Not possessing a terribly sweet tooth means that guests here tend to be under-pudding. And under-caked. They will however, probably be over-cheesed but that another story. Part of this is, I think, because I don’t get so much pleasure from making puddings and cakes as I do from savoury dishes. I have just thought that maybe that’s because I don’t get as much pleasure from eating puddings, but I am a tad worried that might make me a selfish cook…..oh dear.
I think as well that I might have a rather French or Italian approach to dessert, as in my experience, in these countries when a stunning dessert is required, it is left to the professional in a local patisserie or pasticceria. I too take this approach and am lucky that I have such a place locally that produces superb gateaux, that I could never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares, frankly) produce.
The gleam atop their chocolate gateaux is such that only a professional can produce and whilst I am up for having a go at most things culinary, my life is not enhanced by tempering chocolate. And tempering is an appropriate word, as I think it’s tricky stuff, chocolate. Maybe I just don’t have the touch, but it does have a temperament approaching the diva: turn my back for a moment when melting it, and it stomps off scowling, immediately becoming lumpy and singed. And that’s doing it over a bain marie, not the mysterious process of microwaving it, which in my (admittedly limited) experience produces a foul, stinking mess from which any chocolatey goodness has been expunged.
You see, the weird thing is that I can turn out hollandaise and mayonnaise without turning a hair and arguably they are equally tricky. Why can’t I melt chocolate? Maybe I’m a bit frightened of chocolate or maybe it knows I don’t like it? Well, I do, but only as a piece of chocolate. Not interested in chocolate cake or mousse and suchlike. No, chocolate and I are not going to get along in the kitchen, so it’s perhaps just as well that I have a much less fraught relationship with fruit, so I can turn out a few respectable puddings.
In fact, when I (usually reluctantly) decide to make a pudding, I enjoy working with fruit in a sweet context, as much as when using in a savoury dish. One of the cornerstones of my repertoire is this delightfully simply pudding-cake. I know, that’s not exactly a technical term but does describe this moist, almondy cakey pud, that has never been known to fail, either in the oven, or to please. Works well warm (but not hot) and cold, but has rarely lasted long enough for me to serve it cold. I have used raspberries in this recipe, but I have also used blueberries, which tasted delicious, but given their tendency to explode when baked, did make for a slightly messy looking appearance. I have also used chopped fresh apricot, which worked well, but for reasons I am not sure of, peach and nectarine don’t work so well – turned out a bit soggy. Whatever you use, this is quick, simple and delicious!
RASPBERRY ALMOND PUDDINGPrint Recipe
- 2 large unwaxed lemons
- 115g softened unsalted butter
- 115g caster sugar (I like golden, which does beneficially affect the finished cake colour)
- 3 medium free range eggs, beaten
- 40g self raising flour
- 100g ground almonds
- 1 tsp almond essence (I like a pronounced almond flavour, but use less if you prefer)
- 300g raspberries
- 20cm loose bottom cake tin, lightly buttered and base lined with buttered parchment
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C/fan 180 degrees C
Finely grate the lemon zest and in a large bowl, add to the butter and sugar
Beat until light and fluffy; I believe there are some people who use a wooden spoon but I use my hand mixer!
Add the eggs gradually, beating well after each addition
Fold in the flour, followed by the ground almonds, then the almond essence, finishing with the juice of one of the lemons
Spoon into the buttered tin, smoothing it off with the back of a spoon
Scatter the raspberries over the top and press them into the mixture, not so that they disappear forever, just so they are properly embedded in the mixture
Sprinkle the top with a further 1 tablespoon or so of caster sugar
Place it in the oven for 30 minutes and then test with a skewer; if it comes out clean, it’s done
If mixture still clings, give it another 5 minutes and test again; repeat until you have a clean skewer
In my oven, this only ever takes 30 minutes, but I have known it take up to about 40 minutes in friend’s ovens
When done, leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin, then remove carefully to a rack to cool until you are ready to serve
A rather nice variation is to replace the lemon zest and juice with a tablespoon or so of strong espresso coffee and top with flaked almonds (add these about half way through, otherwise they can become burnt) and fewer raspberries. In this instance I do reduce the almond essence to half a teaspoon. I expect someone other than me could tame the diva and produce a chocolate version - please tell me the secret if you do!