The fall season seems to orchestrate a return to the kitchen, to lure us who enjoy to cook, back to the stove. With the cooler days and nights, heating up the oven to cook or bake becomes conceivable once more.
Like many baked desserts, the self-saucing pudding is a combination of mystery and chemistry. In the baking process, the flour/baking powder, rises to the top and the heavier sauce falls to the bottom.
Not quite a pudding and not exactly a cake, self saucing pudding has a souffle-like quality. It’s origins are unclear, but there is evidence that the concept of pouring hot water (or sauce) over the cake before baking to partially steam it as it bakes may be an Australian innovation.
It really doesn’t matter where the concept came from. What matters is that it works brilliantly to create a dessert with lightness and richness all in one pan. A simple dollop of whip cream on the top and there you have it … home baked goodness!
Caramel Pear Pudding Cake
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water & butter; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover & set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 4 oven-proof custard dishes ( 1 1/4 cup capacity) & place on a baking sheet. Place half of a pear in each dish.
In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter, spices, milk & vanilla; mix well. Spread the mixture evenly over pear halves in dishes. Sprinkle batter with pecans. Carefully pour HOT caramel sauce over pudding batter in custard cups.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until puddings are firm. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
A nectarine is a variant of a peach …. one genetic step away and fuzz-less. White nectarines were the only kind available up until 1942, when a white one was crossed with a peach resulting in a yellow/red nectarine.
Just like peaches, both have similar sugar levels. However, white nectarines taste sweeter because they have less acid than the yellow varieties. Probably the most reliable way to pick a good-tasting nectarine is by its strong, sweet aroma. Traditional peach pies and cobblers can easily be interchanged with nectarines. Their firmer flesh softens when cooked but still holds its shape and leaving the skin on not only saves time but improves the flavor.
When nectarines are in season, I hate to miss out on the chance to incorporate them into whatever I can. To avoid getting into any long detailed procedures today, I’m going with this custard tart. It meets all requirements …. pre-fab pastry, egg-less custard and some of those wonderful nectarines, not to mention the bonus of how pretty it looks.
Nectarine Custard Pie
Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut six 1-inch wide strips of dough from the sheet of puff pastry (best to cut one from the top, one from the bottom & four from the side). Place a large (9 x 2-inch) pie plate on the uncut area of dough, trace a circle around it with a knife. Place the round piece of dough in the pie plate. Place in refrigerator until ready to assemble & bake.
In a saucepan, whisk together milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt & vanilla. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is hot, lower the heat to medium-low to prevent the bottom from burning. Continue cooking until mixture thickens. Remove from heat & cool. When cooled, spread the pudding over puff pastry using a spoon to smooth it out.
Halve nectarines, remove the pits & cut in even slices. Place the nectarine slices in the pudding cream, starting at outer edge, slightly overlapping, & working your way in.
Take the 6 strips of dough from beginning & lay them in between the nectarine ring layers until the design is complete. Take the last dough strip, roll it up & place it directly in the center of the pie dish.
Brush the puff pastry with egg wash. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. If you wish, brush apricot preserve over tart while it is still warm.
I realize this is the third rhubarb recipe I have posted this season but who’s counting?! I actually adapted this idea from a trifle recipe. Although both parfaits and trifles are aesthetically pleasing desserts, they are not the same.
The word ‘trifle’ means something of little consequence or significance. In food terms, its anything but! A trifle is a custard and/or cream layered with fruit, placed over cake, that has been marinated in brandy or liqueur. Trifles are traditionally made in a large, deep glass bowl so you can see all the layers.
The French word ‘parfait’ means perfect and was originally made with layers of frozen custard, served in a tall glass. Currently, parfaits can simply have a yogurt base and topped with granola and fresh fruit. Though, originating from France, the parfait is now a world traveler with endless variations.
This turned out to be so good even if it was a bit time consuming.
Rhubarb Parfaits w/ Hazelnuts & White Chocolate
In a bowl, whisk eggs with sugar until fluffy. Fold flour & baking powder into egg mixture.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large rimmed baking sheet. With a pencil, trace about 36 circles on the paper (use a small glass with the inside circumference of your parfait glasses as a guide).
Place a spoonful of cake mixture in the center of each circle. Spread mixture evenly within the traced lines. Leave a little room for the mixture to expand a bit. Bake the cake circles for about 5-6 minutes. Allow to cool.
In a saucepan, whisk together water & sugar; add rhubarb & cook for 6-8 minutes over very low heat. Remove from heat, add vanilla & transfer rhubarb pieces carefully to a bowl. Continue to cook syrup for a few minutes to thicken more before pouring over rhubarb. Let rhubarb cool completely. Reserve 6 pieces for garnishes.
In a small bowl, whip heavy cream. Add half of the white chocolate & half of the hazelnuts to the cream before adding the cooled rhubarb.
