Rated: The Oreo Cookie Cookie.

Oreo Cookie Cookie

Context, people. Context

What? This is it. The big one. The game changer.

From here on in, I know exactly how to deal with disappointing Biscuits.

Answer? Bake them into another, tastier Biscuit.

Take the Oreo Cookie – one of my least favourite snacks (as you regular Ogglers know).

Too dry, dusty and bitter on its own, when pressed into a soft Cookie base it suddenly tastes 100% more delicious, all its faults having been muted.

This lesson was taught to me by the folks at CookieShake, Nottingham, to whom I am now eternally grateful.

The combination, you see, was revelatory, resulting in a moist and chewy Cookie with a crunchy creamy centre.

Twas textural titillation at its finest

Where? The CookieShake shop

How Much? 99p per Cookie (BARGAIN)

Rating?

8/10

Just imagine how good it would be with a Custard Cream…

Gothenburg Goodies: The Fransk Jitterbugg.

The long-awaited Second Part of a Pud-Hog Sweet Series from Sweden

Jitterbugg Biscuit

Think you know biscuits? Think again

What? You may well ask: Fransk Jitterbugg is hardly the commonest phrase in the Pud-Hog canon. Indeed, its weirdness is mainly what caught my attention in the first place.

Deciphering the name – which translates to ‘French Jitterbug’ – hardly solves the mystery. But what sounds like some kind of 1940s dance movement is in fact a Meringue/Butter Biscuit hybrid.

Crazy, no? But so intriguing – so apparently ingenious – I had to give it a go.

It certainly looked exciting: like it would be wonderfully chewy and moist, with a helping of crunch to boost; a feast for the teeth and the taste buds.

In fact, I soon learned it was neither.

The texture was samey and horribly dry; entirely lacking that much-needed crunch/chew contrast (and seemingly undercooked).

The taste was completely bland too; just butter and sugar with yet more sugar on top.

How dull.

Had a seam of fruit coulis been weaved in there somewhere, it may have been more of a biscuit befitting its wondrous, zany appearance.

As it was, I ate half then abandoned the rest, and ran for the nearest piece of Blueberry Pie.

Where? This disappointing specimen came from Café Kringlan, in the centre of Gothenburg’s Haga district (just down the road from those giant Hagabullen)

How Much? Around 30 kr (just under £3 in today’s money)

Rating?

2/10

More likely to give you the jitters than the bug

Rated: Madame Macaroon’s Fab Florentines.

Florentine

Yes, Ma’am!

What? Believe it or not, you are currently looking at THE most delicious Florentine that this Pud-Hog’s ever eaten.

As far as luxury biscuits go, it ticked all the boxes and then some: a generous dose of Almonds, juicy Glacé Cherries, scraps of moist Mixed Peel, and a very decent slathering of Chocolate.

The best thing about it by far, however, was the texture: crispy where it mattered as well as super chewy.

Overall, it seemed more like a Cookie than the harder, toffee-like Florentines made by bakeries such as Fudges – and was, in my view, all the better for it.

Impossible to leave alone, I took mine out of its bag for a taste, then found I just couldn’t stop

Where? Track one down at Madame Macaroon’s stall, loitering in various London locations every Sunday (check the M.M. website and Twitter for details)

How Much? Just ONE of your English pounds (bargain!)

Rating?

9/10

Madame Macaroon? More like Queen Florentine

The Pud-Hog’s Pud of the Year: Top 10 (Purchased) Puddings.

This is it, Ogglers: the Big One; the post you’ve all been waiting for.

After much deliberation, I’ve finally picked my Top Ten Puddings of 2012.

While choosing the best was a reasonably easy feat, sorting the ranking has taken weeks of thought. My brain has been flooded with memories – while my mouth is in floods of saliva.

I think I’ve just about cracked it though…

Each entry on this list stands out for a host of reasons, including value, size, originality, texture, taste and even audibility (in other words, if I didn’t hear myself groan with delight, it didn’t make the cut).

What you see below are the cakes and desserts that stopped me in my tracks. They are among the best calories that have ever passed my lips and, with the tragic exception of No. 10, they’re all out there for you to try.

For more information, click on the links at each heading. Then add them to your To-Chew list and get gobbling while you can.

10. Niko B.’s Pumpkin Pancakes with Halloumi and Chocolate Sauce

Warning. Photo may cause mouth leaks.

