Is a mold a must for Christmas Pudding?
I jokingly offered to make a christmas pudding for a Christmas Eve party, and my hostess accepted. Ooops.
I know that it's too late to hope for a perfect pudding (other Chowhounders have recommended anywhere from six months to three years(!!!) in the pantry for a proper flavor), but must I buy a pudding mold to make it? Recipes say it's possible to steam a pudding in a stainless steel bowl, but should the bowl be partly submerged in the water? Or would it be okay if the bowl was suspended over the water, like a double boiler? Would it be possible to bake the thing in an improvised bain marie in a very low oven?
If I have to, I will buy the mold, and make Stir-up Sundays a tradition henceforth in order to get my money's worth, but funds are tight, and I can think of other places to spend $25.
I know it's too late now... but my mother always used to use a mixing bowl to steam her puddings. She originally used pyrex or pottery but after one broke in two from temperature shock during cooking, she decided that metal was definitely the way to go! I bought myself a pudding setup a few years ago - the biggest CHEAP stockpot I could find, a circular metal cake cooler that nests in the bottom of it, a metal mixing bowl that fits into the saucepan, and a roll of kitchen string. Some of the metal oxidised off the cooling rack during the cooking process so the pot is no longer usable for food, but it's just fine for steaming! I've only used it the once, but it's there should I ever decide that I see a Christmas pudding (or other steamed pudding) in my future.
For the record, I steamed it in a large stainless steel bowl, sealed with three layers of foil, inside a lobster pot, with water coming about halfway up the sides. I steamed it again for an hour and a half before bringing it to the party, but I didn't get the chance to taste it, but it smelled divine, and I was assured it was delicious by those who did partake.
To sum, no suet was used, no pudding mold was necessary. I used Nigella Lawson's Untraditional Christmas Pudding recipe from Feast, but with traditional dried fruits.
Puddings used to be cooked in (cloth) bags as well as in molds, so no, a mold is not necessary.
You just need to be sure that whatever you cook it in can hold up to the long cooking. A stainless steel bowl should be fine. I have used wide-mouthed canning jars to make small puddings (i.e. that taper down from the mouth, so the pudding can slide out). An ovenproof ceramic bowl would work as well.
I would think the suspended double-boiler set up would work the best, but I haven't tried such a set-up so am not completely sure. Whenever I've made puddings I've always jerry-rigged something and so far it has always worked.