Art of Puddings class promo: How to make chilli chocolate fondant puddings

We had a lot of fun making this…. so hope you enjoy.

I’ll be posting some new classes for 2012 so do come back and check before the year is out. We’ll definitely being making chocolate fondants, seville orange tarts and other delish New Year sweet things.

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Sarah Bradley’s Butter Cake

As we move into December surrounded by the ubiquitous traditional Christmas baking, I want to share something a little different.  A simple, comforting cake which can be enjoyed in a quiet moment before the seasonal hurly burly and stress of Christmas food preparation kicks off .

Less cake and more biscuit,  it is the perfect companion for a cup of tea or freshly brewed coffee.  It is quick to make and satisfyingly buttery without being too rich.  I love the way the edges of the cake form themselves as the cake cools down.  I recommend cutting out your slices with a sharp knife as soon as the cake comes out of the oven.

My friend Sarah, a keen and excellent baker from Cumbria  gave me this recipe.  I’m sure we all have a favourite cake recipe which has been passed down to us by mum’s, aunts, mother-in-laws, grannies and the like.  I have several very precious hand written recipes from my own mother, stuck into my ancient recipe scrap book. There is something special about a hand written recipe – making a strong connection with that person – don’t you think?

8 oz plain flour
8 oz unsalted butter
6 oz caster sugar
1/2 tspn baking powder
vanilla extract, a few drops
pinch of salt
1 egg, separated

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add egg yolk and vanilla extract.  Add flour, baking powder and salt.
Divide mixture into two sandwich tins and smooth to an even surface.  Brush with lightly whisked egg white.
Bake at 160 degrees C for about 15 minutes.  Cut each cake into 8 pieces while still warm.

Makes 16 pieces and stores well in a cake tin  – if you can keep your hands off it!!!

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We’re @MsMarmitelover’s Underground Night Market tonight, Fri 4th Nov from 6pm and Sat 5th Nov from 12 noon.

Celebrate Bonfire Night with loads of foodie stalls, live music, drinks galore!!  Tickets still available for both nights, click here to book.

Get down to MsMarmitelovers’ place and feast your eyes on Art of Puddings’ fabulous pudding shots, damson gin shots, limited edition damson gin on sale,  raspberry vanilla cheesecake, and more besides.  WE’RE INSIDE!!!  ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE LIVING ROOM.

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Deep in damson country

Last autumn I got the damson bug.  I’ve always adored the tarter than tart taste of damsons.  The deep purple beauties appear in our shops in September and two or three weeks later they’re gone before you know it.  The damson season is just too short!

You can eat damsons when they are really ripe but cooking and preserving brings out the best in them.  Spurred on by a bare patch of soil in my garden where a wonderful plum tree once grew, I’d jumped on the idea that I could plant a damson tree and in about seven years (quite biblical!) enjoy crop of my own damsons.

I did my research and found the Westmorland Damson Association, based in Cumbria and got on the phone.  I talked to Bob Bradley, one of their members about the viability of planting a Westmorland Damson tree in my small London garden.  “Yes, why not?” said Bob – “I can sell you a small tree about 2 years old, if you’d like!” and that was that.   It seemed like months before the phone rang and it was Bob asking me if I still wanted the damson tree? Yes, definitely – but how to get it down here?  Bob and Sarah, Bob’s wife, would bring it down to London on the train as they were coming down anyway. We meet up at Euston Station,  got on famously and with the little damson tree in my arms , returned home and put my tree outside in the garden to acclimatise it before planting  out on a dry, warm day in July.

Keeping in touch with Bob and Sarah, I’d soon planned a weekend in Witherslack – deep in damson country.  I was curious to find out more about the Westmorland Damson  and of course, to pick as many damsons as I could bring back with me to London. Enough hopefully to make damson gin, damson cheese, damson jam and one or two other damson delicacies.

In mid September I headed up to Oxenholme Lake District station and 3 1/2 hours later I stepped off the train greeted by torrential rain and a smiling Sarah Bradley.   The village of Witherslack (a “wooded valley” in Norse) lies close to two valleys, the Lyth and Winster, famous for their damson orchards.