This isn’t a match I would ever have thought of, but blimey it was a good’un.

Soft Pumpkin Pancakes, rich Chocolate Sauce, and thick slabs of fried Halloumi – if my last supper were scheduled for breakfast, I’m pretty sure this would be it.

Hailing from Niko B’s now defunct Chocolate Lab, alas, they may never be my Sunday treat again.

It’s a tragedy, folks. But I feel truly blessed to have tried them.

9. Pistachio Rose’s Chocolate Tarts

Indian Tartlets

What you see here are the crispest, cleanest Pastry Tarts, filled with the most Chocolatey spiced fillings that this Pud-Hog’s ever had.

Milk Chocolate Chai; Dark Chocolate with Salt and Chilli; White Chocolate and Sweet Fennel: every flavour is exciting, with a melt that makes me shiver every time.

8. The Bakery Cafe’s Chocolate, Fennel and Caraway Brownie

Fennel and Caraway Brownie

BEHOLD: a textural triumph of tremendous proportions!

This Brownie was moist, melty, crispy, chewy – and perhaps more excitingly still, absolutely ENORMOUS.

If its intriguing mix of spices doesn’t float your boat, then the slightly salty edge will surely get your oral rivers flowing.

Worth a train trip to Sherborne all on its own.

No other Brownie compares.

7. The Kooky Bakes’ Kooky Slice

Congratulations. You have reached the Holy Grail.

Here is the slice to end all slices.

With Condensed Milk, Pecans, Pretzels, Dulce de Leche AND Dark and White Chocolate, this cunchy gooey beast has all the trimmings.

As it happens, the Kooky Slice is the first cake of the year I almost married. Our love affair didn’t last long though: eating it was so much more fulfilling.

6. Outsider Tart’s Congo Bar

Congo Bar

This juicy slab is made up almost entirely of Cookie Dough, with a finishing flourish of Chocolate Peanuts. It also happens to be my favourite creation of Outsider Tart so far.

Even now I can’t help marvelling at its construction.

How do they make the outside so crisp, while the inside is perfectly gloopy?

Clearly, there’s some sort of miracle going on. Those bakers deserve a sainthood.

5. Bonda Cafe’s Bubur Pulut Hitam

Into THIS

The fact that this bowl of glutinous Black Rice looks so downright unappetising only proves the strength of my love for its flavour and texture.

Creamy, warm, soft, and suffused with Brown Sugar and Coconut Milk, it ticks all the boxes as my ideal comfort food.

Bonda Cafe: I salute you.

4. The Classic Cinnabon

Cinnabon

As much as I like to support local foodstuffs and plug the wares of independent retailers, on this occasion I’m forced to make an exception.

In a nutshell, CINNABON RULES.

Their Original Bun quite literally drips with Cinnamon Butter, while its caramelised Sugar corners are just the thing to make a Pud-Hog sing.

No doubt it’s loaded with chemicals (I know for a fact that each one is loaded with calories), but quite frankly all other Buns pale in comparison.

3. Honey & Co.’s Cold Cheese CakeCold Cheesecake

Cheesecakes don’t have to be heavy and rich, as this heavenly plateful proves.

Instead, they can be nests of Honey, Fruit, Almonds, fresh Mint, Pastry and creamy Curd-like Cheese.

Every mouthful of this is sheer delight, with just the right balance of crunch, bite and softness.

If the Pud-Hog made clouds they would taste like this – and the skies would be damp with drool.

2. The M’Hencha

M'Hencha

Light, luscious and practically bursting with syrup, here’s another Middle Eastern pud you really mustn’t miss.

A.K.A. the Mmm’hencha, life’s too short not to sample this stupendous Pastry swirl, with its filling of Ground Almonds, Lemon and Rosewater.

Indeed, according to the Guild of Fine Foods, it’s 2012’s best Cake in Britain.

Having sampled a great deal of cake myself, this Pud-Hog can proudly concur.

And finally… drum roll please…

1. La Grotta’s Pine Nut and Candied Orange Cedrat Choc Ice

The reason that God made Ice Cream

WOOO!

This is it, Ogglers: the champ of well over 200 Pud-Hog posts – and it’s a worthy winner indeed.

I looked at my notes for this Choc Ice the other day, and in big letters, filling up three lines, one phrase is scrawled in biro:

‘Oh!’

