The Diamond Jubilee festivities are ongoing – the Thames Flotilla yesterday and the Concert on the Mall this evening. Today I’ve moved on from baked goods and tried my hand at a pudding recipe. It’s the suitably regal Queen of Puddings.
The Queen of Puddings is a very rich dessert, which has a custard base, flavoured with lemon and vanilla, with a layer of jam (usually raspberry) and then topped off with lots and lots of fluffy meringue.
There are two ways to make this pudding – either in individual ramekins, or fill a large oven-proof dish for an even larger pudding. The result was – surprisingly – not unlike lemon meringue pie. Of course the custard was not as rich, nor as lip-smackingly tart as in a lemon meringue pie, but the citrus notes are still there. The pudding is traditionally served warm with custard sauce, but I think it also works well when served cold – you can appreciate the flavours of the custard, and the meringue becomes soft and marshmallow-like. In individual ramekins, I think they make for quite a stunning little dessert.
I suspect you might share my first reaction to the name of this pudding – I mean, it’s quite a bold claim, isn’t it? There are lots of desserts out there, so what makes this one so special? The first clue to the name is that this is the Queen of Puddings, not desserts. In days gone by, those that could afford sugar would make simple puddings with sweetened milk and left-over breadcrumbs. In time, a more luxurious version appeared, which included a layer of jam and which was finished off with a meringue “crown”, and hence the name “Queen of Puddings”.
This is a very easy pudding to make – you bring milk and cream to the boil, then add butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest. Then pour over fresh breadcrumbs and leave them to absorb the liquid. Once cooled, add egg yolks, then bake until set. Then you add a layer of jam, and then your imagination really can run wild. You finish off with a meringue topping which you can either pile up and swirl like clouds, or pipe it into swirls or cover in lots and lots of peaks. The recipe below is my own creation based on a number of sources – I’ve gone with what seemed right, what would give the right amount of sweetness and flavour.
Now…I’m going to confess that making this dessert was not quite as drama-free as I may have led you to believe. I started out making a large Queen of Puddings. I made the custard, baked it, added the jam, then piped the meringue on top to look like lots of little peaks. It looked superb. I baked it until the peaks were just golden, removed from the oven, and then tried to take pictures of it. The light was starting to fade, and I was keen to get the last of the sun’s rays for my shot, and hence I needed to get a surface to shoot on that was as close as possible to a window. At this point, I had two options. Either do it on a solid, stable surface, or build a precarious tower of cookbooks and balance a tray on top, then put the lot on a soft footstool. So, like an idiot, I went with the latter, and after three pictures, the pudding started to slide. And it kept on sliding. The it fell off. I ended up with hot pudding all over my right hand (which spend a long time in cold water, then had anaesthetic cream applied to stop the sting!) as well as jam stains on my trousers and the carpets. Next time I am making something warm and want that “just from the oven” shot, I’ll be making sure my foundations are much more stable!
Now, time to setting down and watch the Diamond Jubilee concert!
To make a Queen of Puddings (makes 6 ramekins)
For the custard base:
• 150ml milk
• 150ml cream
• 25g butter
• 25g sugar
• pinch of salt
• zest of 1/2 lemon
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 75g fresh white breadcrumbs
• 1 egg yolk
For the topping:
• 120g jam (any, but red fruits are best)
• 2 egg whites
• small pinch salt
• small pinch cream of tartar
• 100g caster sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon cornflour
• 1 teaspoon icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F). Rub six individual ramekins with butter.
Put the milk and cream into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the sugar, butter, salt, lemon zest and vanilla. Stir well until the sugar had dissolved. Add the breadcrumbs, and leave to sit for 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs have absorbed the milk and the mixture has thickened. If lumpy, blitz in a food processor for a few seconds. Once cool, add the egg yolk and mix well.
Pour into the ramekins and bake for around 15-20 minutes until the batter is just set but has not browned. Remove from the oven. Turn the oven heat up to 190°C (375°F).
Next, heat the jam in a saucepan. Once hot and runny, divide between the six ramekins.
Now, make the meringue topping – in a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar to stiff peaks. Fold in the caster sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Add the cornflour and beat for another few seconds. Spoon or pipe the meringue mixture over the puddings, dusting each with the icing sugar, and bake for 10-15 minutes until the topping is lightly golden.
Note: if you want to make a large pudding, double the amount of custard, pour into a 1 litre ovenproof dish. Use the same amount of jam. Make the meringue using 3 egg whites and 150g sugar.