Tag Archives: pudding

Vanilla White Chocolate Pudding

31 Oct

This week has been a week of baking, cookies and cakes… I havent posted for days, and I am feeling a little bit out of sorts – still adjusting to being home, seeing old friends, re-establishing ties. And the sweet week of readjustment (accompanied by 3 major bundt cakes and cookies) is about to end – tomorrow comes meetings, work and the usual immersion in daily life. Bills to pay, people to see…

So tonight, I decided, after a lovely dinner with Pingaling, to treat myself. This pudding is so luscious, so creamy and smooth, so soft and silken and unctuous, that you can spread it all over yourself and bathe in it. It is like being enveloped in love and hugs and vanilla and sugar and sweetness. Its easy to make (about 20 minutes or less in terms of actual work time) and it is amazingly adaptable – brilliant either warm or cold.

It would be a phenomenal base for a white chocolate ice cream (just cool in the fridge overnight, and pop into your ice cream maker!). It makes a brilliant accompaniment to any manner of cake, pie, pastry or crumble. It would be stunning as the filling for a deep dark chocolate cake or ginger cake (that could be iced with whipped cream!). Served with fruits (particularly berries), this is a dream. And thinned out with a little more milk or cream, its a surprising and delightful custard.

But somehow, tonight, all I wanted was a bowl of this pudding, and a few of Adi’s crisp haunting vanilla cookies. The worries and pressures of tomorrow can wait. Tonight is a good night 🙂

Makes about 3 1/2 cups

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk (though you can make it with low fat milk, it loses a bit in the richness – and of course you could add some cream but that is going just a tad overboard!)
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and scraped and/or 1 tbsp (or to taste) vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt (I use Maldon or fleur de sel because I love the sudden pops of salty in all that sugary smoothness)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup (a few good ounces) white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan, and split the vanilla pod. Scrape the beans into the milk, and pop the pod in there too.

Heat the milk over your lowest heat, until it just starts to steam and bubble around the edges. This might take a while, so be patient, and busy yourself with other things while it is happening.

Once the milk is just at the point of boiling, take off heat, and cover for 5 minutes to let the vanilla bean steep. If you are not using vanilla bean, allow the milk to cool down for about five minutes while you prepare the eggs.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and add the egg yolks. Set the whites aside for another use. Add the salt and sugar, and begin to whisk. Let me just take a moment and state that I use light brown sugar in this recipe because I adore the slight caramel tones that the light brown brings to the flavour profile. However, if you prefer a very pristine pale pudding, without the caramel-y notes, feel free to use white caster sugar.

Whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved into the eggs.

Once the milk has cooled for 5 minutes or so, fish out the vanilla pod (if using), and whisk in the white chocolate. Whisk well to ensure that all the chocolate is completely melted (it should do this relatively quickly). Add a tablespoon or so of vanilla essence at this point and taste. You should have very strong vanilla and white chocolate notes. They should complement each other, but also be distinct. Adjust if you like.

Whisk about a third of the hot milk into the eggs, and continually whisking, add the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan.

Put the pudding over very low heat and whisk constantly until it begins to thicken and steam and tiny bubbles begin to pop onto the surface. Whisk in the butter.

You need to keep your nerve here. Too long, and you get sweet, expensive, useless scrambled eggs. Too soon, and it doesnt thicken enough. Do remember though, that pudding does thicken substantially as it cools down. Its a balancing act, but I rather take off too soon than too late! You can always give it a little more heat if it does not set up as you would like it to.

Hopefully, you will have rinsed the bowl you whisked the eggs and sugar in. Place a sieve over this bowl, and pour the pudding through, to ensure a beautiful smoothness.

You now have a difficult choice. You could eat some pudding immediately (who am I kidding, I always do! Cook’s treat) … or place greaseproof paper over the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for about 2 hours or so until it has cooled and thickened completely.

Enjoy in a myriad of ways… and be comforted 🙂

Nigel Slater’s Perfect Summer Pudding + A Quick Nathalie’s Recap!