It’s quite difficult to describe just how special this Ice Cream was. I have never, never had anything like it.

A magnificent mash-up of fresh sea breezes, thick Milk Chocolate, Pine Nuts and Candied Orange, before I tried this, I mistakenly thought that I’d had all that Ice Cream could offer.

If you can, get your hands on one sharpish – and congratulate La Grotta on a pud well done.

Happy Hogging – and thanks for supporting the Pud-Hog’s first year!

Here’s to the next twelve months…

P-H x

The Pud-Hog’s Pud of the Year: Top 10 Pudding Producers.

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Last week marked the one year anniversary of the Pud-Hog Blog – and I was so caught up in those Cape Town desserts, I blooming well let it pass by.

A BELATED HOGGAVERSARY TO YOU ALL!

To celebrate, I’ll be looking back over the past year of tasty Pud-Hog treats (now in the two-hundreds, last time I counted), and presenting the best of the bunch.

To kick things off, here’s my Top 10 Pudding Producers; a handful of excellent companies that have caught my eye, with various ranges of sweet treats guaranteed to make you drool.

These are by no means one-hit wonders, folks: they’re places for Pud-Hog pilgrims (and no – they’re not all in London)…

10. Chococo

Luvly Jubilee

Why? Chococo is an excellent Chocolate company which sells all manner of gorgeous goodies, using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. Their flavours are pretty exciting too – think Truffles filled with Molasses, or even Stinging Nettle Ale(!)

Where? They have a factory/shop/cafe in Swanage (you can order things from their website too).

Try: the Chocolate Cream Tea (Chocolate Scones with Dulce de Leche and Clotted Cream); one of their Ice Cream Sundaes (drowning in homemade Chocolate Sauce).

9. Konditor and Cook

K&C Brownies

Why? Though slightly pricier than the average bakery, the range and quality of their cakes is more than worth the money. Indulgent and full of all the right flavours.

Where? K&C has numerous shops in London town – their store at Borough Market is always buzzing.

Try: their Brownies (to my mind, the best in London); Pumpkin Pie; the Curly Whirly Cake (a must for Cream Cheese Addicts).

8. Gatineau

Any more colour and we'd have gone blind...

Why? This could well be the best patisserie outside of France: it always smells divine, their cakes and pastries are made fresh and onsite – and their less fancy pastries are very good value for money.

Where? Gatineau has a popular store in Summertown, Oxford.

Try: a bag of Macaroons (especially the Passionfruit and Raspberry/Chocolate varieties); the Chocolate and Almond Brioche (phwoar).

7. Kooky Bakes

Salt Caramel Whoopie Pie

Why? Big, bold, fun exciting and – above all – very American. Kooky Bakes make a damn fine cake – and their textures are superb.

Where? You’ll find the Kooky Bakes stall at various London markets (take a look at their website for details). They also have a few things in the Selfridge’s Food Hall.

Try: the one and only Kooky Slice (a crazy riot of goo, crunch, salt and sweet); the Salted Caramel Whoopee Pie.

6. The Bakery Cafe

Bakery Cafe Cakes

Why? The atmosphere in the cafe is great and the cakes are even greater, not only in terms of taste. The Fruit Scone and Bun are particularly huge – best of the bunch for value, hands down.

Where? At the top of the main drag in Sherborne, Dorset.

Try: the Chocolate and Caraway Brownie (OMG it’s good); the aforementioned Scone and Bun (you probably won’t need to eat for the rest of the day).

5. Pistachio Rose

High Chai Platter

Why? Refined and flavourful Indian-fusion products: like nothing else you’ve ever tasted.

Where? Some of their products are stocked at Fortnum and Mason. They also do markets (keep an eye on the website for details).

Try: the Shortbread Hearts (so crisp!); the Fig and Dark Chocolate Naan (so chewy!); any one of their super-dense Chocolate Tarts (Out. Of. This. WORLD).

4. Paul A. Young

Aquariva

Why? Mr Young is a stickler for authentic flavours: if a Truffle’s supposed to taste like Malt Loaf, you can be sure that’s what you’ll get. Their range transforms on a regular basis and is always full of surprises (Pea and Mint? Port and Stilton?) The only downside is the price – this is the upper end of luxury.

Where? There are three main stores in London, all filled to the brim with Chocolate (stop by in Soho, Islington, or Bank).