Damson trees grow very prolifically up here.  Damson trees are very hardy,  they thrive on the well-drained, limestone soils and benefit from the relatively mild climate of the area.  In the past, damsons weren’t just eaten as fruit but were used for dyeing in the textile.  Back in the 1930s and 1940s more than 300 tons of damsons were sent down to the jam factories of Lancashire and Yorkshire. The income from the damsons was often used to pay the annual rent of a farm.

 

I’d been concerned that the rains in August might have spoiled this seasons’ fruit.  As we walked towards Bob’s damson orchard with more 30 damson trees (what bliss!!) my fear was banished.  There were plenty of trees laden with fruit waiting to be picked. Donning wellies and waterproofs and armed with large white plastic buckets, we began picking in the pouring rain.  Now that is serious dedication!

Every year, Bob Bradley opens his orchard to anyone who wants to come and pick his damsons.  An exceptionally fine spring this year, with plenty of pearly, white blossom combined with a frost free April, has produced a better than average crop of fruit.  An average size damson tree can produce up to 80 kilos of fruit!!

It carried on raining while we picked, my jacket sleeves becoming more and more sodden as I reached up into the leafy branches. Traditionally women picked the fruit hanging from the branches at ground level, while the men stood on wooden ladders to reach the upper branches.  With our buckets half full,  we lay the damsons out on towels and newspaer to dry them out before nipping inside for a warm up and a cheery cup of tea and back out for a second round of picking – and more rain!  Thoughts of all the wonderful things I’d be able to make with my damsons, keeping my spirits up.

Bob pointed out some baby damson trees – suckers, thrown up from the roots of mature trees growing  on one side of the orchard.  As long as the orchard is not grazed by sheep, these clones will eventually grow into mature trees within 5 or 6 years.  I didn’t know sheep liked eating young damson trees!  Bob explained that putting nesting boxes in the trees encouraged birds to eat the many parasitic insects such as greenflies which live on and around the bark and leaves of the trees.  There is even a plum moth!  A tasty takeaway for a fledgling blue tit hungry for it’s supper.

Bob, a retired vet, has lived in the area for over 40 years and as a member of the Westmorland Damson Association and keen fruit tree grower, there isn’t much he doesn’t know about damsons.  His knowledge and enthusiasm not just about damsons, apples and other indigenous  fruit trees, but plants and wildlife, is very impressive. Bob’s large cage with it’s lively pair of red squirrels which have already bred 5 young ones – a practical contribution to reintroducing a native species against a tide of  grey squirels . These five been released into the wild and hopefully there’ll be more to come.  I couldn’t resist taking a picture of them.  They have a plentiful supply of cob nuts from a handy nearby tree.

 

Sarah took me for a drive the length and breadth of the Lyth and Winster valleys to see the orchards where damsons have grown for many generations.  Many of these orchards have sadly become overgrown and neglected.  We  saw old damson trees by the side of the road,  unkempt and with a smattering of unpicked fruits.  We talked to a farmer on whose land the trees were  “We just can’t afford to pick the fruit and people don’t make as much home-made jam like they did in the past – they’d rather buy it in the supermarket.”

 

There are damsons in other parts of the British Isles but the intense flavour of the small oval Westmoreland damson (a type of Shropshire Prune) lifts it way above any others I have tasted.  It is very hard for local farmers with damson orchards to compete with the cheaper imported damsons from Eastern Europe. Transportation costs have soared, combined with a short picking season (just two weeks) and lack of cheap labour in the North West are significant factors.  However, a resurgence of interest in damsons along  with other traditional fruits (such as gooseberries)and many local farmers sell their damsons to small scale producers who make damson gin and damson beer, along with damson jam and other damson products which are not just sold locally but considerably further afield.

 

One local damson grower I met, told me that damsons are even being imported from Eastern Europe, shipped over to Denmark to be destoned and then sent back to the UK where they still manage to cheaper than our native ones. How on earth can this be possible!!!