13 Aug

Tonight we had an amazing dinner at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio – good food, wonderful company, and the inspiration of a truly passionate chef. I had the tomato crumble with a goat’s cheese cream for starters – sublime, out of this world decadence. Just gorgeous. Goddess had a crab mille feuille which was just stunningly beautiful in its construction. JoB had a reconstructed salad nicoise which had the most perfectly simple (and simply perfect) dressing. And Goddess’ Spouse had a scallop tart with absolutely sublime deeply simmered onions. For mains, the table was split evenly. Carnivores devoured a steak in a gorgeously lush looking red wine reduction, with grilled vegetables and the delicious-est polenta I have ever had – cheesy, crisp on the outside, meltingly creamy inside. We vegetarians (or otherwise) had home made tagliatelle with a mushroom foam and a tangle of wild mushrooms. Surrounding the tagliatelle was this simple seeming, brave, delightful mushroom broth. Amazing taste. Amazing balance. So smart it made me joyous!

And dessert! Again, we ordered everything on the menu. A mango cream under a shortbread crust with a deep blazing yellow mango sorbet. A “big mac” of a huge chocolate macaron, with strawberries, and a perfect scoop of strawberry basil sorbet in the centre. A litchi combination – raspberry and litchi espuma, litchi sorbet, and a raspberry litchi mille feuille. A trio of a caramel vanilla cream puff, a salted caramel macaron, and a chestnut chocolate mousse. And a green tea mousse with a chocolate ribbon running through it. Needless to say, we devoured it all, so happily, with the joy and comfort of good friends and family.

So tonight, I just didnt have time to cook. I am packing for the US (slightly frantically, but trying to be calm). But I have been wanting to try this recipe, so I decided it is going to be a “cheat” night. I share this recipe with you, which I bookmarked in 2001. Its a perfect summer pudding recipe, written with wit and passion and opinion and love by one of my favourite food writers, Nigel Slater. I hope it inspires you. I am going to try a version of it soon and will report back. But for now… enjoy the writing of a brilliant cook. With love, from a very replete and sated me 😉

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Perfect Summer Pudding

By Nigel Slater

The Observer, August 5, 2001

One of the things that exasperates me about the insatiable demand for ‘new’ recipes is that it doesn’t give anyone time to get something well and truly right. I see nothing wrong with tinkering with an idea until it is as good as it can be; in fact, I see everything right about it.

I just don’t understand the desire (or is it desperation?) for snatching up a new recipe, rushing through it, then dashing off for the next cookery magazine, book or television programme for the next new thing. What is it exactly that these cooks are frantically searching for? Wouldn’t it be better to find a dish that they know and like and then to work at it until it is absolutely to their taste?

There is much, much pleasure to be had in honing a dish to perfection. To get to know the little nuances and pitfalls, the tricks and the intimacies of a recipe, and add your own signature if you wish. If this is a search for perfection – and I suppose it is – then we have to work out the crux of it all: the real reason why an idea appeals to us. We need to identify the heart and soul of a dish and get that part of it right. In some ways you can get this from a well-written recipe. But the truth is that there is more to it than that. Some of it is intuition, a gut feeling that you have understood what I like to call the ‘essence’ of the thing. The part of something that really rings your bell. If you like, the whole point. Identify, and then pursue.

By identifying that point, you will know what you are aiming for and why you are cooking something. I would argue that in a risotto, say, it is not just the grains of stock-saturated rice that are the essence of the dish, but the way in which the limpid stock holds those wet grains together on your fork. (Which is why vegetarian stock never makes quite the perfect risotto, because it lacks the gelatinous quality of chicken stock.) In a piece of roast pork it is the contrast between the sweet, rich meat, succulent fat and crisp, salty crackling. And in a chocolate brownie it is (for me, at least) the contrast between the crisp crust and the moist, but not wet, cake beneath.

I could go on, and indeed I will – at least once a month over the next few weeks.

We are not talking about textbook perfect here, as in the arrogant and often misguided notion of how something ‘should be’ (usually by self-styled tin gods of the cookery world, who are hiding their ignorance behind a smokescreen of arrogance), but in that it will give you as much pleasure as you can possibly get from it. So, not only have you had the pleasure of sniffing, stirring and tasting, but the end result is as near to perfection as you can ever imagine it being. You have found and understood the very reason for that dish, that recipe. Now that is what you call cooking.

And so it is with summer pudding, that rough’n’tumble of raspberries, currants and bread. I rank it with Christmas pudding as one of the best recipes ever, except, of course, that the weather is usually better. It matters not one jot if you make it in a shallow dish, a pudding basin or, charming this, in individual china dishes. What is important – no, essential – is the juice and how the bread soaks it up. This is your ‘essence’. The crux of the matter.

We must work out our own preference for the ratio of the three different berries.