Try: spiced Aztec Hot Chocolate; the award-winning Salted Caramel Truffle; the Marmite Truffle; the PB&J Truffle (the Pud-Hog’s personal fave).

3=3. Sorbitium/La Grotta Ices

Greengage and Hazelnut Custard Crumble

Why? It’s a cop-out to tie them, I know, but each one of these Ice Cream and Sorbet makers is just as awesome as the other: both use incredible flavour combos, and numerous British ingredients that are all-too-seldom seen. Think Cobnuts, Quinces, Damsons – whatever’s in season (and tasty).

Where? For La Grotta Ices, head to the Spa Terminus Market in Bermondsey on Saturday (9am to 2pm). Sorbitium can be found in various London markets (you know the drill: check their website).

Try: if you can get it, go for Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli; Greengage and Hazelnut Custard Crumble (both Sorbitium); Toasted Hazelnut Brittle; Pine Nut and Candied Orange Cedrat Choc Ice (mmm – both La Grotta).

2. Honey and Co

Chocolate Sandwich

Why? Their goodies are all made onsite and they are WONDERFUL. Cost-wise, they’re generally located towards the dearer end of the market – though are not nearly as pricey as some.

These puddings aren’t your normal restaurant fare, but decadent and delicious, with a Middle-Eastern bent. They change their menu regularly too – always a good sign.

Where? Their small cafe was established on Warren Street earlier this year.

Try: the Cold Cheese Cake (a fruity, nutty nest made with Honey and chopped Almonds); the Chocolate Sandwich with Peanut Butter (extremely dense and rich); the Chocolate and Hazelnut Loaf (a goo bonanza).

1. Outsider Tart

Outsider Tart Stall

Why? These are some of the most imaginative guys around, with a no-holds-barred approach to baking. Chunky, unpretentious, usually bursting with Chocolate… I’m not talking about myself here, but the numerous Brownies and Cookies in their repertoire (one which appears to expand by the day).

It’s the only market stall I can’t help but run to, just to see what new creations they’ve invented. Pecans, White Chocolate, Strawberries, Whisky, Oreos, Marshmallows, Oats, Caramel – all feature on a regular basis.

Comforting, filling (and frequently naughty), if I could, I’d eat their products every day.

Where? Catch them at the Southbank Real Food Festival (look for the jostling crowd of people), or at their shop in Chiswick.

Try: walking past without buying anything (trust me, you won’t be able to). The Pud-Hog’s favourites so far include the Congo Bar (a medley of Chocolate Peanuts and Cookie Dough), the Apple and Whisky Pop Tart (served warm with a dusting of sugar), and the Mile High Bar (beats an aeroplane tryst every time).

High Chai with Pistachio Rose.

Nice cuppa Chai and a sit down? Don’t mind if I do…

This time last week I was looking forward to something rather tasty. On Saturday, you see, nestled in a swanky garden centre conservatory near Little Venice, was the first ever High Chai event from Pistachio Rose – and I had booked me a place.

The regular Ogglers among you might remember Pistachio Rose from previous posts: one on the tastiest Chocolate Tarts I can ever remember trying, and the other on their exciting range of homemade Chocolate Naans.

With the High Chai consisting of both these treats – and plenty more besides – I was pretty darn sure I was in for a very nice time.

I wasn’t wrong.

From 3pm onwards, we sat with our flutes of Prosecco and were wooed by delicate waves of food and luxury tea.

This certainly wasn’t the usual Pud-Hog-style slob-fest; there was no horizontal gobbling or desperate crammings-in of seconds and thirds (lovers of Za Za Bazaar take note).

Instead, I was on my best behaviour, supping civilly with the rest (or as civilly as I could, at any rate).

Having finished a smallish dish of cooked veg, we were not waiting long before platters of Indian-style goodies arrived on the long shared table.

My word, it was exciting – and hard to know where to start.

Eeny, meeny, miny, mmm…

In the end I went for the Madeleines first, of which there were two types: one containing Rose Water, Cardamom and Pistachio, the other infused with Chai.

Both were extremely flavoursome: small, slightly sticky and bursting with spice.

Better yet in this Pud-Hog’s humble opinion was the Bollywood Blondie: a Barfi-type diamond made with White Chocolate and roasted Peanuts. I love Barfi anyway (the thought of Govinda’s Lentil version always makes me smile) and this one was particularly fragrant.

