March 5, 2013 § Leave a comment
It was back in February 2010 that I last wrote about good old-fashioned English puddings so it’s high time I returned to the subject. Yes I know it’s March now so technically we’re in what the Met Office calls Spring but looking out of the window this morning there’s a sharp frost on the ground so a warming suet pudding would still be very welcome.
I have a weakness for traditional suet puddings which have an undeserved reputation for heaviness. Carefully made, ideally with freshly grated beef suet rather than Atora, they can be beautifully light.
Tracking down an authentic Spotted Dick recipe from my quite extensive collection of recipe books proved surprisingly tricky. After leafing through Mrs Beeton, Jane Grigson, Delia, Prue Leith et al I’d drawn a blank. The only recipe named Spotted Dick I could find was in my trusty battered old copy of The Good Housekeeping Cookery book. This very simple recipe includes just suet, flour, breadcrumbs, currants,milk to bind and a flavouring of grated lemon peel. It’s shaped into a neat roll shape, enclosed in greaseproof paper and foil and steamed for 2 hours.
The traditional roll-shaped pudding worked just fine but I was after something a little daintier and more appealing to a suet pudding first-timer. I tried the same mixture shaped in individual pudding moulds first steamed and another batch water-bath baked for just an hour. This didn’t work half so well and in the case of the baked pudding was really quite unpleasant – stodgy and oily. I concluded that long steaming to allow the ingredients to meld properly was important.
I then sought inspiration from 2 further places – 1) the ingredients list on the pack of Marks and Spencer individual Spotted Dick puddings (yes,really, and rather good too!) and Mrs Beeton. Mrs Beeton may not have a pudding called Spotted Dick but she does list countless different suet puddings many of which contain eggs and more flour than my recipe.
After a little tweaking and experimentation (adding eggs and more milk to give a softer batter-like texture, increasing the flour, soaking the currants in cold tea overnight to make them beautifully moist, adding a little ground allspice to lift the flavour) I came up with my own recipe below which I think is a winner and can hold its own with its Marks and Spencer counterpart both in terms of appearance, flavour and texture:
Don’t forget to serve with plenty of proper custard!
Recipe for Individual Spotted Dicks
Adapted from a recipe in “The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book”. Makes 7
150g plain flour
3 level teaspoons baking powder
150g fresh white breadcrumbs
210g currants soaked for several hours or overnight in tea
75g golden caster sugar
level teaspoon ground allspice
grated rind of 1 and 1/2 lemons
2 medium eggs, beaten until lightly frothy
75ml-125ml milk (3-5 tablespoons) to mix to a soft dough consistency
1. Lay out 7 individual pudding basins in one or two large lidded casseroles or saucepans. There’s no need to grease as the suet will do this for you as it melts during steaming. I use Lakeland foil disposable basins available in packs of 50. Preheat an oven to 160 degrees C if you plan to steam in the oven.
2. In a mixing bowl stir together thoroughly the flour and baking powder. Add the crumbs, suet, sugar and lemon rind to the bowl and stir to mix.
3. Add the drained currants, beaten eggs and 75ml (3 tablespoons) milk. Stir until well blended adding a little more milk if necessary until you achieve a soft dough consistency.
4. Divide the mixture between the pudding basins, placing them back in the steaming pan. Cover each one tightly with foil. You can judge whether the basins are equally filled either by eye or more accurately by weighing them on some digital scales. My filled basins weighed 140g each including the 4g weight of the empty foil basin ie the weight of mixture was 136g each.
5. If you’re steaming in the oven, place the pan in the oven then fill with boiling water from the kettle to come half way up the sides of the puddings. If you’re steaming on the hob, again place the pan in position and add boiling water from the kettle.
6. Steam for 2 hours. Turn out (you may need to run a knife round the edge of the basis first) and serve with lashings of proper custard.
November 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
The melting middle chocolate pudding or moelleux au chocolat as it’s known in France is one of those dishes that pops up all over the place, from Masterchef to TV cookery programmes to the Marks and Spencer chilled section.
It’s now a recipe in my newly expanded repertoire of chocolate desserts following a trip earlier in the year to the Lenôtre Cooking School, the best place in Paris to learn about making fine pâtisserie at home. I’ve written before about attending classes at Lenôtre -see my post Le Vrai Macaron Parisien. For anyone interested in baking it has to be the place to come and learn tricks of the trade (though all the teaching is conducted in French so at least schoolgirl French is a must). Our group comprised 3 chic Parisiennes, a jolly baker from Lille up for the weekend to hone his skills, and of course me. We were instructed by the charming and surprisingly thin Gilles Maisonneuve:
Gilles is a hands-on kind of instructor, particularly if you are young and glamorous. Here he is instructing one of my fellow students.