I like a proportion of blackcurrants, a tart counter to the ever-sweeter varieties of raspberries and redcurrants. Purists will not accept a blackcurrant in a summer pudding. I add them for their glorious colour and for the extra snap of tartness that they bring. The sweet of tooth can leave them out. Then again, too many blackcurrants will overpower the raspberries. My perfect berry count is 150g blackcurrants to 250g of redcurrants to 500g raspberries.

Historically, this pudding was made with a raspberry to redcurrant ratio of 4:1. (The idea goes back to the 18th century and was a favourite of health spas, the bread being a substitute for butter-rich pastry.) Purists will stick to this. But our tastes move on, and this balance is now considered a little insipid; a few blackcurrants turn up in most versions now.

The fruit

My suspicions about the wisdom of solemnly following a recipe were once again founded this week. The currants I bought for my summer pudding from a large supermarket chain looked bright and fresh, but were flabby and flat-tasting, and sweet rather than sharp. To have followed a recipe blindly, ‘yes, sir, no sir,’ would have resulted in a sweet and flat-tasting pud. Luckily, I tasted the fruit and added less sugar by way of compensation – though, ideally, I would have preferred tarter currants. The offending redcurrants, by the way, were Rovada, the oversweet raspberries Tulameen.

The bread

The bread is more than just a case to hold the fruit. Its texture is crucial to the whole pudding.

Without it you would have nothing more than a compôte – stewed fruit. Soft, ‘plastic’ bread turns slimy rather than moist. God knows why it turns so nasty – it’s like eating a soggy J cloth. No, the bread needs enough body to hold its shape should you decide to turn your dome of fruit out, and the closeness of texture not to turn to pink pap.

A well-made white sandwich loaf will work.

Dense bread such as sourdough is often too tight to soak up the juice. Brown bread is disgusting in this instance. Come to think of it, brown bread is disgusting in most instances.

The juice

The centre of attention, the difference between a good pud and one that is utterly sublime is the juice that soaks into the bread. It is this – its flavour and sheer abundance – that will make or break this dessert. It does need sweetening though, so a shake of sugar over the berries is essential. I use 3 tablespoons for fruit of normal tartness. This doesn’t sound a lot, I know, but you will have, at the table, the tempering effect of the cream.

The cream

A jug of cream is a necessary part of a summer pudding. Don’t even think of offering crème fraîche, the pudding is tangy enough as it is. You want pouring cream, not whipped or extra thick, but good old-fashioned double cream. And preferably unpasteurised. You will need a 1l pudding basin.

850g mixed raspberries and currants, with an emphasis on raspberries
7-8 slices firm, good quality white bread
3 tbsps white sugar
3 tbsps water
cream to serve

Sort through the fruit, tenderly, picking out any that are unripe or mouldy. There’s nearly always a few. Pull the currants from their stems then put them, with the raspberries, in a stainless-steel saucepan over a low heat. Taste the fruit for sweetness and add sugar accordingly. For normal, sweet raspberries and slightly tart currants, I add 3 tablespoons or so of sugar. Sometimes you may need slightly less or more. Use your own judgment, bearing in mind that the finished pudding should have a bit of sharpness to it. Pour in a little water, a couple of tablespoons will do, then bring it to the boil.

The currants will start to burst and give out their juice. They need no longer than three or four minutes at a cautious simmer. The fruit should be shiny and there should be much magenta juice in the pan. Turn off the heat.

Slice the bread thickly. Each slice should be about as thick as your little finger. (Thinner if you are making several smaller puddings in individual moulds.) Cut the crusts off the bread. Set one piece aside, then cut the rest into ‘soldiers’, that is, each slice of bread into three long fingers. Using a glass or cup as a template, cut a disc of bread from the reserved slice and push it into the bottom of the pudding basin.

Line the inside of the basin with the strips of bread, pushing them together snugly so that no fruit can escape, and keeping a few strips for the top. Fill the bread-lined basin with the fruit and its juice – it should come almost to the rim. Lay the remaining bread on top of the fruit, tearing and patching where necessary, so no fruit is showing.

Put the basin in a shallow dish or bowl to catch any juice, then lay a flat plate or small tray on top with a heavy weight to squash the fruit down. Some juice may escape, but most will soak into the bread. Leave overnight in the fridge. (You may have to remove a shelf depending on how deep your fridge shelves are.)

