IT depends as much upon the judgment of the cook as on the materials used to make a good pudding. Everything should be the best in the way of materials, and a proper attention to the rules, with some practice, will ensure success.
Puddings are either boiled, baked or steamed; if boiled, the materials should be well worked together, put into a thick cloth bag, previously dipped in hot water, wringing it slightly and dredging the inside thickly with flour; tie it firmly, allowing room for it to swell; drop it into a kettle of boiling water, with a small plate or saucer in the bottom to keep it from sticking to the kettle. It should not cease boiling one moment from the time it is put in until taken out, and the pot must be tightly covered, and the cover not removed except when necessary to add water from the boiling tea-kettle when the water is getting low. When done, dip immediately in cold water and turn out. This should be done just before placing on the table.
Or butter a tin pudding-mold or an earthen bowl; close it tight so that water cannot penetrate; drop it into boiling water and boil steadily the required time. If a bowl is used it should be well buttered and not quite filled with the pudding, allowing room for it to swell; then a cloth wet in hot water, slightly wringing it, then floured on the inner side, and tied over the bowl, meeting under the bottom.
To steam a pudding, put it into a tin pan or earthen dish; tie a cloth over the top, first dredging it in flour, and set it in a steamer. Cover the steamer closely; allow a little longer time than you do for boiling.
Molds or basins for baking, steaming or boiling should be well buttered before the mixture is put into them. Allow a little longer time for steaming than for boiling.
Dumplings boiled the same way, put into little separate cloths.
Battel* puddings should be smoothly mixed and free from lumps. To ensure this, first mix the flour with a very small portion of milk, the yolks of the eggs and the sugar thoroughly beaten together, and added to this; then add the remainder of the milk by degrees, then the seasoning, then the beaten whites of eggs last. Much success in making this kind of pudding depends upon a strict observance of this rule; for, although the materials may be good, if the eggs are put into the milk before they are mixed with the flour, there will be a custard at the top and a soft dough at the bottom of your dish.
All sweet puddings require a little salt to prevent insipidity and to draw out the flavor of the several ingredients, but a grain too much will spoil any pudding.
In making custard puddings (puddings made with eggs and milk), the yolks of the eggs and sugar should be thoroughly beaten together before any of the milk or seasoning is added, and the beaten whites of eggs last.
In making puddings of bread, rice, sago, tapioca, etc., the eggs should be beaten very light, and mixed with a portion of the milk, before adding them to the other ingredients. If the eggs are mixed with the milk, without having been thus beaten, the milk will be absorbed by the bread, rice, sago, tapioca, etc., without rendering them light.
The freshness of all pudding ingredients is of much importance, as one bad article will taint the whole mixture.
When the freshness of eggs is doubtful, break each one separately in a cup before mixing them all together. Should there be a bad one amongst them, it can be thrown away; whereas, if mixed with the good ones, the entire quantity would be spoiled. The yolks and whites beaten separately make the articles they are put into much lighter.
Raisins and dried fruit for puddings should be carefully picked and, in many cases, stoned. Currants should be well washed, pressed in a cloth and placed on a dish before the fire to get thoroughly dry; they should be then picked carefully over, and every piece of grit or stone removed from amongst them. To plump them, some cooks pour boiling water over them and then dry them before the fire.
Many baked pudding recipes are quite as good boiled. As a safe rule boil the pudding twice as long as you would bake it; and remember that a boiling pudding should never be touched after it is once put on the stove; a jar of the kettle destroys the lightness of the pudding. If the water boils down and more must be added, it must be done so carefully that the mold will not hit the side of the kettle, and it must not be allowed to stop boiling for an instant.
Batter should never stick to the knife when it is sent to the table; it will do this both when less than sufficient number of eggs is mixed with it and when it is not cooked enough; about four eggs to the half pound of flour will make it firm enough to cut smoothly.
When baked or boiled puddings are sufficiently solid, turn them out of the dish they were baked in, bottom uppermost and strew over them finely sifted sugar.
When pastry or baked puddings are not done through, and yet the outside is sufficiently brown, cover them over with a piece of white paper until thoroughly cooked; this prevents them from getting burnt.
Put them in a sieve or colander and sprinkle them thickly with flour; rub them well until they are separated, and the flour, grit and fine stems have passed through the strainer. Place the strainer and currants in a pan of water and wash thoroughly; then lift the strainer and currants together, and change the water until it is clear. Dry the currants between clean towels. It hardens them to dry in an oven.
Break or cut in small pieces, sprinkle with sifted flour, and chop in a cold place to keep it from becoming sticky and soft.
Put them in a dish and pour boiling water over them; cover and let them remain in it ten minutes; it will soften so that by rubbing each raisin between the thumb and finger, the seeds will come out clean; then they are ready for cutting or chopping if required.