For a hearty supper we prepared  Morecombe shrimps, egg and cheese in ramekins, locally produced Cumberland sausage (well Cumberland is in the Lake District!) accompanied by baked beetroot, spinach and Charlotte potatoes, all freshly pulled and picked from the Bradley’s garden.  Sarah and I swopped dessert recipes while she prepared a Witherslack Damson Cobbler (recipe below)  for pudding.   An aperitif of damson gin in front of the woodburner warmed us all up.  Then to supper washed down with several glasses of Bob’s excellent damson wine –  ruby red, full bodied and surprisingly dry. More Shiraz than damson.  A unforgettable meal with my new

I’ve already planned my next visit to “damson country” in early Spring to see the white damson blossom, and enjoy the annual festivities of Damson Day (Sat, 14th April 2012) organised by the Westmorland Damson Association.  The WDA  campaigns to promote the use of local damsons and by so doing, ensuring the continued survival of existing orchards.  They offer free help, advice and access to grant aid for anyone wanting to restore or create new orchards.  For more information, telephone 015395 68617 or email enquiries@lythdamsons.org.uk

WITHERSLACK DAMSON COBBLER

For the base:
1 kilo damsons
caster sugar, about 227g
water, enough to cover fruit

For the scone topping:
2 oz (57g) butter
8 oz (227g) self-raising flour
1 tspn baking powder
1 oz (28g) caster sugar
fresh or sour milk to mix

Stew the damsons, remove stones and put puree into a greased pie dish.  If you haven’t got time or inclination to puree the damsons – leave them in but don’t forget to warn people before they start eating!  Sarah left the stones in and we recited the traditional rhyme, “ Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man beggar man, thief.” I think I ended up with a soldier – perish the thought!

Mix flour, baking powder and caster sugar and rub in butter.

Mix to a dough with about 7 tbspn of milk, roll out on a floured board and cut into small rounds.  Place the scones overlapping each other in a ring on the damsons, brush with milk and cook for about 30 mins near the top of a fairly hot oven.

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4th/5th Nov: Me and My Puds at Msmarmitelover’s Underground Night Market: Food Rave

Looking for a foodie alternative to Bonfire Night – then look no further.  Kilburn’s only Underground Night Market on Friday, 4th Nov at 6pm and Saturday, 5th Nov from 12 noon.  Music, food, bonfire and booze!!! and of course my little shots of deliciousness. 

I’ll be peddling my fabulous pudding shots, jams, jellies and damson gin by the shot. PLUS my free prize draw where you could win a complimentary class worth £55.

Tickets for Friday night at: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/132416 

Tickets for Sat daytime at:  http://www.wegottickets.com/event/132417

Read  all about it at: http://blogspot.us2.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=57f067637f1f7be23ee2177c7&id=175a832fba&e=1e135d58ab

 

 

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Pudding of the Month: October 2011

Fig and Frangipane Tart

As I had four ripe figs, some leftover pastry and some frangipane mixture.  I decided to make these three small tarts for an autumn picnic in Kew Gardens last week.  Sadly, I don’t have a fig tree in my garden but as figs are plentiful this time of use I was spoilt for choice.  I used a Turkish variety called Black Bursa.  You can pick figs up for as little as 37p each right now.  I go for the plump black ones bursting with a sweet jammy texture and rich flavour.  Once bought they must be consumed quickly as they don’t keep well.

This recipe is for two medium size tarts or one large one but you can easily adapt it to make smaller tarts like mine.  I used three, 10cm loose-bottomed fluted flan tins.

for the pastry
350g plain flour
a pinch of salt
175g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
3 egg yolks

for the filling
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
250g caster sugar
3 eggs lightly beaten
250 g ground almonds
50g plain flour
12-14 figs, stems trimmed, cut lengthways in 1/4s or 1/8s according to their size

Start with pastry as it needs to rest for at least one hour while you make the filling.  In a food processor pulse the flour, salt, butter and sugar until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Add the egg yolks and pulse a little more until just combined.  Bring together quickly on a cold work surface, wrap in cling film and chill for at least an hour.  If you have any pastry left once you’ve made your tart,  it will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.  It also freezes very well too.

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.  Coarsely grate the pastry into a 25cm loose-bottomed fluted flan tin, pressing it well into the sides and base. Try not to over work the pastry too much.  Put the tart shell in the freezer for 15mins, then blind bake for about 15 mins until firm and slightly golden.  Put tart shell aside to cool.  Turn the oven down to 150ºC/300ºF/gas mark 3.

For the filling, cream the butter and sugar in a food processor until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time mixing well after each one.  In a separate bowl combine the ground almonds with the flour.  Add the ground almonds to the butter mixture and mix well.

