Last week I posted about wacky cake. This week I’m venturing back into ‘hardship baking’ territory with a québécois classic, pouding chômeur. This super-sweet, self-saucing pudding-cake literally means ‘pudding of the unemployed’. As the name suggests, it was a cheap and filling recipe that became a staple in Quebec during the Depression, and it remains a comforting classic today. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about the original ingredients for this dessert – so much so that I eventually gave up on finding the ultimate traditional recipe and accepted that, well, maybe it just varied from household to household. (I won’t bother recounting the confusing half hour where I had pouding chômeur down as the ancestor of grand-père dans le sirop, a dessert of seemingly identical ingredients but slightly different method. I think.)
From what I can gather, the 1930s version would have been characterised by very simple ingredients – perhaps with plain cooking fat in place of butter and with cassonade (brown sugar) providing the sweetness. Today’s versions are more indulgent, sometimes including cream and eggs, and often replacing some or all of the brown sugar with maple syrup.
Unfortunately for my hardship baking theme, the maple syrup version of this dessert doesn’t really count as such. Even in Quebec, where 75% percent of the world’s supply is produced, maple syrup isn’t exactly what I’d call ‘cheap’. And with the cost of the stuff in England, this recipe is an indulgence! Feeling stuck in the recession? Stick to brown sugar pouding chômeur.
This pudding is similar to British sticky toffee pudding. Because I find it too sweet for my wimpy tastes (oh lordy, I am turning into my mother), I think it’s nice served with thick Greek yogurt or creme fraiche, which is really refreshing and helps to cut the sweetness. And to begin with, my version is also less sweet than most others you’ll find. This serves 8.
1 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup water
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Whisk together the flour, sugar, nutmeg and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cooled melted butter and milk. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and gently fold in until combined. Spoon the mixture onto the bottom of a baking dish or divide between 8 ramekins.
Whisk together the water, maple syrup, brown sugar, butter and cornstarch; pour it over the batter. (If you’re making individual ones it will seem like a lot of liquid for each little ramekin, but it quickly sinks to the bottom and the containers won’t overflow.) Place the baking dish(es) onto a cookie sheet to catch any drips, and bake in a 375F oven until the tops are golden and just firm to the touch – about 15 minutes for ramekins and 40 minutes for one large pudding.