The British have had a longstanding love affair with desserts—or puddings, as they call them. Over the centuries, they have enjoyed such culinary delights as Sussex Pond Pudding, Spotted Dick (a schoolboy favorite), and Whim Whams. And as the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding” for there is even a club aptly named “The Pudding Club.” Here, members meet to admire and enjoy the sticky delights of seven different puddings, indulging in as many as they want until shouting “I’m full!” then they can leave the table and retire to a large and hopefully strong chair to reflect on their just desserts.
This is not quite what we have come to expect from a nation renowned for their good manners and restraint, so I have gathered some popular modern British desserts that are a clever blend of good taste and sensual pleasure. As William Powell said, “Dessert is probably the most important stage of the meal, since it will be the last thing your guests remember before they pass out all over the table.”
A marriage made in heaven, soft, sweet, marshmallow meringue, melting cream, and a smattering of fruit.
4 large egg whites
1¼ cups superfine sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
10 fluid ounces heavy cream, whipped
Line a baking sheet with parchment and draw a 9-inch-diameter circle on the paper. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they are stiff, then whisk in the sugar a spoonful at a time until it is all added. Add the cornstarch and vinegar and whisk to combine. Spoon the mixture onto the parchment to fill the circle. Cook at 300 degrees for 15 minutes to lightly color, then immediately reduce the heat to 200 degrees and cook for a further 45 minutes or until the meringue is firm but still gooey in the center. Leave to cool, then turn out onto a large plate, peel away the paper and pile on the whipped cream.
Top with any of the following
· Mixed berry—8 ounces each, hulled strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.
· Tropical fruit—a mixture of peeled and cubed pineapple, mango, kiwi fruit, and passion fruit seeds.
· Cherry—1 pound cherries, lightly poached in sugar syrup, chilled and spooned over the cream.
· Raspberry—fold 4 ounces of raspberries into the cream and scatter another 4 ounces of raspberries on top. Dust with powdered sugar.
ST. CLEMENT'S TART
Wonderfully thin, crisp pastry and a smooth citrus filling make this tart another winner. Best served at room temperature.
1½ cups pastry flour
¾ cup powdered sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) cold butter
1 lemon, about 2 fluid ounce juice
1 orange, about 4 fluid ounce juice
1 cup superfine sugar
4 fluid ounces, ½ cup heavy cream
Place the flour, powdered sugar, butter, and grated lemon rind in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture forms fine crumbs, then add 1 beaten egg and pulse until the mixture comes together to make a soft dough. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, place the remaining eggs, sugar, grated orange rind and juice, and the lemon juice with the cream. Whisk until smooth and set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick. Press the pastry into the bottom and sides of a fluted 9-inch tart pan with a removeable base. Carefully line the tart with parchment paper and pie weights. Place the tart pan on a large cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and weights and return to the oven for another 10 minutes until golden. Pass the egg mixture through a fine sieve, then pour into the hot pastry shell, return to the oven and reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and cook for 30 minutes or until just set. Leave to cool.
Dust the tart with powdered sugar and serve with crème fraiche and orange segments
CHOCOLATE ALMOND CAKE
An intensely dark, fudgy, rich cake. Serve thin slices with a handful of raspberries.
For the cake:
4 ounces plain chocolate
2 tablespoons Jamaican rum or coffee
1 stick butter
1 cup superfine sugar
½ cup finely ground almonds
½ cup all purpose flour
For the icing:
3 tablespoons apricot jelly
2 ounces plain chocolate
½ stick butter
1 tablespoon Jamaican rum or coffee
Melt the chocolate and rum in small bowl over a pot of hot water. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then stir in the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold the cooled melted chocolate into the butter mixture with the flour and ground almonds. Then fold in the egg whites. Pour the chocolate mixture into an 8-inch-round cake tin lined with parchment and cook at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until just set. Leave to cool in the tin.
When cool, remove from tin and brush cake with the apricot jelly. Melt the chocolate and stir in the butter and rum. When smooth and lump-free, pour the icing over the cake to cover. Leave to set.
CARAMEL NUT BRULEE
A delicious but simple desert, a wonderful combination of creamy and crunchy textures.
1 vanilla pod
20 fluid ounces heavy cream
6 egg yolks
¼ cup superfine sugar
6 ounces nut brittle
Bring the cream and split vanilla pod to boil in a midsize pot. Remove from the heat, set aside, and leave to infuse for 30 minutes then remove the vanilla pod. In a large bowl, place the egg yolks with the sugar. Beat until thick and light, add the cream and mix together. Return to the pot and cook over a low heat, stirring all the time until the custard thickens and just coats the back of a spoon. Do not boil or the custard will curdle. Strain through a sieve. Pour the custard into a 2-pint shallow ovenproof dish. Create a water bath by placing the dish in a roasting pan and pour in boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Cook at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. The custard should wobble slightly but not be runny in the center. Cool, cover, and chill. Place the broken pieces of nut brittle in a food processor and pulse to a rough powder.
Spoon the brittle powder over the chilled custard to form a thin, even coating. Place the dish in a roasting tin, with enough ice water to come halfway up the sides. Cook at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes or broil quickly until the brittle has melted to give a smooth covering. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.