Spread the almond paste over the base of the tart shell/s.  Arrange your figs artfully, pressing them lightly, bottoms down,  into the almond paste.  If you are making one large tart then place them in concentric circles with their cut sides facing upwards.  Bake for about 60 mins or until firm and golden.  You can dust with a little icing sugar if you like and serve warm or cold.  Serve with a spoonfull of Greek yogourt or better still Turkish yogourt!

Enjoy this very autumnal delight!

 

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Queens Park Day: 11th Sept

Art of Puddings came to Queens Park Day last Sunday and a fantastic day was had by all.  We sold everything we brought along!!

300 dessert shots, Vanilla Cheesecake, redcurrant jelly, damson jam, damson cheese, plum jam & gooseberry jam, strawberry jam and elderflower cordial.  We had a great spot in the park, close enough to the main food stalls.  To our left we had Transition Town Kensal to Kilburn with their apple pressing team – they pressed 420 glasses of apple juice made from locally picked apples!!  and on our right a delightful father and son with the 23rd Willesden Scouts stall. Their massive jar of loose sweets proved too much of a temptation and at the end of the day with plummeting blood sugar – we’d all succumbed.

We were selling our usual dessert shots – mango fool, chocolate mousse and rote gruetze (red fruit pudding) with a delicious new edition, Apple Snow.  We had a bumper crop of cooking apples from the garden and so with a couple of kilos puréed and sitting ready in the fridge – apple snow fitted the bill,  It’s quick and easy to make and everyone loves it. Apple Snow was one of my favourite childhood desserts and I used to beg my mother to make it when the cooking apple season came around.  Here’s my recipe for Apple Snow adapted from my mum’s Apfel Schnee.

APPLE SNOW

Serves 8-10

1 kg  cooking apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
5 tbsp  soft brown sugar (according to taste)
small piece of cassia bark (or cinnamon stick)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 egg whites
30g castor sugar
100 ml double cream

Put the apples into a pan with brown sugar and cassia bark, add lemon zest and juice, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and again until the apples are cooked.  Take care that the apples don’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Remove the lid and carry on simmering for a couple more minutes until the mixture is dry.  Blend until smooth in a food processor or pass through a fine sieve or chinois.  Transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Whisk the egg whites by hand or in a stand mixer to soft peaks then add 30g caster sugar and whisk briefly until stiff.  Whip the cream separately until fairly stiff then carefully fold the egg whites into the cool apple purée finally adding the whipped cream.  Spoon into invidual dishes or one large dish and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  Great with ginger tuiles or shortbread biscuits or sublime on its own.

Many thanks on the day to: No 1 son for his calm and charm, Monika M for liquid sustenance + sign ups and Sue D & family for photos and moral support .  Also for ongoing encouragement from our new customers, potential ‘puddingistas’, friends and family. Where would we be without you!

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Tarte Tatin

This delicious pastry made with apples established the reputation of the Tatin sisters who ran a hotel in the Loire Valley in 1898.  According to tradition the sister who did the cooking, Stephanie, was making a traditional apple pie and  over-cooked the apples.  She rescued the dish by putting a pastry cover on top of the apples and quickly finishing it off in the oven. She inverted the cooked tart onto a plate and to her delight the hotel guests loved it.  According to tradition the dish became so popular that the owner of Maxim’s in Paris sent down spies to discover the secret recipe.

The other day my friend Laurent, former pastry chef turned yoga teacher (yogalaurent), came over to make tarte tatin with me.  A few days before he’d texted me a list of ingredients reminding me to get firm dessert apples (eg Braeburn, Jonagold) which would hold their shape and not turn to mush!  He also checked that I had a heavy ovenproof frying pan.  On a recent day trip to Paris, I bought two different sized black iron pans which were perfect for tarte tatin.  Black iron pans are used all the time in restaurants –  you can start a dish on the stove and  put the pan staight into a very hot oven to finish it off.  I love mine but you do have to temper them before use and always smear a little oil over the surface after cleaning them or they’ll end up rusty!!