Though tasting slightly more of Peanut Butter than anything else, it grew on me with every mouthful: something about that slightly doughy texture was very comforting. Talk of adding White Chocolate chunks into the mix almost made my brain short circuit…

Those Shortbread Hearts though – phwoar. Any more exciting and they’d need an age restriction.

Imagine the crispiest, butteriest Shortbread you ever tasted, then flavour it with Sweet Fennel, Anise and Betel Leaf.

POW!

All the most beautiful scents of India – in delicious Biscuit form.

Genius.

This is beginning to sound a bit like an advert, isn’t it?

Well, it’s not. It’s cold, hard FACT.

And when I tell you that I would happily be stranded on a desert island with only a box of those Chocolate Tarts to sustain me, I’m afraid you’ll have to believe me. A dessert island, it’d be. And mighty blissful too.

For though everything on that platter was a fine example of excellent High Chai Cakeage, my favourite treat remains those marvellous morsels of Chocolate-stuffed Shortcrust Pastry – the ones I first encountered at Global Feast.

It’s sometimes worrying, revisiting a Cake or Pud that was super delicious the first time round, in case it ends up being a disappointment. But no: if anything, these Tarts had only improved with age.

With their perfect Pastry bases, each filling was firm and yet velvety smooth: Milk Chocolate, Salt, Chilli and Nutmeg; White Chocolate, Sweet Fennel and Anise; Dark Chocolate and Chai.

Finding it near impossible to choose my favourite, I nibbled between the three of them. And although there were boxes in which you could take things away, by the time I was finished not even the crumbs were left.

That wasn’t the end though, Ogglers. There was still the finale to come, and, after a small break to let things go down, out it came:

My kind of post-pudding nightcap

These were ‘Indianised Churros’: slivers of Pistachio Naan plus a Chai-spiced Chocolate Dipping Sauce, along with a warm cup of Chai to help wash it all down.

Just what you need on a dark November afternoon.

The Naan was lightly toasted and super soft, though not much like Churros (being baked, not fried, and not covered in sugar). The dipping sauce was almost like an Austrian Hot Chocolate: extremely sweet and thick, with the added bonus of a lovely Cardamom taste.

I’ll admit, for a while I wished it had come in a larger portion (despite my attempts at being refined, I’d emptied the lot and mopped up the dregs pretty quickly).

And, where other diners had bits and bobs leftover, my instincts were to distract them and clear their plates.

In short, I wanted more: more Blondie, more Shortbread, more Tarts.

But it’s probably good that I didn’t indulge any further. Because then it was time to stand up, and the three hours of eating and drinking finally hit: I had to get home… and I was utterly stuffed.

At £22.50 a head, it certainly wasn’t the cheapest afternoon tea I’ve ever had – but not only was it the most beautiful, it passed the golden rule and filled me up.

As for all those awesome Cakes and sweet treats, they remain up there with the tastiest things I’ve eaten.

All things considered, a very High Chai indeed.

Screen Biting.

Roll up! Roll up! It’s time to dine…

There are plenty of food festivals in this bounteous land that we call the UK – a jolly good thing too, I might add. But how many of those celebrate the meeting of film and food? As far as I know there is only one…

Now in its eighth year, Screen Bites takes place in various towns and villages across Dorset and Somerset in October and November.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s what British autumns are made for: local halls hosting local producers, food-based films, and loads (and loads) of the tastiest samples.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’ve been to this festival every year since it began. Nowadays, having snagged a role as a volunteer, I get in free (hooray!).

Before that, however, I was easily lured by the promise of bounteous food and films: at a mere £8 a pop, you get a whole lot more than you would at any Cineworld complex.

So far, each night I’ve attended has been Pud-Hog heaven, and last Saturday – at Winfrith Newburgh – was absolutely no exception.

I won’t go on about the film (for, entertaining as Dinner Rush was, there wasn’t a great deal of pud being eaten). Instead, I shall focus on what came before: in other words, the food.

The hall was bordered with tables and samples, and before my duties started, I got the chance to taste my way around.

First Stop: Fudges Biscuits

There were plenty of perennial Screen Bites favourites (some of my favourites too, as it happens).