Unlike baking at home that has to be done in a kitchen where family meals are cooked, homework done, laundry dried or whatever, the Lenôtre kitchen is gleamingly clean and empty and set up for baking action.
I love the way the finest ingredients are used here in industrial quantities – neatly labelled bins of best quality couverture chocolate, Madagascan vanilla powder, paste and whole pods in similar neat hoppers, different kinds of sugars, nuts, fruits, spices, flours. Then there’s the equipment – rack upon rack of prepared uniform size baking trays, tartlet tins, piping nozzles of all kinds. It just makes you want to get started on an ambitious baking project, and there’s even your own personal kitchen porter to whisk away your dirty pots. What bliss!
The name of this half day course was “Desserts Tout Chocolat” and we made chocolate tartlets, chocolate sorbet and the universally loved chocolate brownie (pronounced “Brooney” or “Bruni” in French – depending on whether your reference points are Manchester United players or politicians’ wives) as well as the moelleux au chocolat, but it is this last dessert that I’ll be concentrating on today.
I am so thrilled with this recipe – it works perfectly every time and is very straightforward – even my 14 year old son can knock out a batch of perfect puddings. It sits in the fridge quite happily for a few days ready to be baked and served withing 9 minutes – perfect for dinner parties. The puddings freeze well too though I think it’s worth defrosting them for, say, 2 hours at room temperature rather than baking straight from frozen. The recipe, though simple, does call for precision (and I mean to the nearest gram) in the weighing of ingredients, the portioning out of the mixture between the moulds and cooking temperature and time.
I’ve cooked these numerous times at home now and have tried rival recipes, specifically those in TV chef Rachel Khoo and Lorraine Pascale’s books. Sorry ladies, your versions just don’t cut it – too big, too sweet, wrong texture.
At Lenôtre we cooked our moelleux in individual disposal foil pudding basins which we buttered and floured then scattered a few flaked almonds into the base:
This is what the end result looked like:
Not bad huh? That said I’m not sure the flaked almonds add a great deal. The disposable foil basins are dead handy and you can pick them up in Lakeland and no doubt other places as well. Better still than the disposable foil basins are these perfectly sized non-stick metal dariole moulds, also available from Lakeland:
No need to grease and flour, the puddings turn out like a dream straight from the oven:
This brings me to the other piece of kit that you’ll need to make this recipe with ease, a disposable piping bag. You can buy these cheaply and easily in bulk from Amazon. They look like a roll of tear-off plastic bags which is exactly what they are but are triangular in shape to create a piping bag. I’ve found the best way to fill them cleanly is to stand them into a tall cylindrical container which supports the weight of the mixture as you spoon it in:
The most important ingredient in the recipe is of course the chocolate. We used dark couverture chocolate drops at Lenôtre. I think they favour the Barry Caillebaut brand and the recipe specifies a 70% cocoa content chocolate. The word “couverture” means a specialised chocolate with a high cocoa butter content for ease of melting. I’ve had unsatisfactory cooking results with some dark chocolates whic simply list a high cocoa solid count on their labels. My suspicion is that they’re stuffed full of cocoa powder rather than the more expensive cocoa butter which makes the chocolate dry and powdery.
I’ve used Valrhona chocolate drops in my recipe, purchased in industrial quantities from the excellent Chocolate Trading Company (see contact details below). I see from their website that they’re based nearby in Macclesfield of all places so I can even comfort myself with the thought that I’m buying local when I take my latest delivery!
Once you have the right kit and ingredients assembled it’s a straightforward task to melt the chocolate (over simmering water please), combine it with the softened butter (you need a bit of patience here to let it soften then mash it with a wooden spoon), lightly beaten eggs, sugar, flour and baking powder.
Once baked, all you need to do is serve with a little thick cream (or raspberry coulis if you prefer) and sit back and enjoy the compliments!
Recipe for melting middle chocolate pudding
Translated and adapted from the Lenôtre pâtisserie school recipe though I have not dared tinker with the ingredients, quantities or method!
170g dark couverture chocolate drops (I use Valrhona Manjari, a 64% cocoa content couverture chocolate)
130g unsalted softened butter
95g golden caster sugar
130g whole egg – shelled weight (approximately 2 large eggs)
100g plain flour
4g baking powder
Melt the chocolate using your preferred method (Lenôtre recommend a bain-marie). Add the softened butter and mix well. Add the sugar and lightly beaten egg (whisk by hand with a fork or small whisk until there is a little froth on the surface of the egg) and mix to incorporate.
Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl and stir well to combine. Gradually add the flour and baking powder to the chocolate mixture. Mix to combine but do not overwork the mixture.
