Sunday 11 December 2016

Just desserts: Home-made puddings

Home-made puddings, fresh from the oven, can be a delicious and nourishing way to make your family feel loved, says Brenda Costigan, as long as the main course is light and simple

Published 27/03/2011 | 10:40

Queen of puddings
Queen of puddings

Nigel Slater claims that "homely pudding will cure all manner of ills". It certainly makes a family feel loved. Home-made puddings made with eggs, butter and flour, and including seasonal fruits, are nourishing.

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Ever conscious of calories, I agree with Delia Smith who loves to indulge once a week in a lovely homely pudding. So do I, and, when I'm serving one, I try to serve a light and simple main course. Then I follow it up with a delicious home-made pudding and all are entirely satisfied.

My love of meringue is indulged with the lovely queen of puddings recipe. Since rhubarb and orange compliment each other so well, I have used them instead of the traditional apple in apple sponge -- which is also known as Eve's pudding, and a favourite dessert of my mother.

You could serve these desserts with a little cream, some custard or a scoop of ice cream to make them completely and utterly scrumptious.

POACHED BLUEBERRIES

You will need:

75g (3oz) blueberries

Juice of 1 orange

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 tablespoon blackcurrant jam

1-2 teaspoons caster sugar

Put the blueberries into a small saucepan. Blend the orange juice with the cornflour and add to the saucepan.

Bring to the boil, and then simmer very gently to thicken the juice slightly. Stir in the blackcurrant jam and the caster sugar until they are both mixed through. Use as required.

QUEEN OF PUDDINGS

(Pictured)

The topping of soft meringue gives an irresistible touch to what is essentially a very simple dessert. If you like, the breadcrumb mixture can be varied by the addition of one or two tablespoons of raisins and/or toasted chopped almonds, or even some summer berries. Serves 6.

You will need:

4 egg yolks

600ml (1pt) milk

25g (1oz) butter, plus extra for greasing the dish(es)

50g (2oz) caster sugar

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

90g (3 1/2oz) fresh white breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons of your favourite jam, softened, or poached blueberries (see above)

For the meringue topping, you will need:

4 egg whites

175g (6oz) caster sugar

Use a 1.25L (2pt) shallow ovenproof dish or individual 225ml (8fl oz) pots, greased with butter.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Set aside. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until bubbles appear around the edge. Add the butter, the caster sugar and the finely grated lemon zest to the hot milk and heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Gradually add the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Stir in the fresh white breadcrumbs and then pour the mixture into the prepared dish or individual dishes. Leave to stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4, and bake the pudding or puddings for about 30 minutes until they are just set.

Take out of the oven and spread the softened jam or the poached blueberries, whichever you are using, using just enough to make a thin layer over the top. Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, but not so stiff that they seem dry. Then whisk in the caster sugar, one spoon at a time, to make a nice meringue. Spoon or pipe -- using a forcing bag and rose nozzle -- the meringue in a thick layer to cover the jam. Return the pudding or puddings to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes or so until the meringue is a nice golden brown. Serve at once.

APPLE AND BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE

Using some wholemeal flour in the crumble gives the topping a nice crunch. The Bramley apples are cooked first with almost no water, so the resulting puree is not too runny. A few frozen blackberries mixed through the apple results in a wonderful, rich purple colour. Don't sweeten the apple mixture too much -- it's better to let the crumble provide the bulk of the sweetness instead. Serves 6.

You will need:

900g (2lb) Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped or sliced

25g (1oz) soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

175g (6oz) frozen blackberries

150g (5oz) plain or wholemeal flour (or use half and half)

50 g (2oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) butter, cut in lumps

Whipped cream, ice cream or creme fraiche, to serve

Place the prepared Bramley apples, the soft brown sugar and the water into a saucepan. Cook gently with the lid on until the apples are tender and mushy. Add the frozen blackberries and stir through the apples. Lightly grease a wide, 1.75L (3pt) ovenproof dish. Pour the apple and blackberry mixture into it.

Place the plain or wholemeal flour or half and half, whichever you are using, and the caster sugar into a bowl, and rub the lumps of butter through the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, buzz the ingredients in a food processor.) Scatter the crumble mixture over the apple and blackberry mix. Bake in the oven, preheated to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Bake for about 30-45 minutes until the topping is lightly browned. Serve hot, with whipped cream, ice cream or creme fraiche.

Variation:

Include 50g (2oz) chopped almonds or hazelnuts through the crumble mixture before spreading it over the apple and blackberry mixture.

FLAPJACK CRUMBLE FOR STEWED APPLE

This simple recipe makes a crunchy topping to sprinkle on your favourite stewed apple recipe. This can be made in advance and served cold. Serves 6.

