Saturday 23 March 2013

Instant (practically) steamed puddings

About once a fortnight - if not more frequently - there comes a moment when I realise that already it's 7.30, and I've spent longer than intended  'just doing that last task' in the garden, and I haven't actually got round to doing anything about dessert, and the apple tart/zuppe inglese/vacherin/chocolate parfait that I'd had in mind just isn't going to happen. That's when I turn to one of a whole host of instant zabaglione, or a hot souffle, or apples baked in cream, or (if possible) the remains of that apple sorbet or ginger ice cream that has been lurking unregarded in the freezer for the past week or so. And this method of practically instant  'steamed' puddings falls happily into that category.
For me, it involves an unusual foray into the use of the microwave - which, in this household, like many others, is normally reserved for re-heating coffee and the occasional mug of lunchtime soup. Several years ago, I toyed with a book called 'Madame Benoit's Microwave Cookbook', which came from Canada, and was initally appealing largely for the fact that Madame Benoit had actually been a pupil in Paris of Pomiane himself. Published in the seventies, it was presumably an attempt to ride the wave of enthusiasm back then  for the wonders of a new technological age...and I imagine that in most households, as here,  it was tried out experimentally on a few occasions, before being quietly relegated to the upper shelves, while the microwave was consigned to re-heating coffee and to dealing with frozen vegetables. Sic gloria transit.
In this recipe, however, the microwave actually cooks something - and once you've worked out exactly how to use your particular machine to get the best results (which is the only tricky part) then the results are really pretty good.
The original recipe was by Dan Lepard, and specified either a marmalade topping or a version of treacle sponge. I haven't actually tried either of those, but discovered that you can play as many tunes as you like with the topping (I think my favourite, so far, was a few fresh raspberries, and a spoonful or two of apricot jam...homemade, not the sad commercial variety ...which collapsed and melted deliciously as the puddings baked). The other day, which had been in general quite fraught, when the technical dept discovered that  what he'd thought was merely bruising from having fallen over on the walkway as he was rushing to get the post was in fact a broken scapula, and he'd spent the day dealing with doctors and hospitals and x-rays and medication, dinner was inevitably a confused event - and I ended up adding a teaspoon of chocolate powder to this basic recipe  and topping it with fresh blueberries...and the result was excellent.
As indicated, it appears - which I hadn't previously appreciated - that microwaves are not all the same, and so trial-and-error is required in order to find out exactly how your machine will work best for this recipe; for me, the machine in Italy takes 5 minutes on the high setting, and the machine in London needs at least 9 minutes. You'll need to work it out for yourelf.

For two individual puddings:

Ingredients: 65g butter; 65g sugar; zest of one orange (or a few drops of orange oil); 65g flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 1 egg; 1 generous tsp chocolate powder(optional);  topping ingredient of your choice (jam, or fresh berries, or a comination of the two, or you wish)


1. Either butter or trenwax the inside of two large ramekins (the ones I use for this are 10cm diameter and about 8 cm in height). Cover the base of the ramekins generously with your chosen topping ingredient.

2. Using an electric beater, cream together the butter and sugar, and then add in the egg. Fold in the flour, orange, baking powder and chocolate (if using).

3. Divide the mixture between the two ramekins - in ramekins of the size I use, it should about two-thirds fill each one.

4. Cover each ramekin with a piece of clingfilm, stretched tight, and microwave them for the time it takes for them to rise (quite dramatically) and to cook through. In his recipe, Lepard quoted only a minute or so being needed, but then maybe he uses a state-of-art microwave with all-singing-all-dancing hot-and-cold-running everything, as opposed to something that came free along with the new fridge-freezer we got from Media World, more than a decade ago. In any event, the finished pudding should be above the top of the ramekin and the surface should look distinctly 'cooked' (i.e dry, and not unlike a cake surface). If in doubt, stick a knife into the middle and see if it comes out clean; if it doesn't, put the ramekin back in for another minute or so.

5. Unmould onto a heated plate, and serve with cream or the sauce of your choice