What’s for Pudding, Mum?

How do you define a British pudding? What makes it different from the sweet desserts you get around the rest of the world? Some might call our desserts stodgy, but not me. When cooked properly our puddings can be as delicate as they are sweet.

Take our famous Bread and Butter Pudding (see above photo) for example. Fine slices of buttered brioche, liberally scattered with plump juicy sultanas, drenched in creamy vanilla sweet custard and baked until crisp on the top and suitably oozing custard from underneath. Cooked badly on the other hand it can resemble a squidgy brick.

Many of our puddings have had makeovers over the years. From the 1970’s, a layered sherry trifle springs to mind. For years I couldn’t even contemplate it as it was always stuffed full of processed jelly, cheap sponge and powdered custard, but now, as it has grown up, it’s now made with almond sponge (or amaretti biscuits if were not being too fussed with British ingredients) drenched in sherry (or amaretto), topped with lightly poached summer fruits, thick vanilla custard and, softly whipped cream, fresh raspberries and flaked, toasted almonds – we are speaking more my language.

The pudding that I cannot turn down if it’s on the menu and is always a winner with, well… everyone, is Sticky Toffee Pudding. It is simply a baked sponge cake that is made tooth-suckingly sticky by having pureed medjool dates that have been soaked in tea, (my favorite is Earl Grey) mixed through it. It is then served with a sticky toffee sauce drenched over it and if that wasn’t enough, a good dollop of clotted cream or crème fraiche to finish it off. Scrumptious!

But, my all time favorite pudding has to be a crumble. Traditionally apple, but I must say I am a bit of a sucker for a more modern approach. I love rhubarb, pear and ginger crumble as much as I love blackberry and apple crumble. The crumble comes from butter, flour and sugar being crumbled together into pastry clumps which when baked are crisp and um…crumbly. Fruit puddings generally are what get me excited. Apple Charlotte, which is kind of like an apple pie but with a crisp bread crust and Eve’s Pudding, which is a bit like a crumble but with a Victoria sponge topping are two that spring to mind that I would find hard to turn down.

We have some peculiar names for our puds too. Spotted Dick, which is a suet-based steamed pud that’s studded with currants. Sussex Pond Pudding, another suet-based pudding stuffed with a whole lemon which infuses the pud while cooking then makes the ‘pond’ when cut into. Jam Roly Poly, which yet again is a suet-pud, this time spread with jam then rolled into a sausage before being steamed. It is safe to say we like our suet puddings and it is safe to say that our puddings are almost always served with custard.

We do have delicate puddings like a burnt cream or set cream, which are both delightful and basically translate as a crème brulee and a panacotta, “UK Style.” Couldn’t confirm who actually ‘owns’ these recipes as a nation, but we would most certainly do our best to try to prove these as our own.

I could go on, but I won’t, instead I’ll just leave you with a Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe that I bid you to try. I guarantee you will be on the rampage for more British pud recipes pronto.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

This is my boyfriend Dean’s recipe and while he is a fantastic cook, he is so damn lazy he never cooks for me, except for this. And my God does it make up for it. The toffee-ish dates keep the pudding really moist.

250g dates, stoned and chopped

250ml black tea, made with 1 teabag, I love Earl Grey

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

85g unsalted butter, softened

175g caster sugar (white sugar)

2 large eggs, beaten

175g self-raising flour, sieved

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the sauce:

150g light muscovado sugar (or sugar in the raw)

150g unsalted butter

200ml double cream (or heavy cream)

Heat oven to 180C. Place the dates in a small saucepan, then cover with the hot tea. Bring to the boil and cook for 3 – 4 minutes so the dates soften, then stir in the bicarbonate.

As when baking a cake, cream together the butter and sugar before adding the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour, vanilla and date mixture, then pour into a 22cm buttered baking dish. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the top is springy and you can pull a skewer out clear.

While the pudding is cooking, make the sauce by putting the sugar, butter and cream into a saucepan. Place over a low heat and melt the sugar until it has dissolved then whack the heat up and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the sauce is a light toffee colour.

Serve the pudding with the warm sauce and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or clotted cream.

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Rachael Ray