Lemon Zest Biscuits and Florentines came from Fudges Bakery and were so delicious that I lingered perhaps a little longer than I should have. The former were beautifully crisp and buttery, while the latter made my taste buds sing: chewy, thick with Dark Chocolate, with the slightest hint of Ginger in the mix.

Superb.

Next to them were some treats from Honeybuns – wheat-free bakers extraordinaire – who donated a load of their Almond Moon slices (Shortbread, Cranberry, Polenta and Nuts) as well as their AWESOME Heathcliffe Brownie.

If only all tables could look like this…

I don’t cap up ‘awesome’ lightly, you know. I do it because ol’ Heathcliffe gives those K & C Brownies a run for their money: incredibly moist, thick, orangey and – better still – choc full of White Chocolate chunks.

I tidied away a few crumbs there, I can tell you – just the bits that dropped off, mind. S’cleaning, innit?

Still, that wasn’t all for the Pud-Hog. Just three feet away was a table adorned with the wonderful wares of Chococo: the Ice-Cream-Soup-making, Jubilicious-Tea-serving, Chocolate-coated saviours of Swanage.

Dream Dinner Party, Number One

Here were not two, but four bowls of goodies: Milk Chocolate Buttons, shards of Chocolate Honeycombe (in which you could actually taste the Dorset Honey!), Dark Chocolate studded with freeze-dried Raspberries, and a load with Raspberries and Meringue.

I was sorely tempted to shout out ‘BOMB!’ and hide by the Chocolate while people ran screaming.

Good thing that I didn’t though: if I had, I would have missed out on some equally exciting tasters – namely those passed around by Provisio, during a talk from its founder, Lisa.

Here was a chance to try some Mulled Ale (I told you this is what autumns are made for), as well as the night’s second Brownie: a dark, squidgy square made with Hall & Woodhouse Ruby Ale, the aptly-named Poacher’s Choice.

Yoink!

The room was filled with appreciative murmurs, and when my tongue met a damp plummy pocket I couldn’t help but join in with the crowd.

Ambrosi-ale, indeed.

The film was due to start at 8pm – just enough time to check out some ‘historic’ jam from Four Seasons, then buy up a tub of Purbeck Ice Cream (of course, I went for Honeycombe again).

While the crowd settled down I took stock of what was left: a few bits and pieces of Chocolate, some tasty lumps of Bread from Oxfords Bakery

Would anyone like some? I asked (admittedly not in my loudest voice). Thankfully everyone else was too full.

Chococo + Loaf =

All the more for me then, Ogglers. And a tastier bready combo I have never tasted (with the exception of those Chocolate Naans, of course).

Screen Bites? Screen Beauts, more like.

Not a small amount of Screen Gobbles in there too…

Hell Pony Biscuits.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes something crazy like a Hell Pony Biscuit.

It happened like this: twas Ms Q’s birthday bash (Ms Q being the pal who helped bring those ridiculous Jelly Belly Cookies into being), and – being a horse obsessive – she wanted to play with her housemate’s My Little Pony cutter (as you do, when you’re in your mid-twenties).

A mutual friend made a quick biscuit dough (butter, sugar, flour – in quantities guessed and beaten), and Ms Q got ready to roll.

But wait!

Where’s the fun in a plain batch of My Little Pony biscuits?

FETCH THE COLOURING.

With a dab of purple and spots of orange, suddenly things took an interesting turn. In minutes, our beige ball of pre-baked biscuit had gone all psychedelic.

And you know what? It looked GREAT.

‘Great’ being a subjective term…

Only by accident had the colour been added so late. However, the marbling effect it created was, quite frankly, awesome.

Yes, it was unusual – comparisons with the underworld, placenta, varicose veins and bruises flew about the room – but what better way to jazz up some birthday biscuits?

Actually, if I’m honest, that’s not all the jazzing that occurred.

Having spent some time in the oven, our Ponies from Hell (as they came to be known) were deemed to be slightly too dry. Possibly thanks to the eggless dough, they turned out more like sweet pastry than cookies – crisp, rather than chewy.

No matter though: Ms Q had some extra supplies.

Glittery icing pens, Cream Cheese frosting, pink sugar granules and candied lemon segments to be precise.

It was time to release our inner five-year olds (though two-year olds might have done better).

When we were done, the whole lot was thoroughly lubricated – looking not unlike My Little Ponies who had been in some kind of accident (with a van filled with children’s face paints perhaps).