Remove the weights, slide a palette knife around the edge, pushing carefully down between bread and basin so as not to tear the bread. Put a plate on top, and then, holding the plate in place, turn quickly upside down and shake firmly to dislodge the pud. It should slide out and sit proud. Pass a jug of cream around – it is an essential part of the pudding. Serves 6-8.

Molly O’Neill’s Blackout Cake

8 Aug

Molly O'Neill's blackout cakeI am on a mission – to find the blackout cake of my childhood. My sister and I had this amazing cake when we were little – it was served in the embassy where we grew up. We used to watch like hawks when it was served, to see if we could shave infinitesimal amounts off the cake to share. We always got a slice, but we always wanted more. Our mother used to order it in these large logs – and we had at least 2 or 3 as “back up” desserts in the freezer room downstairs. My sister and I used to dream of that cake … and when I realised that it was a form of blackout cake, I decided to test a few.

Last week, I made the blackout cake from The Week, by Jeremy Sauer from Cook’s Country. It was delicious but it lacked a certain something. It was too sweet, and I think too milky. The pudding was made with a cream/milk mixture, and while it was phenomenal, it wasnt the cake of my childhood and my memory. This week, I decided to try Molly O’Neill’s blackout cake from her book, The New York Cookbook: From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to Four Star Restaurants.

If last week’s cake was a chocolate extravaganza, this week’s cake was a chocolate obliteration. No milk, save for a little in the cake, and dark as a blacked out night. Seriously. The cake is so dark, that you can only tell its been cut if you look at it from the top. Its dark dark dark. It was overwhelming favoured by my taste testers – they loved the deep dark chocolate layers, the balance between chocolate and sweetness, and the textures of the cake, pudding, topping and crumbs. It is truly a phenomenal cake. It comes much closer to the cake of my memory, but I think it might need more of a touch of bittersweet – next time I make it I think I will adapt it with a bit of coffee.

As Ezril said, “Eating this cake is an intense experience!” Making it was pretty intense as well. I love baking, but this cake… so many different processes involved in creating all the layers, the custard/pudding and the topping. The cake itself not only creamed the sugar, and bloomed the chocolate and chocolate powder, but also needed whipped egg whites folded in. By the end, I was covered head to toe in flour, chocolate and butter. I could have baked myself! I learned an important lesson. Even though I read the recipe many times over, and I knew what I was in for, I think I would have been better served if I laid out my ingredients, measured them out, and then started to cook. As it was, there was a fair bit of chaos, and a fair bit of mess. Given all of that, it was worth it. Delicious, deep, dark chocolate cake, layers of pudding, a bittersweet glaze, and the rubbly texture of the crumbs on top. Wonderful and very very satisfying!

Molly O’Neill’s Blackout Cake

Cake

  • ½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened slightly
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 190C degrees. Butter and lightly flour two (8-inch) round cake pans. Place cocoa in a small bowl and whisk in boiling water to form a paste.

Combine the chopped chocolate and milk in saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until the chocolate melts, about three minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk a small amount of the hot chocolate milk into the cocoa paste to warm it. Whisk the cocoa mixture into the milk mixture. Return the pan to medium heat and stir for one minute. Remove and set aside to cool until tepid.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and the vanilla. Slowly stir in the chocolate mixture. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, slowly add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture. Fold in until just mixed.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on rack for 15 minutes.

Gently remove the cakes from the pans and continue to cool.

Note: in my oven the cakes only took 30 minutes to bake. Check after half an hour as timing and heat can vary widely.

Filling

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ¾ teaspoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • ¾ cup plus ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water (use 2 tablespoons cornstarch for a runnier filling*)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

While the cake is baking, combine the cocoa and boiling water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the sugar and chocolate. Add the dissolved cornstarch paste and salt to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and butter. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cool.

Note: I added 100 g chopped bittersweet chocolate to this filling as I felt it was not chocolatey enough. I added it just before adding the cornstarch paste. I used the maximum 4 tbsp cornstarch, and it was just fine. I also sieved the pudding to make sure there were no lumps.

Frosting

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water, stirring until smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Return the top to the heat, if necessary, to melt the butter.

Whisk in the hot water all at once and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the corn syrup and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for up to 15 minutes before using.

