Sometimes the simplest old recipe is one of the hardest to bring forward to the current era. This is certainly one of those. Why? Because it is cooked in a metal can, and those are not as readily available now days as they were a few years ago.
Otherwise, the recipe is very simple and easy to make. It uses a lot of spices, but it doesn’t require a mechanical mixer- just a wooden spoon. Before you start making it, be sure to read my discussion below.
Steamed Bread Pudding
(Catherine P. Crary (Errol’s Mother) to Marlys 1963
Lucy Crary (Errol’s grandmother) to Catherine 1932)
- 2 cups bread crumbs, dried
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoons flour (heaped)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup melted butter
Mix together bread crumbs, sugar, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and raisins. Add milk, eggs and butter.
Mix together with a wooden spoon until well blended. Pour into a well-buttered can which has a tight fitting lid. If there is no lid, cover with a double layer of foil (or 1 layer of heavy-duty foil) and tie foil in place with string around the can.
Place the can on a dishrag in a larger pot with a cover. Pour hot water half-way up the side of the pudding can. Cover baking pot and cook for 3 hours at 200 degrees. It will expand about 2 times. If you use two small cans instead of one large, cook 2 hours.
You want to definitely make this recipe in a metal can! At first, I couldn’t find Marlys’s can for making bread pudding, so I improvised. I went into her stash of cans that she saves for storing Christmas cookies and took one that was starting to show wear- it was a 3 pound coffee can with a plastic lid. I used it, and the recipe came out exactly as I remembered it.
But, what could I recommend to you to use? Coffee is seldom found in the stores in 3 pound cans anymore; more often it is in either bags, or plastic containers. I searched kitchen stores, and even the general food-plus-household goods stores. First, I found Asparagus Steamers and ceramic crocks- they were all too expensive to even consider. Then I found the plastic canisters- the price was right, but would they hold up to the heat of cooking? The temperature of cooking is very low, so they might work. I decided to test the possibility- and met with failure. The plastic canister I used split at some point in the cooking. I can only think that there is a pressure buildup- why else would we be tying double layers of foil on the top of the can?
Daughter Mindy suggested trying a spring-form pan, so I did that, and again had a failure. What I learned then was that a spring-form pan is far from water tight. So I am left with this word of advice: if you think you have an answer to the metal can, see if it will hold water. It appears to me that you need a can that can hold eight cups of water without leaking.
You need a metal can; you might need to wait until the holidays when you might find one filled with cookies, or Almond Roca. You might look in some of the stores like World Market. Just know that you are going to want to make this recipe, and it requires a metal can that will fit inside your larger pot with a lid.
The recipe calls for bread crumbs. Now days, you can buy bread crumbs at the grocery store. I remember how Mom would let the old bread get dry and stale, and then grind it into crumbs. Originally, it was man-power (me) that turned the crank on the grinder, but later she had a grinder that mounted on the stand mixer. For kicks, I decided to try drying the bread and grinding it. I found that eight slices of bread would make the two cups of bread crumbs needed for the recipe.
So that is the story of how to make Steamed Bread Pudding, and why such a simple recipe became so difficult that I had to make it several times to understand the mysterious process that takes place inside the sealed can. Somehow, the steam pressure and baking soda work to make the pudding expand and be lighter. When water leaked in, and the pressure leaked out, the product was very dense, and not the enjoyable cake-like product I wanted.
Steamed Bread Pudding can be eaten just as it is, as a sweet bread, but we were spoiled and always put a sweet sauce on it. My favorite was a Chocolate Sauce, but Mom also made what she called her Favorite Sauce– I remember it as having a lemon flavor. In some previous posts, I have included two other sauce recipes –Rum Sauce and Lemon Sauce; you might want to investigate them as accompaniments for your Steamed Bread Pudding.