Alternate cake circles with rhubarb mixture in each of the four parfait glasses. Starting with cake on the bottom, ending with rhubarb mixture. Top each with a piece of reserved rhubarb, remaining white chocolate & some remaining hazelnuts.
The dessert name of Om Ali, means ‘Ali’s mother’, has its own story. To make a long story short, not wanting to bore you with the detailed war history of Om Ali ….. Ali’s mother, was a powerful feminist of the 13th century Egypt. Her husband tried to cheat on her so she kills him and celebrates with distributing Om Ali dessert declaring her son Ali as successor. As ever, food is a much more than just the act of cooking and eating. Food is culture, history and the stories of a given people and time.
You could think of Om Ali as the Egyptian cousin of bread pudding. Same idea of soaking some type of bread with milk or cream and sugar, then baking it in the oven. Om Ali skips the eggs though, which makes it lighter in texture, looser and milkier as opposed to custardy. Instead of bread, it is traditionally made with baked puff pastry, phyllo or Egyptian flat bread combined with milk and nuts.
Om Ali has become a well loved and celebrated dessert all over the Middle East, being served at many big celebrations and events.
Instead of using the traditional nuts, raisins and coconut, I’m using the ‘Sahale Snack Mix’ which has a very similar blend in my Om Ali pudding.
OM Ali - Egyptian Bread Pudding
Allow puff pastry to thaw before using. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the puff pastry into squares & poke holes in each using a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes or until puffed & golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool.
In a saucepan, whisk together milk, sugar, spices & whipped topping powder. Allow to come to a gentle simmer; add the vanilla & heavy cream. Remove from heat.
Break the puff pastry into pieces & place half of them in either individual ramekins or an oven-proof baking dish. Sprinkle each with some of your fruit/nut blend, reserving a bit for topping. Cover with the other half of the pastry pieces.
Slowly add the milk mixture, one ladle at a time until the milk mixture fully covers the puff pastry. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, you'll notice that the puff pastry absorbs some of the milk. Add milk again until it covers the puff pastry.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F. then place under the broiler if you wish, for a couple of minutes to get a golden top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- When baking is 90% done, sprinkle the rest of the fruit/nut mixture on top so they don't burn & taste bitter. It gives a nice eye appeal.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
One thing for sure, Valentine desserts most often center around chocolate and strawberries. To celebrate the occasion, Brion came home with a bottle of Bailey’s Strawberries & Cream liqueur. This is the companies second seasonal flavor following their Pumpkin Spice liqueur. To put it in their words, ‘ the drink combines Bailey’s Original Irish Cream with delightful ripe strawberry flavor and delicious vanilla’.
After we had enjoyed it as a drink it got me thinking about how I could incorporate it into a ‘special’ dessert as well. Do you recall those classic Hot Fudge Pudding Cakes from the 60’s? They were the ultimate comfort food, fancy enough for a parfait and homey enough to be a spur of the moment indulgence. I could see nothing wrong in swapping out the milk in the original recipe for some strawberries & cream liqueur!
Speaking of pudding cake, its really kind of a culinary miracle, how pouring hot water over a thick batter can create this warm, fudgy concoction that lies precisely at the intersection of cake and pudding.
OK, on with my dessert … I had some strawberries in the freezer so they became a nice strawberry sauce to compliment the liqueur in the pudding. Serving this dessert parfait style with some ice cream or whipped topping adds a bit of elegance and I’m sure you will love the taste.
Bailey's Strawberries & Cream Fudge Pudding Parfaits
Preheat oven to 350 F. In an 8 X 8-inch baking dish, combine first 5 ingredients. Add liqueur, margarine & walnuts, combine well. Batter will be very stiff (if you find it easier to mix the cake in a small bowl instead, do so). Spread batter evenly in the baking dish.
In a small dish, combine brown sugar & 1/4 cup cocoa powder & sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water over all & bake for about 40 minutes or until batter rises to the top & is baked through.
In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Mix well. Add water & sliced strawberries. Cook until sauce is clear & bubbly. Remove from heat & cool.
Place some strawberry sauce in the bottom of each parfait glass. Spoon fudge pudding over sauce & top with ice cream or whipped topping. Serve with a glass of liqueur!
Yorkshire pudding was first known as ‘dripping puddings‘. Their origin goes back to the days of old English country inns where they would roast beef on a hook in a hearth over an open flame and have a pan below the roast with flour/milk mixture that caught the drippings. This would be served with the roasted beef.
Traditionally, beef drippings are used, although you can use oil, but not olive oil (or butter) due to the high heat involved in making the pudding. The best choice, if you use oil, would be peanut, canola or safflower oil.
The basic recipe is actually a simple formula based on how many eggs you use. You don’t need to measure anything, just use the same volumes of ingredients …. egg, milk, and flour.
