Sunday, March 25, 2012

The rollicking Jam Roly-Poly post - suet or no suet, it's all about the hot jam!

It's hard to blog on a laptop with a cat taking up most of the space on your knee. Ahem, persevering, I've been experimenting again - jam roly poly!

This is a classic British 'nursery pudding' a dessert served up during old school dinners (do they still serve it I wonder?), all rich spongy crust, hot jam and custard. A proper stick-to-your-ribs, hearty pudding that I'd forgotten about for years, and then *had* to have once I'd remembered it.

Traditionally this is a suet pudding ('suet', as in the fat from around the kidneys of cows/sheep, and 'pudding' as in the British for dessert, rather than the Japanese or American set custard-type thing in a pot.) Suet, in a form good for baking, isn't easy to come by in Japan. You can often find a type of fresh suet in the meat section of Japanese supermarkets that is used to grease the pot for sukiyaki, and I have tried to make jam roly poly with this before but it requires melting down, straining of membranes, and adjusting of recipes. It's not the kind of fresh suet referred to in old British recipes that you can freeze and grate. When I tried it a few months ago the resulting pud was far too rich, and so I would recommend reducing the amount of suet in a given recipe by possibly half if you are going to have a go yourself. I'm planning to have another go with this fresh suet - I imagine it would be more wholesome than the dried packet version - and will post a recipe if I get it to work well.

All rolled-up and ready to bake

Today's post is to compare a roly-poly made with all butter and one made with dry, shredded beef suet that I smuggled back in my suitcase. In the UK, most people making a suet pudding would buy a box of Atora suet either in the beef or vegetarian incarnation. Not able to count on a steady supply of Atora, I wanted to see if there was much difference between a roly poly made with or without the traditional ingredient.

With Suet (wrapped up, left), all-butter (right)

The original method of cooking the pudding is to wrap it up and steam it for a few hours. I've read that this used to be done in a shirt sleeve hence the dessert's other names - dead man's arm, shirt sleeve pudding. Many newer recipes just have you baking the poly in an oven, some wrapped in baking parchment and foil, and some recommend having a tray of hot water, slid under the baking pudding to create steam for a bit of a compromise.

The first recipe is a suet version adapted from the one on the BBC food blog:

150g all purpose flour, and a teaspoon of baking powder, sifted together
75g dry shredded suet
100ml cold water
pinch of salt
5 tbsp jam (I like raspberry)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. Mix the sifted flour, suet, and salt together in a large bowl. Add enough water to make a soft dough, but not sticky.
  3. Flour your hands and tip dough onto a lightly floured board, knead briefly before rolling out to a 1cm thickness and a rough 20cm square shape.
  4. Spread a thick layer of jam over the dough, leaving 1cm border, which you dampen with a little water.
  5. Roll up loosely, as shown in the pics below. Place the roll, sealed edge down, on a large lightly buttered piece of baking parchment.
  6. Join the ends of the paper and make a pleated join along the top to allow for the pudding to expand, then twist the ends like a sweet wrapper.
  7. Put the pudding into a large loaf tin or baking tray. Fill a roasting tin with boiling water and place on the base of the oven. Then put your roly poly on the rack above for 35-40 minutes.
  8. Serve with custard.
The second recipe is adapted from a recipe from a Canadian magazine. I found many of the Australian and Canadian versions of jam roly poly were not made with suet. Many of them also instruct you to make a glaze to coat the outside of the pudding.

220g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
140g unsalted butter, frozen
160ml (or more if needed) ice water
about 4-5 tablespoons of jam
a little whole milk for brushing
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar. 
  2. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture. Lightly toss the flour and butter together.
  3. Stir enough ice water into the flour and butter mixture to form a soft, shaggy dough that comes together to form a loose ball. If dough is too dry, add more ice water by tablespoons.
  4. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured board, gently kneading it but not allowing the butter to melt. On a floured surface roll the dough quickly into an approximately 23x33cm rectangle.
  5. Spread jam over the dough, leaving a 2cm border on all sides. Dampen the border with a little water and roll up loosely as shown in the pics below.
  6. Place the roll sealed edge down on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Brush lightly with milk and sprinkle liberally with granulated sugar.
  7. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, and little rivulets of jam are bubbling out the ends, about 30 minutes. Let cool briefly on the baking sheet and slice into 6 portions using a serrated knife. 
  8. Serve with custard.
Here are a few pics to demonstrate the rolling up:

Both recipes produce a soft springy dough, which shouldn't stick too much if you handle it quickly and flour your hands and the board. I put mine in the oven together, with a tray of hot water underneath.

I (selflessly) tested a piece of each and was surprised to find that there wasn't a huge difference in taste, despite the different fat and one having being wrapped up. It' s all about the hot jam! When I make these again I'm going to use more jam, and aim to keep more of it inside the roll when cooking. The trick to retain as much of the jam as possible seems to come with the rolling - if you simply roll it like a swiss roll you'll push most of the jam towards the seam, instead pick up the rolled end of the dough and place it down gently slightly in front of where it was each turn, keeping a very loose 'roll' with lots of space and jam inside.  

Oh yes... but more jam next time, I think

When I tried some the next day there was more of a difference in texture - the suet version had held up much better remaining firm, whereas the butter version had a softer texture and tasted discernibly more buttery, it reminded me of a soft ice cream wafer. So I think that if you're likely to use up everything in one sitting, there isn't too much between the versions.

So have you had jam roly poly before, or are you mystified as to how something with beef products in it can be a dessert? It might look a bit erm, strange to the uninitiated, but trust me, it's lovely. All kinds of warm sweet comfort.

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