You will need:

75g (3oz) butter

50g (2oz) desiccated coconut

50g (2oz) porridge oat flakes

25g (1oz) caster sugar

Melt the butter in a pan and fry the desiccated coconut over a moderate heat, stirring all the time until it turns a light golden brown, taking care not to let it get too brown. As soon as it is ready, add in the oat flakes -- this cools down the coconut. Continue frying and stirring until the oatflakes become a little crunchy too. Sweeten with the caster sugar and sprinkle over your favourite stewed apple just before serving.

RHUBARB AND ORANGE SPONGE

Serves 5-6.

You will need:

450g (1lb) rhubarb (medium-sized bunch)

Juice of 1 orange

90-100g (3 1/2oz) sugar

For the sponge, you will need:

110g (4oz) butter

110g (4oz) caster sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence

150g (5oz) self-raising flour

1-2 tablespoons milk

Use a wide, 1.25L (2pt) ovenproof dish. Top and tail the rhubarb stalks, wash them, and cut them into 2.5cm (1in) lengths. Put the chopped rhubarb into a saucepan with the orange juice and cook gently for a few minutes to soften them without turning them mushy. Stir in the sugar to dissolve it. Leave this mixture to one side while making the sponge.

To make the sponge, beat the butter in a bowl until it becomes soft, then add the caster sugar and mix until soft. Beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla essence. Then stir in the self-raising flour. If the mixture is very stiff, add a tablespoon or two of milk.

Pour the hot rhubarb into the ovenproof dish. Drop small spoonfuls of the sponge mixture all over the rhubarb. Spread it out evenly as best you can, though it will spread out and the blobs of sponge will blend together during cooking.

Preheat the oven to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5, and bake for about 45 minutes until the sponge turns golden. It is important to test the centre with a knife. It is cooked when there are no doughy particles clinging to the knife. You can serve this sponge hot or cold.

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING

This rich pudding makes a delicious, hearty end to a meal. Serves 8.

You will need:

175g (6oz) dates, stoned and chopped coarsely

175ml (6fl oz) boiling water

50-75g (2-3oz) pecan nuts or walnuts (optional)

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

1/4 teaspoon ground mixed spice

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons drinking chocolate

75g (3oz) butter

175g (6oz) caster sugar

2 large eggs

Toffee sauce (see below), to serve

Creme fraiche (optional), to serve

Put the coarsely chopped dates into a little saucepan with the boiling water and bring to the boil. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then strain off and discard the liquid. Buzz the dates in a food processor to make a puree.

If you wish to use the pecan nuts or walnuts, first toast them. Spread them out on a baking tray and put in the oven -- preheated to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4 -- for about 6-8 minutes. Allow them to cool and then chop them. Grease a wide, 1.1-1.4L (2-2?pt) ovenproof dish with butter. Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Sift or mix together the self-raising flour, the ground mixed spice, the cinnamon and the drinking chocolate, and leave to one side.

Beat the butter and the caster sugar together in a bowl until they are nice and soft. Beat in the eggs one at a time and stir in the flour, spice, cinnamon and drinking chocolate mixture. Mix everything together well and then stir in the date puree and the nuts, if you are using them. Spoon into the prepared dish, spread out, and bake for about 35 minutes until the pudding has risen well and is set in the centre. Test with a skewer if necessary -- this should come out clean with no dough-like particles adhering to it. Serve with hot toffee sauce and, if you are using it, creme fraiche.

TOFFEE SAUCE

The golden syrup and lemon juice give a nice bite to this sauce.

You will need:

110g (4oz) butter (preferably unsalted)

110g (4oz) caster or brown sugar

150ml (5fl oz) cream

2 squares dark chocolate (optional)

1 tablespoon golden syrup

1-2 teaspoons lemon juice

While the pudding is cooking, make the toffee sauce by putting the butter, the caster sugar or the brown sugar, whichever you are using, and the cream into a saucepan. Heat them over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce simmers and bubbles for a few minutes. Stir in the dark chocolate, if you are using it, the golden syrup and the lemon juice and mix well.

Individual toffee puddings

A pretty way to present this tasty dessert is in individual servings using 75ml (3fl oz) ramekin dishes. Use only half the amounts listed for the ingredients of the sticky toffee pudding recipe to make six individual puddings.

Divide the mixture between the buttered ramekins and place them on a baking tray. Bake at the same temperature as the sticky toffee pudding recipe for about 15 minutes. The resulting pudding may be left in the ramekins for serving or each one can be lifted out and placed on the serving plate with some of the toffee sauce poured over them. Serve hot.

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