Medic!

Still, for those who could look beyond the monstrous decorations (and the thought of all those additives), the taste of the ponies was quite superb – especially dipped in the Cream Cheese frosting.

I ate them like a sweet-toothed version of Salsa and Nachos, better still with the odd fresh raspberry plonked on top.

On and on our Hell Ponies galloped, down my gullet to the Ranch of No Return.

I hope they’ll be perfectly happy there.

But not nearly as happy as me.

The Choco Softie Mallow Wafer Bucket.

In case you hadn’t noticed it’s the Fourth of July. So what better way to celebrate the independence of America from Britannia than the most un-English pudding I’ve bought in yonks? I’m talking, of course, about the Choco Softie Mallow Wafer Bucket.

Ta-dah!

I kid you not, Ogglers. It may look like the kind of thing you’d store beneath your kitchen sink, but it is, in fact, a bucket filled with sugary treats. No expense spared on logos, fancy packaging or even a catchy name: just a humble plastic bucket of wafers, so anonymous it looks sordid – kind of like the entrance to a sex shop.

Now, in case you were wondering why on earth I bought this plastic monstrosity (600g of chocolate-covered wafers in a container bigger than my head), let me give you a spot of background.

Firstly (and this might not come as a great surprise to many of you), I bought this bucket from Lidl’s supermarket, home to all that is weird and wonderful by way of European imports.

In case you’ve never been there yourself, let me assure you that Lidl is rammed with this kind of stuff: things that look strange and suspiciously cheap, but are usually quite delicious.

Having dined on their apricot lebkuchen squares (fabulous) and swooned over their spiced chocolate almonds (ditto), I know how good these things can be – in other words, don’t judge a pud by its packet (especially not when that packet’s bucket-shaped – something you regulars know I’m quite keen on).

Anyway, the biggest motivation I had to buy this was not the Lidl brand, nor the fantasy of dining in true Hog fashion – or that it cost a reasonable £3.49. It wasn’t even the promise of a product without ‘artificial colours, flavours, or sweeteners’ (no matter how good that promise is).

Oh no.

It was the three little words on the side which won me over: ‘Suitable for Vegetarians.’

As many of you will be aware, much of my life as a Pud-Hog has been spent in search of elusive gelatin-free marshmallows. As a result, on the rare occasions I find some for sale, I pretty much have to try them.

And so it was, that before I really knew what I was doing, the Choco Softie Mallow Wafer Bucket was mine.

Nestled within, on the other side of that sketchy blurred plastic exterior, was a medley of exotic treats, none of which I’d ever seen before.

With four different types to choose from, I prepared myself to embark on a pioneering voyage. The stakes were high – I was lumbered with 600g of the stuff, after all. If I decided I didn’t like them, they could be quite hard to shift…

Those Choco Softie Wafers in full

In the safety of the Hog-House, I opened the bucket up, quaking with the thrill of the unknown. The first thing I learnt? Things were going to get sticky – and fast. These mallows weren’t as solid as they looked – not like the filling of a pink wafer biscuit – more like those jars of Fluff you can buy from the States.

Not that that’s a bad thing…

I worked through the flavours one by one, choosing to save the most intriguing (i.e. the white chocolate-covered blob) for last.

Soon, with a bite of the milk chocolate-covered oblong, I had had my first taste of wafer. Like a cross between paper and cardboard, it sadly lacked the crunch I’d hoped to hear.

Nevertheless, I found it oddly comforting, and the white mallow filling helped make up for the minor disappointment. Springy, squidgy and sweet, it oozed from each edge with every bite. In a matter of seconds I’d gobbled it up, enjoying myself despite the cheap quality chocolate.

Next was the coconut oblong: a double-layer of mallow sandwiched between three wafers, covered again in the same lacklustre milk chocolate. You know my thoughts on dessicated coconut (in a word: ambivalent), and it felt kind of arbitrary here, with such a light scattering you could barely taste or feel it.

Even so, to eat such a thick wedge of wafer in one was extremely luxurious as experiences go – almost slutty, if I’m honest.

The filth continued with a gnaw on the fruity pink/white concoction (possibly flavoured with strawberry – hard to tell among all that sweetness and paper).

Then I moved on to the white chocolate blob.

It had to be the best one, didn’t it? The one that I had only three of. Only three in a whole giant bucket.

Alas and alack.