Assembly

Black Out Cake SlicedUse a sharp serrated knife to slice each cake layer horizontally in half to form four layers. Set one layer aside. Place one layer on a cake round or plate. Generously swath the layer with one-third of the filling. Add the second layer and repeat. Set the third layer on top. Quickly apply a layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, crumble the remaining cake layer. Apply the remaining frosting to the cake. Sprinkle it liberally with the cake crumbs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

White Chocolate Semolina Pudding with Damson Jam

4 Aug

White Chocolate Semolina Pudding with Damson Jam and a touch of CreamThis is not your school days semolina pudding. I promise. No lumps or bumps or tasteless paste. This is semolina pudding for sensualists. This pudding is smooth, moist, golden, scented with vanilla, creamy with white chocolate. Sexy and yet comforting at the same time – yes its possible. Just think of the scent and feel of your favourite partner’s worn t-shirt enveloping you, and you will know what I mean… Or not! You might just have to take my word for it!

Its a doddle to make – and I needed something simple, yet decadent, because I came home from an almost six hour shopping spree with ZaZa and my feet hurt! I am expecting people for dessert tonight, and I was thinking of making a cake, or cookies, but this is so much easier. And it can all be made in one pot if you are super lazy (though transferring the cooked semolina into a nice looking baking dish is pretty simple too), and tastes like you slaved over the stove for hours. I love that kind of cooking.

This does not require a huge amount of technical cooking, chopping, slicing, dicing or sauteeing. Its a little bit of waiting (for the vanilla to infuse), a little bit of stirring, some pouring (if you are putting it in a pretty baking pan) and some more waiting while it bakes golden. It does however depend on your sense of taste and balance – how much vanilla? How much white chocolate? How much, if any, sugar, to balance the chocoalte? I have to rein myself in in regards to chocolate, but if you feel like going wild, you have my blessing! Substitute dark or milk if you wish, but I think this pudding is perfect with white chocolate.

Here in Malaysia we call semolina suji or sooji and it is used for cakes, puddings, and a huge variety of Indian dishes. Its also used extensively in Italian and European cooking for pastas and breads, amongst other things. Its used as the base to make couscous, and is basically the coarse pieces of starch or endosperm (what a word!) from milling of durum flour. It is awesome.

And the jam? Well, when you have Duchy Organic damson jam, theres not much point in making your own. Its the best jam ever. Dark purple, and tasting like mystery … superb with this pudding, on a slice of dark brown bread, with a bit of cheese. Its only available in the shops on a seasonal basis (which I like very much), so when I see it, I grab at least 3 or 4 jars and hoard it with pure adoration. Use whatever jam is your personal favourite!

This will fit a large-ish baking dish, serving about 6 – 8 people, depending on greed 😛

  • 4 cups milk (or a mix of milk and cream – or for the lactose intolerant out there, almond or oat milk, or even coconut milk)
  • 1 vanilla pod (or up to 2 tsp vanilla essence, added later)
  • 1 scant cup semolina
  • 1 cup white chocolate, chopped plus addition 1/4 cup optional
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar (or to taste – optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 – 2 tbsp butter
  • Jam and a bit of cream to serve

Pour 4 cups of milk into a medium saucepan. If you are using a vanilla pod, slice it in half lengthways, scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk, and drop in the pod as well. Bring the milk almost to a boil (when you see little plip plops of milk at the surface, take it off), stirring with a whisk all the while, and take off the heat. Leave, covered, for about 15 minutes, to allow the vanilla to infuse the milk. If you are using vanilla essence, leave for a few minutes to cool down, and go on to the next step.

Preheat your oven to 180 C and butter a large-ish baking dish (I use two small pretty white ceramic dishes because thats what I have!).

After 15 minutes, uncover the milk, and slowly whisk in the semolina. Whisking in the semolina off heat, in warm instead of boiling milk, ensures that the finished product is smooth like silk. Put the saucepan over medium heat, and allow the mixture to come to the boil, whisking all the while. As you bring the semolina milk mixture to the boil, it will start to thicken. It will eventually get quite stiff. It is boiling when the semolina starts to bubble at the surface. Make sure you whisk the entire time to ensure that it does not burn, and stays smooth.

Off heat, fish out the vanilla pods, and add the white chocolate. I usually add about 1 cup of white chocolate, and then taste. Chocolate varies so much in quality and sugar levels, that sometimes you may need the addition of a tablespoon (or even two) of light brown sugar. Most of the time, if you are using good chocolate, you dont really need it. I leave it to your (sweet) palate to decide. Remember though, that if you decide to serve it with jam, it will have a very sweet addition, and so needs to be mildly sweet, rather than overly sweet. You can kill this pudding with too much sugar!