As we had limited time, we used a good quality buttery ready-made puff pastry.  Working together we decided to use two pans and divide the recipe according to the size of each pan.  The larger pan held 7/8 apples, the smaller pan took 5/6 apples.  Whatever size pan you use, you will need to pack the apples together so that they fit together snuggly. Shoulder to Shoulder….

Tarte Tatin Recipe
8 Braeburn apples
1/2 packet puff pastry
2/3 tbsp caster sugar
50g unsalted butter
1/2 small orange, zest grated plus juice
1/2 lemon, zest grated plus juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Core and peel all the apples and cut into half lengthways.

As we were using two different sized black iron pans – the smaller pan had 5 apples, so 10 halves and the larger pan had 7 apples or 14 halves.  The next stage was the caramelisation which can take about 10/15 mins.  We added some good knobs of butter into the apple filled pan and turned the heat to medium/high.  Then we added 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar and allowed the apples to take on a lovely golden colour as they started to caramelize.  At this point we added a couple of teaspoons of the lemon/orange zest/juice mixture.   You may well need to add more butter as it gets absorbed.  You will need to hover over the pan with a fork and turn all the apples frequently making sure they get that all over golden tan.

Get your puff pastry and flour your surface well and roll each piece out to a rectangle of about 3mm depth and wide enough to cover your pan plus extra to fold under the apples. (Handy tip: I don’t wash my wooden rolling pin.  If you just scrape off whatever adheres to it with the back of the knife – it will last forever.

Laurent pointed out politely that working with pastry benefits from a cold smooth surface and a piece of granite in lieu of an expensive kitchen surface makeover.  (Note to myself check out my nearest reclamation yard!).

The next stage is a bit like tucking a blanket under the edges of a baby’s cot.  Carefully tuck the pastry underneath the apples making sure you go all round the pan leaving no gaps.  You may need to trim bits off here and there and use them to patch the gaps where there isn’t enough pastry to tuck underneath.

  

When you’re happy that your apples are cosily tucked up in their pastry blanket, lightly prick the pastry all over with a fork, being careful not to pierce through the pastry.  The tarte is now ready to go into a hot oven (at least 200 degrees C) and bake until the pastry is a light golden colour.  Approx 20 mins but definitely check it after 15 mins as temperatures do vary from oven to oven.

When your tart is cooked get it out of the oven with an oven glove, hold your pan firmly by its handle in one hand and get your serving plate as close as you can to the pan and with one swift manoeuvre invert the tarte onto your plate.  Re-arrange the apples if they have became dislodged in the inverting process.   Tarte Tatin is best eaten warm served with crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

If you’d like to learn how to make Tarte Tatin, White Chocolate Mousse or Pear and Hazelnut Tart, you can sign up today for one of my Art of Pudding classes starting again in September.  If you book for any of my classes before 31st August 2011, you can save £20 per person off the normal cost of a class (£70).  Cost: £50 per person!!!

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Pudding of the Month: July 2011

 

Easy Cherry Sorbet

My local farmers market has a stall selling nothing but Kent cherries for £5 a kilo so this month I’ve been trying out recipes featuring cherries.

I’ve adapted this one from a recipe by David Lebovitz  whose blog and books I’m a great fan of.  I’m always on the look out for ice cream and sorbet recipes which genuinely work without an ice cream churner as I don’t own one (as yet!) – and this one fits the bill.  It’s simple to make and delicious.

675g/1 ½ lbs sweet cherries, pitted

100 g sugar

250 ml water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

a few drops almond essence

1 tablespoon of kirsch (optional)

In a large saucepan combine the cherries, sugar, water and lemon juice and cook for about 10 mins, stirring occasionally until the cherries have softened and released their juices.  Remove from the heat and add the almond extract and kirsch, if using.  Set aside to cool completely.

Decant the cherries and their syrup into a shallow container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2hrs.

Once the cherry mixture has frozen completely, take it out of the freezer, break it up, and process it in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until completely smooth.   Serve immediately.

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“Mastering the sweet things in life”

Art of Puddings is featured on the home page of a fabulous new UK wide listings site – This is Your Kingdom.  “An Insider’s Guide to Lovely Things to see and do in the UK.”

Loads of great stuff to see, do and take part in.  You can nominate your own little secrets…if you can bare to share them, that is.

Many thanks to Amanda Collins from saveyoursole for recommending Art of Puddings.

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