Roly-poly pudding is a steamed or baked roll of suet dough filled with jam. This 19th-century suet-pastry recipe was also known as shirt-sleeve pudding after the article of old clothing in which the steamed version was cooked. Cut in thick slices to expose a spiral of jam, it is usually served with custard. At school, before the health police moved in, it was a weekly treat and often went by the nickname of dead man's leg. The baked version has the advantage of a golden crust; the steamed version is often moist and tends to keep its shape better as it is tightly bandaged in muslin at it cooks.
THE RECIPE Mix 85g shredded suet with 175g self-raising flour. Add 1 tbsp of caster sugar then bring to a sticky but rollable dough with about 160-170ml of cold water. Set the oven at 220C/gas mark 7. Roll out on a well-floured board into a rectangle approximately 30x20cm. Spread 250g dark jam over, then wet the long edge and roll into a thick sausage. Press firmly to seal. Lift on to a nonstick or paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes or so until golden. Serve in thick slices. Serves 6.
THE TRICK Jam rolls have a habit of flattening out as they bake. You can avoid this by making the pastry firmer with more flour, or pushing the roll up against the side of the baking tin, to help it keep its shape. Steamed rolls keep a good shape if you roll them tightly in muslin. Use a dark jam such as blackcurrant to emphasise the swirl inside so it shows against the pale dough. Whatever method you employ the jam is bound to leak a little.
THE TWISTUse a layer of treacle instead of jam; incorporate dried fruits such as finely chopped candied peel and soft-dried figs into the dough . Add grated lemon or orange zest to the dough before rolling.
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