If you did not use a vanilla pod, add your vanilla essence now, to taste.

Switch to a spatula, and beat in the eggs, and the butter. These two ingredients act as softeners and thickeners as the pudding bakes.

If you are feeling very decadent, and are a chocolate fiend, feel free to sprinkle extra chocolate over the pudding just before it goes in the oven (that would be me!). It might be nice to have a white chocolate semolina pudding, and sprinkle over with shards of bittersweet chocolate. Though I would then serve a seville orange marmalade with the pudding rather than damson jam. You could also, if your heart so desires, sprinkle some nutmeg or cinnamon over, though for me, these tastes are too much for the delicacy of this pudding.

Baked Pudding Cooling Down with dots of White ChocolateBake in the oven for about 30 – 35 minutes until the top is golden, and the pudding is slightly puffed. Take out of the oven, and allow to cool at least 10 – 15 minutes before serving. You could leave the pudding in a switched off warm oven while having dinner if you like…

Serve with some jam and may be some extra cream on the side for those who want it (and I dont know anyone who wouldnt!)

Rice Pudding

23 Jul

with a raspberry curd rippleRice pudding. At its best, its a quietly satisfying indulgence, clean, smooth, delicious. There are so many different ways to make rice pudding, and I probably have tried them all. Its one of the things I make when friends are feeling poorly, or when I am cooking for someone who is very ill and needs to get their weight and stamina up. Rice is food of the Goddesses. If, like me, you have that Asian gene in you, life is incomplete without rice almost every day. I crave rice when I havent had it in a while, and I eat it every which way. I love all the different kinds of rice – black, red, brown, arborio, jasmine, basmati… Pulut, nasi lemak, risotto, fried rice, buttered rice, plain rice with a touch of sambal and some soy sauce, rice with a fried egg on top, dripping golden yellow yolk into the pristine whiteness. I can eat rice in a myriad of ways, and one of the things I love about it is its just so good for you.

Rice pudding is a very friendly food. You dont have to make it fancy for it to be received with great pleasure and its incredibly easy for invalids to consume. And, if you want to dress it up and put on dancing shoes, it can take a dollop of raspberry curd, as in the photo, or some shavings of chocolate, or even be bulked up with smooth pumpkin – and suddenly, a new and delicious dish. Oh, rice pudding, how I love you, let me count the ways…

I know there are people who like to bake their rice pudding, but Im not too hot on the skin that develops. But then, in life, there are skin people and no skin people, so figure out who you are. I like a smooth, satiny white rice pudding. You can only achieve this by cooking very slowly over the stovetop, at an incredibly low heat. It takes 45 minutes – 1 hour, but most of that time, you just leave it alone. If you are cooking for someone who is ill, or who is struggling to get enough nutrients, you can beat in a few eggs right at the end to enrich the pudding. You could also add more cream, some yogurt, use all full-fat milk. You get the idea – bulk it up with fats and nutrients which will go relatively unnoticed in the consumption of the dish. A little sprinkle of nutmeg, or cinnamon, or both, also add depth of flavour.

I have to admit though, I am a purist. Rice, milk and a bit of cream, vanilla, sugar, and sometimes a touch of butter at the end. Eaten warm or cold, this is one of my favourite comfort dishes. Its like a pillow of softness, the rice melding in and flavouring the milk, and vice versa. Happy happy belly.

For about  3 cups of rice pudding (enough to serve 6 people or 4 very greedy ones), you will need:

  • 1 cup rice (any one you want, though note that brown, black, red rices do tend to take longer to cook because they are more natural. I borrowed a cup of rice from MamaLila, my upstairs neighbour, not sure but I think it was basmati she gave me, and it was goooood)
  • 5 cups of milk, divided into 4 cups + 1 cup – you can use any kind of milk you like. Try coconut, almond or soy milk. I try and use a mix of 2% and lowfat, and a dollop of cream. I have also been successful in adding buttermilk and sour cream, in small amounts to the mix. Try and get some whole or half and half in if you are cooking for someone who needs the extra fats and nutrients. All skim milk is not really that successful to be honest.
  • 1 vanilla pod, split, with the seeds scraped out, or 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 tbsp (or to taste) light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp (or more) butter

In a medium saucepan, over extremely low heat, combine rice, 4 cups of milk, vanilla pod and beans (or vanilla essence), and 3 tbsp light brown sugar. Give it all a stir and leave it there for 45 minutes or so, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure that the rice doesnt stick to the bottom of the pan. You want this to cook at a very very low simmer – no boiling, but more like tiny little bubbles plopping to the surface. The rice will plump up and absorb the milk, but this process will seem as if it is never going to truly happen – it will, and it is, just trust the rice.

