Saturday, January 31, 2009

English Puddings

Jam roly-poly and custard, spotted dick ... my last couple of posts and the comments seem to have acquired a puddingy theme. For the benefit of puzzled Americans and nostalgic Brits, here is a run down of some classic English puddings. If you are on a diet, look away now.

Jam Roly-Poly

A self-raising flour and *suet mix dough, rolled out flat into a rectangle, spread with jam, rolled up and baked. Winter comfort food.

Spotted Dick

A steamed pudding with currants (the "spots"). Google gave me two main variants of the basic pudding recipe - either a sponge pudding made of flour, butter and eggs, or a suet pudding with flour, suet and milk.

Bread-and-Butter Pudding

Slices of buttered bread, layered in a dish with sugar and dried fruit. A milk and egg batter is poured over the top and soaks the bread. When baked it sets into a yummy, sweet, soft, fruity pudding. My favourite! Best served with cream.

Treacle Sponge

Another steamed pudding made of flour, eggs, butter and sugar. The "treacle" part is golden syrup (light corn syrup?) put into the bottom of the bowl before the pudding mixture is added. When the pudding is turned out of the bowl for serving, the hot gooey syrup mixture runs down the sides and soaks into the sponge. Another variation is jam sponge, with the syrup replaced by strawberry or raspberry jam.


Properly speaking, custard is a dessert or sauce made from milk, egg yolks and sugar. In practice, what most people think of as custard is a cornflour thickened yellow sauce made from "custard powder" and milk, or bought ready made in tins or cartons. According to Wikipedia 45% of custard sold in the UK is accounted for by the Bird's brand. Comfort food puddings like sponges and roly-poly should always be served with custard. It is, however, important that the custard has no lumps. Lumpy custard served as part of school meals has traumatised generations of English children.

*Suet ... is one of those things that is hard to translate as I don't think there is any American equivalent. Imagine little pieces of fat the size of grains of rice, rolled in flour. Originally made of beef fat, you can now get vegetable fat versions too. It was often used in English cooking as a filler for those on a tight budget - plenty of calories for little money. Suet pastry can be both sweet and savoury, and it is also used to make dumplings.


Jennifer said...

I've heard of suet, in a vague kind of way - maybe to use in bird feeders? I know my grandfather (a farmer) used to talk about it.
Anyway! This was very instructive! I'm curious about the custard. If I ever make it over, I'll take this as a checklist of things to try.

Mary G said...


This so makes me miss our times in England! The treacle pudding we had in Aberdeen was amazing and all the other treats in England ... WOW!

Oh and suet here is the fat most butchers trim from the meat ... you can usually get it free from the butcher.

Theresa said...

Ok, I am glad you explained suet. Because, as Mary said, suet here is just a huge chunk of fat straight off the pig or steer. I was starting to gag thinking of pudding made with that.
Is the suet used sort of like shortening or lard, mixed with flour and then liquid added to make a pastry dough?

The Bookworm said...

Yes, that's exactly how it is used, as an alternative to solid fats. I looked up the website of the main suet brand, Atora, and it looks as though beef suet used to be made by boiling and clarifying beef fat, then shredding it once it had solidified. Much easier to buy it ready to use! I guess the vegetable version (which is what I use) is basically a shredded vegetable shortening. The texture of suet pastry is different to other pastries, so you couldn't just substitute another form of fat in a recipe.

Professional Mommy said...

I'm with Theresa, I too was about to gag, lol, about the Suet.

Anonymous said...

Suet pastry is so versatile, I used up some Christmas mincemeat in some suet pastry and it was a lovely change from mince pies.

I love jam roly poly, I just commented on another blog that it'd be in my menu of choice! :)

Dorothy said...

The suet was the last remnant of the 'minced meat' in mincemeat. {g}

K, I had a Bedfordshire Clanger for the first time this month! What fun! Have you ever made one? That had a suet crust.

We used to call Spotted Dick 'Electric Pudding' at our school due to the currents running through it.

Har har!

The Bookworm said...

Weren't you the witty lot, Dorothy ;). No, I've never had a Bedfordshire clanger. I'm not even sure what one is ... off to Google ...