Roly-Poly Pudding, Rhubarb and Robin Hood.

The evolution and near extinction of a dessert.

Steamed and boiled puddings were popular, and practical and inexpensive, but time consuming. Not in terms of preparation, but in the cooking; boiling or steaming takes time, usually two to three hours.  As women were being liberated from the home and given choice for the first time, boiled and steamed puddings were saved for special occasions like Christmas or forgotten about all together. Which is how traditional cooking and dishes gets lost.

But in Mrs Beeton’s day, boiled desserts and steamed puddings were eaten everyday, of course because middle class women had either the time to make the puddings themselves or they could afford to hire a cook to do so.

It’s time to bring this dessert back, maybe not boiled in a cloth or an old shirt sleeve as was also common, but baked in the oven, and probably not everyday, unless you’re a full time farmer, which you probably are not. But if you are, go for it.

From Mrs Beeton’s Book Of Household Management pub. 1859-1861

Roly-Poly Jam Pudding (in the book, her recipes are numbered)

1291. Ingredients-3/4 lb. of suet crust No.1215, 3/4 lb. of any kind of jam.

Mode.-Make a nice light suet-crust by recipe No.1215, and roll it out to the thickness of about 1/2 inch. Spread the jam equally over it, leaving a small margin of paste without any, where the pudding joins. Roll it up, fasten the ends securely, and tie in a floured cloth; put the pudding into boiling water, and boil for 2 hours. Mincemeat or marmalade may be substituted for the jam, and makes excellent puddings.

Time-2 hours. Average cost, 9d

Sufficient for 5 to 6 persons

Seasonable.-Suitable for winter puddings, when fresh fruit is not obtainable

Suet Crust, for Pies or Puddings.

1215. Ingredients.-To every lb. of flour allow 5 to 6 oz. of beef suet, 1/2 pint of water.

Mode.-Free the suet from the skin and shreds; chop it extremely fine, and rub it well into the flour; work the whole to a smooth paste with the above proportion of water; roll it out, and it is ready for use.

Suet is the fat cap or the covering of a cow’s kidney.I once worked at a French Bistro that served roignons, my chop has prep cook was to clean the roignons. I would go home on the subway after a shift and no one would sit beside, I smelled like cow pee

The English, through immigration and the arrival of Loyalists from the United States, populated Canada’s East Coast, as well as what was then called Upper Canada, bringing their recipes and culinary traditions with them.

In 1915, the Five Roses Flour Cookbook offers two recipes for Roly-Poly, one called “English Roly-Poly” and the other one is simply Roly-Poly, which has baking powder in the recipe which will lighten the pastry, making it more biscuit-like and less like pie dough.

Roly-Poly Five Roses Flour CookBook, pub. 1915

3 cups Five Roses flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup suet

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sweet milk to mix

Raspberry jam

Mix with sweet milk and roll out. Spread with raspberry jam, roll in a cloth and steam 3 hours. Serve with sauce or cream and sugar.

Then in 1967ish? (No published date in the book) The Robin Hood Canadian Flour Cook Book, Rhubarb and Strawberry Roly-Poly, “The fresh fruit is rolled up in a tender dough and baked in syrup.” This is the recipe in the photo. The syrup may seem like it’s too much and that your roly-poly will drown, it won’t and this dish is delish, and deserves a revival.


2 cups water

1 cup sugar


2 3/4 cups Robin Hood Flour(Regular or Instant Blending)

4 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 cup shortening (I used butter, but then, I always do)

1 cup milk

2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup sliced fresh local in season strawberries

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamom

1 tbsp. butter

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour into greased 9 X 13 pan and set aside.

Spoon flour into dry measuring cup. Level off and pour into mixing bowl. Add baking powder and salt; stir well to blend.

Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add milk in all at once and stir with a fork until all ingredients are moistened.

Turn Out on lightly floured surface and knead gently about 20 times. Roll dough out to 10″ X 20″ rectangle.

Spread evenly with rhubarb and strawberries. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and dot with butter.

Roll up lengthwise and seal edge. Cut into twelve 1″ slices. Place cut-side down in pan containing syrup mixture.

Bake at 450 F. for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm with cream.

Yield 12 servings

(This recipe may seem long, but it’s not)




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