After about 45 minutes, you should have rice thats almost al dente. Use your instincts. I usually put in all of the final cup of milk, because I dont mind rice pudding that is quite soft, but if you think it doesnt need it all, use half or less. Taste for sweetness, and add more sugar if you think it needs it. Continue cooking at a very slow simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes until almost all the milk is absorbed. Dont take it off when its too dry – as it cools, the milk, which is now full of the starch of the rice, will become much thicker and richer.

Stir in a teaspoon or so of butter, if you like (if you are vegan, obviously, leave this out!), and let cool. You can serve it warm or cold from the fridge (which is the way I like it), snowy and soft and comforting. Add a dollop of curd or jam for colour and flavour if you like, or go purist and enjoy it in all its pristine beauty.

And enjoy how much those you love, love this!

Rice pudding!

Uncle Johns Chocolate Chocolate Vanilla Berry Birthday Trifle!

20 Jun

So it was my Uncle John’s birthday in February, and he is a very special man in my life. He always treated Mila, my sister, and I as if we were adults – always listening to our opinions, treating us with respect, and telling us funny jokes. He is one of my heroes, and I wanted to make a delicious birthday cake for him. He is English, so a trifle suggested itself, and he loves chocolate, so I decided to go the whole hog (so to speak) and do a chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate birthday trifle. I decided to “cut” it with some vanilla custard, and vanilla whipped cream, and a few, strategically placed berries to slice fragrantly through the ultimate chocolate fest.

While I use chocolate pudding, chocolate sour cream pound cake, and a thick dark chocolate sauce as the basis for this trifle, don’t think that they are all one note. If you make sure to think about them as three parts of a sublime whole, you can ensure that each tastes unique and different, but still deeply chocolately. I usually put some cinnamon in the chocolate pound cake because that adds a dusky dark note, without intruding too much. And I add some espresso to the chocolate sauce to ensure that its bitter sweetness stands out. And the chocolate pudding gets a hit of vanilla to ensure its creamy fragrance is unique. Layer these with vanilla custard, and lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream, and a jumble of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, and you get a trifle that is unspeakably delicious. Pardon the superlatives, but they really apply here.

First you need to prepare the various elements of the trifle, and then you can put them all together!

Chocolate Sauce

  • Approximately 300 grams (10 oz) at least 75% bittersweet chocolate
  • 100 g + 100 g good quality French butter
  • ¾ cup strong espresso (hot)
  • 1 cup whipping or double cream
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey (flowery honey if you have it – heather, lavender, etc – it gives a lovely note)

In a heavy pot, put your chocolate, broken into pieces. Cut 100 g of butter on top of the chocolate, pour over the hot espresso, and then pour the whipping cream on top. Put on a small low fire. Mix constantly as the butter and chocolate melts, and add the sugar and honey.

As soon as the chocolate is melted, continue mixing for a few more minutes to let the mixture “cook” – you will taste more toffee and dark notes, but you don’t want the mixture to burn.

As soon as the sauce is to your liking, take off the heat, and cut in remaining 100 g of butter. This will help cool down the sauce, and will make it glossy and thick. Leave to cool completely.

Berry Mixture

If you use organic berries, you wont need any embellishments because the flavour comes out so pure and strong. If you dont use organic berries, you might want to add a tablespoon or so of jam to enhance the flavour profile. This is wonderful as is spooned over vanilla ice cream, or heated with a dollop of port wine, and tumbled boozily over ice cream, or swirled with vanilla custard. Or serve as is, with a big bowl of Greek yogurt and brown sugar mixed. Mmmmmm.

  • 450 g (1 lb) organic strawberries
  • a few drops of very old balsamico if you have it
  • 170 g (6 oz) blackberries
  • 170 g (6 oz) raspberries
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Additional raspberries and tiny strawberries to decorate

Hull and chop the strawberries. Add a few drops of balsamico to the cut strawberries and watch as they glow ruby red and their scent and oils get released in contact with the balsamico. If you don’t have it, try a few drops of red wine vinegar, red wine, or even port wine.

