Friday, March 7, 2014

Family Recipe Friday (March 7, 2014) -- Sailor's Duff, A Wonderful Winter Dessert (But Excellent Anytime!)

Family recipe card for "Sailor's Duff." The card is probably 75 years or more old.

Family recipe for the sauce topping referred to in the upper right corner of the Sailor's Duff recipe.   The sauce recipe was added to the back of the Sailor's Duff card perhaps 20 years ago by my wife, Molly. 

This steamed molassas pudding dessert is a family favorite that came down to us through Molly's Canadian maternal line. It is made by request several times a year and is the consistent choice for a birthday dessert by at least one member of the family. So far as I know, Sailor's Duff has been enjoyed as a favored dessert by at least four generations at this point. Through this post, the recipe is hereby formally passed on to our daughter-in-law Pamela so one member of her household can get this dessert more often than he is used to and so the next generation can be introduced to it when the time comes in the not too distant future.

The history of Sailor's Duff is unknown to us, but a little surfing of the internet does disclose that it is known among those cultures that enjoy various steamed puddings (often made in a "pudding bag" although this recipe uses a mould).  

If you noticed the British spelling of "mold" you will have a clue that steamed pudding "duff" recipes are popular in the UK, New Zealand, and Canada among other places. The association with sailors is thought to relate to the fact that the ingredients are pretty basic and could be items easily found and carried aboard a ship. The molasses in the recipe is a bit of an indicator that such recipes are fairly old and from a time when molasses was a more common and preferred sweetener than sugar.  Sugar did not become more popular than molassas and more common as a sweetener until around the turn of the last century and the time of the first World War. It is said that the word "duff" is actually a pronunciation of "dough" from northern England. 

This recipe is one handed down from Molly's mother and her mother -- and probably Molly's grandmother's mother too -- all of whom were born and raised in eastern Canada (Ontario) where Sailor's Duff is apparently a fairly common dessert. The old family recipe card is well used as can be seen above, so the recipe is transcribed below for the ease of the interested cook. The preferred sauce with the Duff is the "Creamy Sauce" starred above -- so much so that in over thirty-five years I do not think I have ever had Sailor's Duff with the alternate "Foamy Lemon Sauce!" 

Sailor's Duff

                    2        Tbsp. melted butter                                              2        Tbsp. brown sugar
                    1         egg with yolk                                                     1/2      cup of molasses
                    1 1/2   cups of flour                                                       1         tsp. baking powder
                    Salt (to taste)                                                                 1/2      tsp. baking soda

In a large bowl mix the butter and brown sugar.  Add the remaining ingredients, except the baking soda, and mix thoroughly. Take the 1/2 tsp of baking soda and dissolve it in 1 Tbsp of hot water.  Add to other ingredients and beat until well incorporated.  Add 1/2 cup of boiling water.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour into a well-buttered mould (Molly uses a metal mixing bowl). Cover the mould with wax paper (be sure to use a large piece of wax paper that can be rolled over itself around the edge to stay in place) and then steam cook the mould for about 1 hour or until it appears done (an inserted knife comes out clean). [To steam cook use a pot larger than the mould, place the mould on a rack placed in the bottom of the pot, and keep about one inch of water in the bottom of the pot for steaming.] Time it so the Duff is served warm with the following Creamy Sauce ready to be spooned generously over each helping of the Duff.  

           Creamy Sauce
                  1        egg                                                                        1         tsp. vanilla
                  1/2     cup confectioners sugar                                        1/4     pint whipping cream

The sauce should be made just before serving the Duff. In one bowl whip the cream and set it aside. In a separate bowl beat the egg completely. Gradually add the confectioners sugar.  Add vanilla and beat until well mixed.  Fold the whipped cream into the egg, sugar, vanilla mix.  Serve generously over the top of a serving of warm Duff. 

A very good photograph of what this recipe
for Sailor's Duff with Creamy Sauce looks like.
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Recipe and cards from the Fennell/Jeffs/O'Kane/Tew line of women.

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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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