Still, I suppose three is better than none (even if the other two did get squashed in transit). After all, these were the kinds of mallows I’d hoped for: a great big mouthful of chocolate and fluff, with only a small piece of wafer to spoil the fun. Gone too quickly, I wish I’d had more in my bucket to play with.

Instead I have about 530g of oblong treats to go.

This voyage could take me a while…

10 Dribblesome Ways to Use Up Salt Caramel Sauce.

Got a jar or two of salt caramel sauce in your fridge? Wondering how best to eat it? It’s a hard life, I know, but don’t panic. Sit back, moisten your chops, and allow the Pud-Hog to give you some tasty ideas…

1. Make a sweet sandwich. Honestly, Ogglers, nothing goes better on fresh white bread than a layer of thick salted caramel sauce. If you want to push the boat out even further, try adding peanut butter, chcolate spread or jam (or even all three, if you’re that way inclined). After that, take a seat and wait for the sugar crash.

Oh no! This bread is wounded! Better put it out of its misery…

2. Quickly jazz up your summer desserts by drizzling salt caramel sauce on your ice cream. See what crazy combos work the best. My favourite so far? Salt caramel on Mince Pie ice cream. Probably not the most summery of solutions, but there you go.

3. Pimp up your hot chocolate. Also not necessarily something you’ll be racing to do in July (mind you, this is England, so it’ll probably snow next week). Anyway, whatever the time of year, how could you not want to give this a go? I’m talking luxury, Ogglers – something like the classics I raved about in February. Take some dark chocolate, melt it and stir in warm milk (perhaps even a smidgen of double cream). Stir in a dollop of caramel sauce and toast yourself on a job well done.

4. Take a leaf out of the Kooky Bakes book and use it for the filling of a cake. Now strictly speaking, the one you can see in the following picture is filled with a salt caramel buttercream (also something you could use your leftover sauce for). If the mood takes you, you can be so much lazier. Big cakes, little cakes, whoopie pies… Just spread it on like you would with jam and accompany with whipped cream if need be. A twist on the classic Victoria Sponge? A wicked addition to chocolate cake? I assure you, you won’t regret it.

Whoop whoop! Whoopie Pie!

5. Channel your seventies wild child and make a salted caramel fondue. It might well be the quickest and easiest thing you ever do. Dunk chocolate/fruit/pretzels/whatever you fancy straight into the jar, eating it up like nachos and salsa. Should you fancy making more of an effort, warm the caramel sauce over a very low heat until it softens, and serve in a swanky bowl. Just don’t let it get too hot. Nothing spoils a party like third degree burns.

6. Create your own filled salt caramel chocolates. I’ve heard it can be tricky – and you might not be as adept as some of the pros – but if you’re ever lacking in gift ideas, you can be sure they’ll go down a storm. As far as I know, all you need are chocolate moulds and chocolate. Perhaps one day I’ll give it a go myself…

7. Pay homage to Paul A. Young’s marvellous Billionaire’s concoction and cook up your own Salted Caramel Shortbread. Not that you have to do too much cooking. I tried it myself the other day: make a base by melting butter and syrup/salted caramel with broken biscuits (any cheesecake base recipe will do). Press the mixture into the bottom of a greased tin or plastic container. Leave to cool in the fridge before spreading on salt caramel sauce and topping with melted chocolate. Tailor the thicknesses to your own taste.

And swoon

8. Got a packet of bog-standard biscuits? Finding it hard to face them? You can probably guess what I’m going to say next: slather those biscuits in salted caramel (as in the vein of blog posts past). Alternatively, you could use them to go with suggestion number 5. Or 7. Blimey, biscuits are versatile, aren’t they?

9. Here’s an idea purloined from the folks at Chococo (yes, they of Jubilee Cream Tea fame). Next to their shop they serve cream tea with chocolate chip scones, dulce de leche, and clotted cream. Replace the dulce de leche with salt caramel sauce and Bob’s your uncle. The uncle who’ll be knocking at your door, demanding a portion of salt caramel cream tea

10. Should suggestions 1 to 9 have failed to take your fancy, there’s always the Caramel Purist’s option: get your finger, dip it in, and eat like there’s no tomorrow.

Trust me. It’s much tastier than it looks

Failing that, just send your jar on to the Hog House.

I’ll be sure to take good care of it.

Promise.