Tuesday, May 4, 2010

April 2010 Daring Baker's Challenge - The secret I was all too glad to keep

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

I can handle it, no sweat, nothing to fear, got it in the bag, strut my metaphorical stuff through the self rising flour, the sweet delish sugar to the brandy drowned raisins, bring on the...


Suet?  Suet sounds like something that might keep my shoes from stinkin', my hair from frizzin', or maybe I'd sprinkle it in the garden to kill those pesky snails Jack is always joking I should fry up.  

I found the Daring Kitchen and want desperately to call myself a Daring Baker.  I loved the idea of being challenged, stretched, inspired!  Ok, really, I liked the idea of showing off.  I mean c'mon I've got some mad, crazy baking skills that make people swoon and tell me how I should have my own restaurant, bakery, coffee shop, or bed and breakfast thingy.  

I was so excited to get the challenge.  I had waited a whole month to find out what it was going to be.  Last month had been french macaroons and oh, how I wish I had been early enough to have that project.  

So what do I get... Suet.  Actually, it was pudding.  British Pudding to be exact and the challenge was to work with suet.  This was not a glamorous challenge.  In fact, I felt quite cheated out of a very good big secret.  I did not want to run out into the world and tell them I couldn't tell them I had to make a pudding with SUET.  In fact, I WANTED to keep this secret.  How much fun is that?!  I never knew I was a secret snob.

I went to the special grocery store (insert the word "expensive" for the word "special") and thank the goddess, Sandra had let me know you could ask the butcher for suet.  You, in fact, must, ask.  There is no sign that says, "We got us some SUET." Not one suet sign.  No one wants the stuff.  It's a secret even to the guys that work there.  Yep, I asked, "excuse me but do you have suet?"  Three guys look at the oldest guy hacking away at some huge piece of meat, "Sooout?" they asked him.  "Yeah, the packages are in the freezer.  How much did you want?" How much is 120 "g"s.  At which point I whip out the iPhone and ask for a translation.  "I should be fine with a pound, thank you."  

I arrived at the register and the woman says, "Is this going to do it?" as she swipes the butcher paper wrapped package over the magic scanner.  "That'll do it," I reply.  "That's gonna be..." long pause.  She takes the package and looks it over.  Then she looks me over.  "86 cents?  Is that right?" she asks me.  "I guess so," I respond.  "Did they mark it right?" she asks.  I looked at the package... "yep... suet..." I said.  They practically pay you to remove it from the store... this should be interesting.  

I had picked out a recipe... spotted dick.  If I wasn't going to have the thrill of keeping a secret, I at least deserved to have the opportunity to giggle about it every time I went to say what I was up to, researching, or buying ingredients for.  

Let me just say, for the record, I was so brave with this challenge.  The recipe was vague, at best.  Yes, I was given precise measurements for the six ingredients, but what order I put them all together was entirely up to me.  I was then to put it all in something that could sit in water and steam... but no one said if I was to grease or not grease that particular something.  Do I cover or not cover it?! Do I cover or not cover the pot I'm steaming it in???  And then there was the mention of a pudding cloth.  What is a pudding cloth?  Do I have one?  

I'm winging it at this point.

Sometime during the steaming I remembered there was a string involved so I put a piece of foil over it and tied it up... kinda... It didn't look like Sandra's.  And it wasn't in a cylindrical shape.  My spotted dick turned into a... well, a spotted boob more like.  It looks cool.  I was pleasantly surprised.

It turned out rather lovely, suet and all.  I felt like I did when I was making tamales this last Thanksgiving for the first time... there was no real recipe or instructions for doing that either.  The web was not helpful.  I was more confused the more I researched.  I had to call out my inner Mexican and feel the masa.  In this case, I had to dive into my inner Brit.  I am very pleased with the result.  I think Sandra would be proud.