Winter Dessert Treats

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Michal Haines

I’m not a particularly dessert orientated person. If cheese was to miraculously appear on the table after dinner, I’ll be the first in but chocolate, sweets and puddings I am happy to pass up…unless its winter.

For some reason my body obviously has decided that on top of my already cosy layer of fat that just a little more would be helpful to keep the cold out.

Winter puddings with jugfuls of crème anglaise and scoops of ice-cream are just the thing to add that layer.

My mother whips such things up in a jiffy. One rather odd creation is a part sponge, part crumble creation, at the bottom of which is stewed fruit, all thick and jammy with sugar. I have learned to love these treats as she very rarely made them when I was a child but now seems to like treating my husband to them regularly. I think maybe she is trying to tell me something about good wifely duties. I come home regularly to find yet another trifle or half sponge, half crumble creation pushed through the cat door so far that I am afraid that maybe she has dislocated her shoulder to do so.

I have to go with the English and their pudding repertoire. They seem to have mastered  these squishy, baked treats. Whether it is the ingenious bread and butter pudding or the sticky date, they work after a good old roast or casserole.

My range of puddings and desserts is limited I have to admit and I am ok with that. As someone who entertains a lot, I focus on the entrée and main and hope by that the stage we reach dessert people have eaten more than enough to expect yet another course. I think that as I am a “throw a bit of this in and a bit of that” sort of a cook, things generally go badly when it comes to baking. So this means that my tried and true recipes are those that require little measuring and have quite a bit of room for messing about flavour and ingredient wise.

If I am feeling totally in the mood for ginger cake but I have a craving for tamarillos too, then my recipes have to be adaptable enough that I can do both.

I have found over the years that the best bakers and pudding makers are men.

Does this suggest that they are more precise with measuring or is it simply that the men I have conversed with on this fascinating subject just all happen to be that way inclined?
Either way, I have always been happy to leave them to it and allow them a little of the dinner party limelight as they pull fresh from the oven some heavenly wonder that awards them more accolades than the main I have slaved over for three days.

Is it that desserts and puddings appear more magical, more fantastical? Is it that childish sweet yearning in all of us that when pudding arrives, we all decide that we do have room for a little more….. can you make that slice a little bigger….?

No matter. I am secure enough in my talents that I can handle this devastating twist of the proverbial knife and accept that the pudding was delicious and yes I am sure that he will give you the recipe. Oh you don’t want the recipe for the main too? No, ok, I’ll make sure he emails it to you. I feel it would be petty at this stage to point out that it is a rather unsophisticated recipe taken from trashy weekly that someone left at his work.

I do make a pretty good crumble though and enjoy using the best of the seasons produce to do so. This time of year we have an abundance of great things to stew up. Apples, quince, feijoa and classic old rhubarb work so well with new season nuts like walnut, hazelnut and chestnuts. I like to be able to roughly grind the nuts up in the food processor so they act partially to help bind as well as give great texture and taste to the fruit.

The following three are my classics. They are fast and easy but still win the accolades.

Lemon Custard Pudding

Wonderfully old fashioned, this works so well after just about anything due to the tartness. A giant helping of cream is a must.

Serves 6

100g butter
175g soft brown sugar
4 eggs, separated
Juice of 3 lemons and zest of 2
Zest of 1 orange or go crazy and use a lime instead
50g plain flour
500ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split open and seeds removed and placed in the milk to infuse. (keep the pod for another use)

Grease an ovenproof dish of about 2 litre capacity and preheat the oven to 180 C.
Using an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar adding the citrus zest and juice as you go. Gradually beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Don’t worry of it looks as though the butter and sugar curdles a little. Just keep beating.
Beat in the flour and vanilla infused milk on a slow speed just till it has combined.
The end result will look nothing like a pudding or anything that could possibly work.

Clean off your beater attachments and dry them well. Beat the egg whites till they are peaks then fold into the lemon batter.

Pour the whole lot into your greased dish and place in a roasting dish. Fill the roasting dish with cold water so it comes half way up the side of the pudding dish.

Into the oven for 45 minutes or until the sponge has risen and there is a thick custard at the bottom. Serve immediately for ultimate accolades.

Sticky Date and Ginger Pudding

This is actually mine rather than my husband’s. I have been silly enough to add chocolate to tis already ludicrously decadent dessert. If you are brave enough, simply add your favourite chocolate broken up into the mix or add a handful of chocolate buttons.

Makes 8-10 single puddings depending on the size of your muffin trays.

370g dates, pitted
1 ¾ cups water
Freshly grated ginger to taste ( I use fresh rather than powdered to give a really bit hit of ginger. Use powdered if you prefer)
3 teaspoons baking soda

Place all the ingredients, except the baking soda, in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and stir through the baking soda. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

95g butter
1 cup soft brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one a time, beating well.  Add the date mixture and then gently add the flour, adding a little more or less so the consistency is wet enough to drop off the spoon. If you need to add a little more liquid, add milk, folding gently. Add your chocolate if you like at this stage.
Grease a large sized Texas muffin tray well.
Spoon in the mix and place in a preheated 180 C oven for 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each muffin comes out clean.
Serve with ice cream or custard.

Rhubarb and Feijoa Cake

This is a great recipe as it is so quick and easy and will work with any fruit.
I don’t cook the rhubarb or feijoas at all so they remain quite tart and textural.

125g butter
1 ½ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
250g finely sliced rhubarb, skin removed
6 large feijoas, skin removed and diced
2 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 ◦C.
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar till pale.
Add the egg and mix well.
Add the sour cream and fruits, mixing together with a spatula.
Sieve in the flour and baking powder, folding gently till just combined.
Tip into a well greased 22cm cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Serve with yoghurt or ice-cream.

Chocolate Self saucing pudding – as photographed

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3 thoughts on “Winter Dessert Treats

  1. MIL seem to be of the same breed with regards to their sons…and the sons also believe that there Mother made/makes the best something

    My exDH thought that the trifles I made were nothing like his Mothers….so when his Mother came out from UK one summer, I made one of ‘my trifles’ in my kitchen with her overseeing the process to here her tell her son “gosh, she makes her trifles just like mine” and after we had eaten said trifle “it passed with flying marks……”

    Never another comment from DH on my trifle-making powers!