Baking challenge: triple traditional (pudding) threat

The showstopper challenge for pudding week was to make not one but three – three! – puddings: a  crumble, a suet pastry pudding, and one incorporating bread (including breadcrumbs) – each baked, not boiled or steamed. There was no way that a two-person household could absorb three puddings simultaneously, so I had to stagger this challenge out. The consequence was that completing this challenge actually took quite a long time.

The suet pastry jam roly-poly pudding I made was delicious but utterly hideous (hence no photograph). The pastry was very soft and actually quite difficult to work with, and its appearance wasn’t helped by the fact that I didn’t follow the instructions properly. Nonetheless, soused with custard and eaten hot out of a bowl, it was appreciated and finished up by all. Not that ‘all’ were told I had used beef suet (none of them were vegetarian, Hindu or otherwise opposed to beef consumption), which I thought might disturb people a little. The suet pastry had a really good, crispy-crunchy texture, complemented by the demerara sugar that was very light, although not delicate – good and hearty and the kind of baking you’d expect to come out of a cold climate. You can find the recipe on the BBC website – it’s Nigella Lawson’s (hence why I chose it).

I was a bit unsure about making a bread-based pudding and opted for the Queen of Puddings, which uses breadcrumbs in its base. I made a recipe for peach and raspberry Queen of Puddings from the Australian Gourmet Traveller, a magazine which makes some truly beautifully photographed food. I used 145g of breadcrumbs (a mix of wholemeal and white as that’s what I had) and I used 400g of frozen peach slices. I did thaw them a bit before baking but I do think if you want to use frozen fruit you need to fully thaw it for this recipe. They gave off an awful lot of water and were still cold and unpleasantly crispy after baking. I also think that the recipe was not sweet enough (as someone without a huge sweet tooth) and that the proportion of breadcrumbs to jam was off – far too much bready base, not enough jam. If the recipe intrigues, I would halve the breadcrumb amount and at least double the jam, adding more sugar to the base (about 50g). I would also add an extra egg white to the meringue, as there wasn’t enough, and use about 60-90g sugar. The amount of fruit I used, although less than specified by the recipe, was enough. My friend Ariadne and I also agreed that it basically would have been much nicer with a digestive biscuit base, taking it outside the realm of Queen of Puddings entirely.

The crumble recipe was the only tried-and-tested recipe that I’d made before. I definitely think oats in crumble are the way to go – it adds a delicious crunch (and heart healthiness too).

Brandied apple and golden oat crumble
Proportions based on Tamsin Day-Lewis’ crumble from All You Can Eat

  • 10 small eating apples (or 5 Bramleys, but I usually use eating apples), peeled, cored and cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2-3 TBS brandy
  • 1-5 TBS soft brown sugar, depending on the sharpness of the apples and your own taste (nibble a sliver to see!)

For the crumble

  • 110g plain flour
  • 110g oats
  • 85g vanilla or plain caster sugar (or use demerara for extra crunch)
  • 170g unsalted butter, cubed
  • pinch salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C
  2. Combine the prepared apples, brandy and sugar into a large baking dish – I used a big deep Pyrex bowl.
  3. For the crumble, combine the flour, oats, salt and sugar. Mix in the butter a few cubes at a time, rubbing it between your thumbs and fingertips until large flakes form and it starts to clump together.
  4. Spread the crumble evenly over the fruit and bake for 35-40 minutes until evenly browned and the fruit is cooked (that’s why they need to be quite smallish cubes as they’re not pre-cooked!), with the warm alcohol-laced juices bubbling through (this is also why Pyrex is useful as you can see through the glass and see if the juices are bubbling).
  5. Serve, or if not yet ready, leave it in the switched-off oven. Can be eaten with custard, ice cream (I wish – no freezer) or double cream.

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