All sorts of things are named pudding, sweet or savoury, with ingredients that can include dairy, starch, rice...
In Portugal puddings are desserts, cooked in specific pleated moulds with a lid. Milk-based puddings are common, and typically go by "french pudding". But if you want a heavenly pudding, all you need is egg yolks, sugar, water and some Port wine. It is easy to make if you are strict with some details.
The first thing to do is coat the mould with caramel. Of course there is ready made caramel, but it is fairly simple to make it directly in the mould, burning the sugar on the stove (avoid this if your mould has any soldered parts). You can also cook it aside in a regular pan and then pour it into the mould.
- 130 g sugar for the caramel (approximately, use more if you cook it in a pan, there will be some caramel left)
Caramel is very easy to make: just put the white sugar in the pan (no water) on medium heat, and it will quickly begin to turn into a thick brown paste; stir gently, there will be some smoke and a caramel scent. Be very careful, sugar boils at 186º Celsius (367º F) and getting a caramel burn is not nice. As soon as you stop seeing any white sugar, get it away from the fire and handle it quickly, because it turns solid very fast as the temperature goes down. Roll it around with the help of a spoon, until the inside of the mould is all coated. If you cook it in a pan, pour it in the pudding mould and use a spoon to quickly coat the mould, middle axis included.
By the way, the caramel in the first picture has been cooked on the fireplace (not recommended!) because our induction stove would not work on the aluminium mould. In this case, the safe way to go would have been to make the caramel in a pan...
Warning: do not let small children near you as you prepare caramel - the sugar burns, there is smoke, and everything has to be done quickly. You will not be able to supervise them and caramel burns will be harder to avoid.
When the mould is all coated, leave it to cool while you prepare the pudding. We leave it upside down on a plate. In case too much caramel has gone into the coating, it will drip. You can remove the excess caramel over the rim of the mould when it solidifies, just break it off with the help of a knife. It will be very brittle and not as sweet as caramel candy, but ok to eat.
Now for the pudding dough.
First of all, weigh the 4 ingredients:
- 800 g sugar
- 275 g water
- 400 g egg yolk (approximately 2 dozen eggs, preferably at room temperature)
- 80 g red Port wine (a tawny works best because it has a more intense flavour and is also much cheaper)
Take your sugar to a gentle boil and test for the "sugar point" as we say in Portuguese, which is actually the density of the sugar+water mix or the sugar sirup stage.
We want the "pearl" point, which is easily detected if you take part of the mixture on your spoon, blow a bit to cool it down and then let it drip slowly from the spoon. The sugar will flow and then stop, leaving a little pearl attached to the spoon. This is the density you want, turn off the heat and let the sugar cool for a while. The amount of water and sugar indicated should bring it pretty close to the desired density as soon as it boils.
In the meantime, use the scale again and weigh the yolks and the Port wine. We used separated yolks sold in 1 kg cartons. You will get the same with 2 dozen large eggs, separating the yolks carefully. This will be a good task for children to help, and you can use egg-separator gadgets...
Measure the Port, this small amount is enough, so a bottle will last many puddings.
Stir gently (do not whisk, just loosen the yolks a bit with the wine).
By the time the sugar sirup has cooled down, pour it slowly into the yolks. It is easier with two people, but you can do it easily with a saucepan. Start with just a drip of sugar sirup, stir the yolks to mix it in and continue, making sugar drip faster as the mix warms up.
Now pour the dough into the caramelised pan. Put the mould into a pan where it fits (not too tightly) and put the lid on. The pan should have some water, but not too much; as you sink the mould, the water should not go above more than half its height.
Put the lid on the pan as well and turn the heat on. As soon as the water boils, bring the heat down to a steady slow boil point. Let it cook for 1 hour. When the time is up, turn off the heat, take the pudding mould out of the pan (be careful with the hot water) and take the lid off. The top of the pudding should look well cooked and the overall feel should be jelly-like, not liquid.
It will probably smell wonderfully, but you will have to wait at least 12 hours to remove it from the mould and look at the result. If you make the pudding in advance (up to 1 week), you can just let it stay in the mould until just before serving - it will look better and there will be no danger of it collapsing.
The pudding is an excellent dessert to bring if friends invite you over for dinner. Just carry the pudding still in the mould, unmould it in the destination to a local plate, and take the mould back on the same plain bag (lid on).
The result, we can assure, is amazing.