Rated, Y’all: The IHOP Deep-Fried Cheesecake.

Deep-Fried Cheesecake

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

What? The most ludicrous thing I’ve conceived of – let alone seen on a menu.

For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you too can get yourself a square of Pastry, filled with Caramel and Banana ‘Cheesecake‘ (read ‘biscuitless mush’), which has been deep-fried and covered with Whipped Cream, Banana slices, and sticky Strawberry Sauce.

At 660 calories, 34g of fat, and 36g of sugar, it has to be one of the naughtiest things you can buy without breaking the law (and the most ridiculous breakfast I’ve ever had).

Surprisingly, despite being a deep-fried, Cheese-and-Sugar-filled Pastry, it didn’t taste that extreme.

Indeed, the chopped Banana and (admittedly syrup-soaked) Strawberry pieces kept things fairly fresh, providing some much-needed tempering.

It certainly had a good mixture of textures too.

But would I recommend it as anything other than a novelty item?

Well…

The Whipped Cream was not much more than froth, the filling tasted neither of Banana nor Caramel (only of something generically sweet), and, in general, it looked like a car crash.

The innards, in particular, resembled a cross between Gruel and congealed wallpaper paste.

By far the worst thing about it, however, was the lingering flavour of oil – something that lasted long after I put down my spoon (though not quite as long as the headache the whole thing triggered).

That said, as puddings go it wasn’t terrible – it just wasn’t terribly tasty

Where? Available at IHOP in the U.S. of A

How Much? $3.99, excluding tax

Rating? 4/10

Sugar and fat, fried in oil? Once in a lifetime could well be one time too many…

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Rated: Sweet Tooth Factory’s Salted Caramel Cheesecake.

Cara-swell

Cara-swell

What? A compact yet substantial cube of (vegetarian) Cheesecake, so thick that our fork almost broke in two.

Despite being soft, the Biscuit base still hit the spot – and the overall texture was just what the doctor ordered (sticky, moist and seriously dense).

Tangy and slightly fruity, it’s not your average Salt Caramel flavour – and tastes quite a lot like the oily Artisan du Chocolat variety (as reviewed in the Pud-Hog’s Salt Caramel Test).

Nevertheless, the flavour was great overall – rich and sweet, with only a smidgen of bitterness.

In a word: INTENSE

Where? The Sweet Tooth Factory stall (on a day it appeared at the Southbank, surrounded by clamouring customers)

How Much? £3.50 for a decent-sized square

Rating? 8/10

Well worth seeking out – just bring a good fork (and a ravenous hunger)

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 Homemade Puddings.

Yes, I have my share of disasters in the kitchen. But sometimes – sometimes – things work out rather well.

Below are this year’s classic home-cooked champions (excluding the Christmas Buns, that is – they arrived too late in the day).

With the exception of Numbers 5 and 8, all the recipes are available on this website – so if you like the sound of them, get into the kitchen and BAKE.

10. Pud-Hog Slob Slop

Mush

It’s hardly the most beautiful of bowlfuls – but is definitely the quickest lump of comfort food I’ve ever made.

Gooey, milky, warm and sweet, all it takes is a microwave and some very basic ingredients.

Customise with a dollop of Jam, Honey or Salted Caramel, and your stomach will greet it with glee.

Get the Pud-Hog Slob Slop recipe here.

9. Yum Rum Balls

Salvation!

Baking gone bad? Don’t throw your cake crumbs away: recycle them into a box full of chocolatey, boozy balls.

Good for presents – even better for personal piggery.

Get the Yum Rum Balls recipe here.

8. Marmite Chocolate Cupcakes

ChocMar3

An invention of supper club hostess MsMarmitelover, I tried these out a few months ago and promptly fell in love with them.

Along with the richness of those moist sponge bases, their indulgent Marmite-flavoured cream and frosting make these more like miniature puddings than cupcakes – have more than one and you’ll probably need to lie down.

Perfect for lovers of salty sweetness (and die-hard Marmite fans).

Get the Chocolate and Marmite Cupcake recipe from MsMarmitelover’s website (it’s the second one down on the page…)

7. Dessert Tortillas

Banana Tortilla

SURELY the next sweet sensation?! A warm, freshly made Tortilla (plain- or Cinnamon-flavoured), stuffed with whatever you fancy.

I ate mine with Chopped Banana, Cinnamon Cream and Brown Sugar and it was AWESOME – quite possibly my favourite breakfast treat of the year.

They even freeze well too…

Get the Dessert Tortilla recipe here.

6. Orange and Dark Chocolate Buns

Finito

As you regular Ogglers know, in the last few months I’ve become rather obsessed with making Buns. These Orange and Dark Chocolate bad boys were my first yeast-based experiment, and boy did they do me proud.

A super soft dough, thick chunks of Dark Chocolate, and the zing of Orange extract…

Who wouldn’t want to shove one in their Bun-hole?

Get the Orange and Dark Chocolate Bun recipe here.

5. Cinnabon Substitute

Cinnabon

This recipe was introduced to me by my pal Mimi after both of us caught the Cinnabon bug.

In an effort to recreate that gooey Cinnamon goodness at home (avoiding the high prices – and at least some of the naughtiness), she found an alternative on the web and brought round the results.

They were truly wonderful: so squishy and well lubricated (both with Cream Cheese and Cinnamon Butter) that they squelched with every bite.

Trust me, folks: if you don’t have a Cinnabon in your vicinity, these are the next best thing.