Chop the blackberries and raspberries in half and mix with the strawberry mixture.

Add caster/icing sugar. It helps that this sugar is very fine – it immediately melts into the berries and creates a wonderful sweet sauce.

Spritz on the lemon juice, mix gently once again, and refrigerate until needed.

Vanilla Custard

Oh this is so good. You can use it as the perfect accompaniment for anything – Christmas pudding, fresh berries, pound cake, crumble, stewed fruits. The list goes on and on and it is perfection any which way. You can halve this generous recipe if you want to, though I do love having extra.

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups double or whipping cream
  • 1 -2 vanilla beans, or vanilla essence or paste
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar

Combine milk and cream in saucepan, and add vanilla. If youre using vanilla beans, split the beans with a sharp knife, and scrape out the seeds directly into the milk, and pop the beans in there too!

Cook the milk, stirring constantly, over low heat for about 5 – 8 minutes, until hot, but not boiling. Take off heat.

Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and caster sugar together until pale yellow.

If you used vanilla beans, take the beans out of the milk, and pour over the egg mixture. Whisk constantly, and combine well.

Pour this thin custard back into the saucepan, and sir constantly until it thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon. Don’t allow it to boil as you might get scrambled vanilla eggs – not a good look!

Strain through a sieve if you have lumps, and cover custard with baking paper so that you wont get a skin.

Double Chocolate pudding

This makes a lot of chocolate pudding – you can halve it if you must. Its wonderful warm, and delightful cold. When you taste real chocolate pudding, and realize how quick and easy it is to make, you will never ever go back to the package.

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 5 tbsp corn flour
  • 1 ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 + 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate broken into pieces
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the first four ingredients. Whisk in 1 cup of milk until you have a thick chocolately paste. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time until completely combined.

Heat the remaining 2 cups milk and 2 cups cream in a large saucepan. Don’t let come to the boil.

Pour the milk into the chocolate mixture and whisk well.

Pour the pudding mixture back into the saucepan and stir constantly over medium to low heat, until the mixture thickens to pudding consistency.

Pour back into bowl, straining the mixture through a sieve.

Mix in the bittersweet chocolate and vanilla, allowing the chocolate to melt.

Cool, covered with baking paper so that a skin will not form.

Sour Cream Chocolate Pound Cake

I bake these in loaf tins. I think you can get 3 – 4 tins worth from this recipe. This is a wonderful cake, it keeps for ages, and can be frozen wrapped. Its thick, moist, and yet light. Its not overwhelmingly chocolate, and the hint of cinnamon is deep and dark and yet sweetly musky. Beautiful.

  • 4 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 4 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (optional)

Butter 2 – 4 loaf pans, and line with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugars. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Add the vanilla.

On low, beat in the flour mixture alternating with the sour cream.

Once everything is completely mixed, add the chopped chocolate.

Scrape the batter into the loaf tins, about 3/4ths full.

Bake at 165 C for an hour and ten minutes, or until a knife or wooden pick comes out with a few crumbs attached.

Please do note that if you only fill the pan halfway, the cooking time will be much less – may be 40 minutes or so. Do check every half an hour as ovens and pans vary so widely.

Cool, in the pan, for at least 15 minutes before unmolding.

Whipped Cream

Just before assembling the trifle, whip some cream so it holds light peaks.

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • ½ – 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 2 tsp agar agar

Whip the cream on low-medium with an electric beater. About halfway through, when the cream has thickened, add the caster sugar and vanilla and agar agar. This vegetarian gelling agent is made from seaweed, and will ensure that your whipped cream stayed whipped and wont weep for at least 24 hours. Great to use in chiffon pies or other recipes where you need whipped cream to stay put!

Assembly

The above recipes make enough for 2 trifles – serving about 15 – 20 people.

Choose beautiful glass bowls or containers so that you can see the incredible colours and textures of your trifle through the edges.

Have everything within easy reach.

Slice your cake in ½ inch slices.

Line the bottom of the bowl with the cake. Drizzle a bit of chocolate sauce over. Layer some custard on top. Put in a layer of berries (making sure that the nicest ones are edging the bowl), and then a layer of chocolate pudding and a layer of whipped cream. Finish with a layer of cake, and start all over again. The last layer should be whipped cream – you can drizzle flakes of chocolate over or arrange pretty berries.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow flavours to meld.