tea kettle filled with water, over heat.  Add more as necessary.

Vanilla Custard Ingredients:
  • 5 ounces milk
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
View detailed directions for vanilla custard sauce here.  Otherwise, follow directions below.

With 20 minutes left on the cooking time, prepare the sauce. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat milk, cream and 1 tablespoon of the sugar until steaming but not boiling.  While the milk heats, mix together the remaining sugar and eggs in a heat-proof bowl until light in color.  Slowly drizzle the hot cream into the egg mixture, mixing constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling.  Once combined, pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, into the saucepan.  This step will capture any lumps.  Add vanilla and turn heat on.  Stir constantly until mixture begins to thicken.  Custard is ready when it coats the back of a metal spoon.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Lift baking dish from stock pot and allow to set for 5 minutes.  Remove the foil, paper and string and turn pudding out onto a serving dish.

Cut into slices and top with vanilla custard sauce and a little whipped cream.  Serve warm.
This dessert, while simple when considering the ingredients and technique, is a rich and moist delight.  Those who like pineapple upside down cake will find this pudding has that same buttery, caramelized flavor.  The pudding isn't overly sweet but definitely hits the spot for those in search of something to satisfy.  The addition of the vanilla custard sauce was a glorious move in my book but if you are looking for less time-consuming, many enjoy it by merely drizzling a little extra golden syrup and heavy cream.

With each Downton Night, I am working hard to treasure each episode. I hope you are too. What a gift this series has been! PBS really does bring the best shows to television.  Julian Fellowes is one talented guy in my book.  I look forward to future projects from him.

I need to close out this post so I can sit down and feast upon the delicious pudding as well as tonight's program.  I do hope Marigold is okay.  I guess I will soon find out!

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