Steamed puddings, soufflés and crêpes

Steamed puddings, soufflés and crêpes

By
Leiths School of Food and Wine
Contains
10 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
978 184949 550 9
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

These puddings all use the transforming power of eggs. Steamed puddings – typically made with a creamed cake mixture – are the ultimate comfort food, perfect for a cold winter’s day. Soufflés use the amazing ability of whisked egg white to trap air in order to achieve their wonderful high rise. Always impressive and easier to make than they appear to be, hot soufflés are sophisticated enough for a special meal. Crêpes are made from a light batter, enriched with eggs. One of the most versatile and speediest of puddings, they are an easy way to round off a simple family meal.

Steamed puddings

The method for making a delicious steamed pudding is the same as that for the most basic of sponge cakes. The mixture is then cooked slowly in moist, steamy heat and, when made well, will have a lightness that will certainly surprise those who suffered heavy school steamed puddings.

Steamed puddings can be prepared well before you sit down to eat, gently steaming until you are ready to serve: a stress-free but indulgent end to the meal. Just remember to top up the water in the pan occasionally so it doesn’t boil dry.

You don’t need any special equipment to steam a pudding; we use a large pan with a lid, a piece of egg box to keep the pudding basin off the base of the pan, and greaseproof paper, foil and string as a lid to cover the pudding basin.

To test if a steamed pudding is cooked, insert a skewer into the middle, through the foil and paper cover. As you remove the skewer, check that there is no raw mixture clinging to it, only crumbs. If it is not ready, cover the hole in the cover with a sticky label and continue to steam the pudding until cooked.

Preparing a pudding for steaming

Put a trivet into a large saucepan (big enough to easily hold the pudding basin) that has a tight-fitting lid. Alternatively, use a folded piece of thick cardboard or a cardboard egg carton (trimmed to fit). This will keep the base of the pudding basin off the bottom of the saucepan, which is its hottest part.

Cut out one sheet of foil and 2 sheets of greaseproof paper, at least twice the diameter of the top of the pudding basin. Make a small pleat, about 3cm wide, in the middle of the foil.

Put one sheet of greaseproof paper on top of the other and make a similar pleat. Lightly butter one side of the double greaseproof paper. Cut a piece of string, the length of your open arms.

Spoon the mixture into the pudding basin and level it out. Place the greaseproof paper buttered side down on top of the pudding basin.

Cover with the sheet of foil and push it down and around the top rim of the pudding basin.

Fold the string in half and place the doubled string around the pudding basin under the lip, over the foil. Feed the cut ends between the folded end and tighten the string. Separate the 2 cut ends and bring each string around the pudding basin, still under the lip, then tie tightly in a knot.

Hold the 2 strings together, take them over the pudding basin to the other side and tuck them through the string on the other side, leaving the ends loose to create a handle for lifting the pudding. Tie the string securely.

Lift up the foil around the string to expose the greaseproof paper and trim the paper fairly close to the string. Trim the foil to leave a 3–4cm border.

Tuck the foil around the greaseproof paper towards the lip of the pudding basin, ensuring all the greaseproof paper is enclosed in the foil. Your pudding is now ready for steaming.

Soufflés

Timing is undeniably important with a hot soufflé, but the actual preparation is not as tricky as you might imagine, and much of the cooking can be done in advance. In fact, once the hot soufflé mixture has been put into the ramekins, they can even be frozen and baked from frozen the following day, adding about an extra 4 minutes to the cooking time. It is a good idea to make an extra soufflé and test the cooking time before the guests arrive, as the thickness and size of the dish can slightly alter the cooking time.

When making a soufflé, the trick is to make sure that the base mixture (‘panade’) is soft enough to allow you to fold in the whisked egg whites without knocking out all the air bubbles, and that the egg whites are whisked stiffly enough to trap sufficient air. The trapped air bubbles expand in the oven, raising the soufflé as they do so. Prepare the ramekins carefully so the mixture can rise up the sides without getting stuck.

The perfect soufflé will rise up above the top of the ramekin, have a straight top and have a generous teaspoonful of soft, undercooked mixture in the middle, which acts rather like a sauce for the rest of the soufflé. You can also provide a jug of raspberry (or other fruit) coulis or cream for guests to pour into the centre of their soufflé once they’ve taken their first spoonful.

Baking a large soufflé

The recipes in this section are for individual soufflés, but if you would rather make a large soufflé to share, use a 15cm soufflé dish and increase the cooking time to 25–30 minutes.

A note on the crème pâtissière...

Avoid the crème pâtissière cooling completely before folding through the egg whites, or it will stiffen too much. If this does happen, warm the crème pâtissière over a low heat to soften.

A note on stabilising egg whites...

In recipes where caster sugar is added to whisked egg whites, whisking a spoonful of the measured sugar into the whites once they’ve reached their desired peak will stabilise them. The mix is whisked until stiff again (about 30 seconds with an electric whisk). The whites will then hold for longer before collapsing.

Separating eggs

To separate an egg, crack the egg on the edge of a table or use a cutlery knife. Avoid too much pressure or you will break the egg in half. You only want to crack the shell.

Carefully ease apart the shell halves over a medium to large bowl. Some white will fall into the bowl; it is important that none of the yolk does.

Carefully pass the egg yolk between the 2 half shells, without breaking it, allowing the white to fall into the bowl as you do so.

Once all (or most) of the white is in the bowl, all that may be left on the yolk is the ‘chalaza’, or thread. Carefully prise away from the yolk, with the edge of a shell, so it falls into the bowl. Put the yolk in another small bowl.

Recipes in this Chapter

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