My interest in making Yorkshire pudding came from Brion having memories of eating these at his British grandfather’s house. He recalls that you filled the little Yorkshire puddings with gravy and they tasted real good. It all makes sense, that this beloved British staple food would have been served on special occasions.
Instead of making them in traditional Yorkshire pudding tins, I went with the ‘giant‘ size. I understand there is also another way the pudding is being served. It’s called the ‘Yorkshire Pudding Wrap‘, which consists of a large flattened Yorkshire pudding, wrapped around a mound of sliced meat, stuffing, some token vegetable and smothered in thick gravy. You might say this is the fast food style roast beef dinner!
While there are other foods made from a similar batter such as popovers, gougere and Dutch baby pancakes, Yorkshire pudding are distinctive in their wonderfully crisp texture and fabulous flavor from meat drippings. If you like this kind of thing, the meal not only has a great taste but good eye appeal as well.
Giant Yorkshire Pudding
(1) The first thing you want to work out is the volume of egg. Take two identical cups or mugs & crack an egg into one. Into the other, pour flour until it fills the cup to the same level as the egg in the other one. Add a pinch of salt to the flour. (2) Put the egg into a mixing bowl & pour milk into the cup (the one the egg just came out of) up to the same level as the flour. Add a dash of vinegar to the milk. (3) Pour the flour & milk into the bowl with the egg & whisk all the ingredients into a smooth batter. Allow batter to sit for at least an hour or overnight. Letting the batter rest reduces the starch making a lighter pudding. (4) Preheat oven to 400 F. If you are roasting meat, put a little of the drippings (for flavor) or oil into the baking pans you are using to cook the pudding. Your pan choice is important. You need one with high enough sides so the batter can 'hold' the side & rise. If you are making 'Giant Yorkshires', as I did, use a 7 or 8-inch cast iron skillet (or a metal cake pan). Place the pan with the drippings (or oil) in the pre-heated oven for about 5 minutes until drippings are hot. (5) Pour the batter into the hot pan & bake for 10-15 minutes or until sides have puffed & are a nice golden brown. The center will fall almost immediately after being removed from the oven ... which is normal! (6) Serve immediately with your roast, gravy, potatoes & veggies of choice. The recipe equation below is basically what ONE of my giant puddings 'measured' out to be.
Follow same method as above.
- For a 2-egg batter, use a 7 or 8-inch skillet or pan
- For a 3-egg batter, use a 10-inch skillet or pan
- For a 4-egg batter, use a 12-inch skillet or pan
Bread Pudding ….. its just bread plus eggs plus a sweetened, spiced milk mixture. What makes it special is the blend of spices mixed into it and the sauce.
When done right, bread pudding should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That’s why stale bread is important. The bread needs a degree of crunch otherwise you will have ‘mush pudding‘.
For today’s recipe, I started by making a loaf of Challah bread. This is an ‘eggy’ bread that can soak up custard without collapsing. It will toast nicely on the outside and leave you with a creamy pudding inside.
Challah is a very straight forward bread to make. The dough is enriched with eggs and oil, while a few tablespoons of sugar add some sweetness and it doesn’t require any fussy techniques. Because challah is traditionally braided, proofing is key…. if the dough is not properly proofed, it will tear in the oven while baking.
Here’s where it becomes ‘comfort food‘ made with glorious challah, tropical mangos and spices inspired by the world’s love affair with Indian chai.
Chai, which is sometimes overlooked, adds a distinct warm flavor and depth. It can include a number of different spices. Cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. Pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel are also used but they are slightly less common.
For the finishing touch, I made a rum sauce. Who says bread pudding has to be boring!
Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices
In a small bowl, place lukewarm water & sprinkle with yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir to combine. Let stand about 5-10 minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, place 4 cups flour, sugar & salt; whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center of flour mixture & add eggs, egg yolk & oil; whisk to form a slurry. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Combine with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
On a floured work surface, turn out dough & knead for about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough should be soft, smooth & hold a ball shape. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise, in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you wish to make. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16-inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest 5 minutes to relax the gluten & then try again. For the 6 stranded braid as I made, the name of the game is 'over two, under one, over two'. Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest strand. Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the loaf. Try to make your braid as tight as possible. Once you reach the end, squeeze the ends of the ropes together & tuck them under the loaf.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top & sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a tea towel & allow to rise about 1 hour. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350 F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 Tbsp. of water & brush carefully over challah. Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Remove from oven & cool before cutting up for bread pudding.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; toss bread & mango cubes together in it. In a medium bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients together & pour over the bread & mangoes; allow the mixture to soak for about 5 minutes. Bake about 1 1/4 hours, or until set.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Mix together sugar & cornstarch; stir into the melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum. Serve warm over bread pudding.