Put the mixture into a disposable piping bag and use this to fill 8 small dariole moulds. Use scales to weigh each mould to ensure you fill them evenly. You should find that if you use a rubber spatula to empty the bowls thoroughly that you can fill the moulds with at least 72g of mixture, maybe even 75g of mixture if you’re careful.
Chill the moulds in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Bake at 200 degrees C fan for 9 minutes.
Containers and moulds
Fine couverture chocolate
August 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
Nothing to do with electronic devices but the easiest and most rewarding of wild foods for the first-time forager.
These beauties came from the grounds of the house on the North Wales coast where we holidayed last week. For us Mancunians, it’s like Cornwall but without the long car journey. Breathtaking mountain backdrops, glorious sandy beaches, quaint stone cottages – all it lacks is reliable sunshine.
The brambles love it there and there is excellent blackberrying to be had at this time of year if you can find a sunny spot against a dry stone wall where the fruit has had chance to ripen. The best blackberries are always just out of reach – but maybe the scratches and attendant cunning required to hook down the high branches are all part of the appeal, the annual repetition of childhood ritual.
What to do with your precious hard-won haul? If you’ve exhausted the repertoire of pies, crumbles and jellies, here’s an idea for an easy-to-make pudding that lets the flavour of the blackberries shine through. It’s a blackberry clafoutis, the simple French baked pudding from the Limousin region usually made with cherries. This version, which I’ve adapted from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” replaces cherries with blackberries.
The house where we stay when we come to this part of Wales is a rambling manor house remodelled in the last century by Clough Williams-Ellis, architect of nearby Portmeirion. Cooking here is a pleasure as the house is blessed with a cool slate shelved pantry and well-equipped kitchen with cupboards packed with Portmeirion pottery. But you don’t need a well-equipped kitchen to make this pudding -it’s quick and easy and the proportions are forgiving so it’s perfect to make when your’re staying in a holiday house or cottage.
The berries are macerated in delicious Crème de Mûre, French blackberry liqueur, and the resulting juices are added to the batter mixture along with some blanched almonds which enrich the pudding and the subtle almond flavour works well with the blackberries.
The tip in the recipe for pouring a layer of batter into the baking dish and gently letting this cook to provide a base so that the fruit can’t all sink to the bottom really does work:
Adding the macerated blackberry juices to the mixture turns the batter an appealing but shade of pink:
But don’t worry, despite starting off as pink, the baked clafoutis will puff up and become crusty and golden brown just as the recipe promises.
Dust with icing sugar or sprinkle with caster sugar and serve with chilled pouring cream. Dig in and enjoy your the fruits of your blackberrying.
Recipe for clafoutis
Adapted from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. I give first of all the basic recipe with cherries, then variants with liqueur, almonds and blackberries. The version I cooked last week combined all 3 ie I substituted blackberries for cherries, macerated the blackberries in liqueur and added almonds to the batter as well.
Serves 6 to 8
For the batter
½ pint milk
2oz granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 and ½ oz sifted flour
For the fruit
¾ lb stoned black cherries
2 oz granulated sugar
Place the ingredients for the batter in the jar of a liquidiser or food processor in the order listed. Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute. If you don’t have a liquidiser, break the eggs into a well in the flour and sugar and gradually incorporate them into the batter with a whisk, adding milk as you go.
Pour a ¼ inch layer of batter into a 3 to 4 pint capacity shallow ovenproof baking dish. Place over a moderate heat or hot oven until the batter has set. Remove from the heat. Spread the cherries over the batter and sprinkle on the sugar.
Pour over the rest of the batter and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
Place in the middle of an oven preheated to 160 degrees C fan; 350 degrees F and bake for about an hour. The clafoutis is ready when it is puffed and brown and when a knife plunged into the centre comes out clean.
Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve hot or warm.
Variant 1 – cherries marinated in kirsch
1/8 pint kirsch
2 oz granulated sugar
Let the cherries stand in the kirsch and sugar for one hour. Substitute the liquid that results for some of the milk and all of the sugar in the master recipe.
Variant 2 – with almonds – “À la Bourdaloue”
3 oz blanched almonds
Add the almonds to the liquidizer and puree along with the other ingredients. If you don’t have access to a liquidiser, add ground almonds to the flour instead and proceed with the well mixing method as described in the master recipe above.
Variant 3 – Blackberry
Substitute 12oz stemmed and washed blackberries for the cherries.
Increase the flour from 2 and 1/2 oz to 3 and 1/2 oz as the berries are juicier than the cherries.
Just as a footnote, if you fancy having a go at the classic Limousin version of clafoutis with cherries then I can recommend the Oxo Good Grips cherry-stoning device which I picked up on Amazon.co.uk for £7.99. This gadget really is the business and the boys couldn’t get there hands on it once they realised they could fire cherry stones at one another…