Get the Cinnabon Substitute recipe from the All Recipes website.

4. White Chocolate and Cranberry Blondie

The beast lies dormant. Don't be fooled.

This could well be stickiest, naughtiest thing I’ve made (nay, eaten) since embarking on this blog. Even when cooked it comes out part-baked, with a strata of White Chocolate syrup beneath its caramel-coloured crust.

Even so, in my humble opinion, it’s the texture that Blondies should be: wet, crisp, and chewy – with added textural variation from the jewel-like Cranberry chunks.

Just make sure you have a spoon ready – or things could get very messy.

Get the White Chocolate and Cranberry Blondie recipe here.

3. Raspberry Cheesecake Blondie

Blondie LayersIf No.4 wasn’t exciting enough, how’s about serving your Blondie as part of a Cheesecake?

Overkill, you say?

You couldn’t be more wrong.

This majestic creation consists of three of the tastiest tiers you can imagine: on the bottom, a gooey White Chocolate slab; on the top, a tart Raspberry Cream; and between them, a layer of thick cooked Cheesecake.

Having toned down the levels of sugar involved, the final product was thankfully not oversweet – more a complementary balance of Berries and Chocolate.

Though I say so myself, It looks rather splendid too…

Get the Raspberry Cheesecake Blondie recipe here.

2. Hot Buttered Rum

Golden Delicious

This recent addition to my repertoire blew my mind back in October.

Being my first encounter with sweet buttered drinks, it was destined to make a pretty big impression.

Having entered my world via Choc Tales (a Chocolate and Cocktail event held in Dean Street) its creators (Manhattans Project) were kind enough to keep it there by passing the recipe this way.

If you haven’t yet tried it, you must. Every mouthful is like nectar: a beautiful blend of Rum, Butter, Apple Juice, Golden Syrup and warming Spices.

On Christmas Day, it’ll be my tipple of choice.

Heck. On every day it’ll be my tipple of choice.

Get the Hot Buttered Rum recipe here.

 

1. Peach, Almond and Goat’s Cheese Cheesecake

Regardez... and try not to dribblez

LOOK AT IT.

Isn’t it glorious?!

I still can’t believe this was made with my own fair trotters – but made with my own fair trotters it was.

The Pud-Hog Blog aside, this is by far my proudest creation in the last twelve months, and not just for its snazzy yellow pattern.

Inspired by food from the south of France, its ingredients work in (surprisingly) perfect harmony: the Almond Biscuit bottom, the sweet Goat’s Cheese, White Chocolate and Honey insides, the juicy slivers of Peach adorning the top…

SUPERB.

While Goat’s Cheese is usually not my favourite flavour, in this it works wonders – but I guess you’ll have to try it to believe it.

Light, creamy and full of zing – get the recipe here and feel free to send me the results.

HAPPY HOGGING!

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).

Govinda’s Pure Vegetarian Puds.

The Holy Trinity – Krishna style

It has long been a suspicion of mine that Cake is good for the soul. In Govinda’s of Soho Street, the servers believe this so strongly that the sentiment’s nailed to the wall.

In fact, their claim that their food is ‘spiritually and materially beneficial’ is arguably not a hollow one: Govinda’s is part of a Radha Krishna Temple (home to those excellent drum-beating chanters who regularly liven up Oxford Street). As a result, anything you buy there has been offered to Lord Krishna first – and is therefore ‘blessed and karma-free.’

Now, whatever your thoughts on the concept of karma, there’s one thing I defy you to dispute: their range of Cakes and Desserts is super exciting.

There’s Cheesecake, Gulab Jamun, Indian Sweets, Sponge Cakes, Kheer (Rice Pudding) and then some – all vegetarian or vegan, and all costing £1-3 (a rarity in this part of London).

The other night, deciding to ‘take a piece of mercy’ with me (as the website intiguingly puts it), I opted to take away three different treats, in order to absorb them at the Hog House with my faithful friend Ms Q.

What a crazy assortment they were, Ogglers, with two kinds of Barfi (an Indian Sweet made with Condensed Milk  – one of my favourite Eastern nibbles) and the pinkest, jazziest Sponge Cake I have ever seen.

Both Barfis were quite unusual, but for rather different reasons. The first was Mango flavoured – not bizarre in itself, I’ll grant you. In fact, the strangeness was all in the texture: being soft and moist, yet firm and grainy, it was like eating a square of Sorbet that had refused to melt at room temperature.

A very stubborn Sorbet indeed

Were it not for the inclusion of some desiccated Coconut I might have been quite taken with it. But, as per my usual issues with Coconut, I found myself wishing for less of the soapy flakiness and more of the juicy Fruit.

The second Barfi was much more up my alley, with a flavour I have never seen elsewhere: Lentil.

That’s right, Ogglers, LENTIL!

Oh, it was nice. With a far more solid texture than the other one (like a dense block of Fudge, in fact), I thought it was seriously tasty. To my surprise, the Lentil created a lovely mellow flavour, with a smell not unlike White Chocolate.

Slivers of what I think was Nut also added a scrummy dimension, and overall it was slightly like Peanut Butter, only smoother and sort of chalky.

I’ll admit Ms Q wasn’t quite as enthused (she’s not the biggest Barfi fan, in fairness).

Instead, perhaps understandably, her attention was more on the pink layered Cake – a vegan Sponge which was expertly iced with melty Buttercream roses.

No wonder it caught her eye

Though less unusual by UK standards (i.e. rather more normal than sweet Lentil treats), this too was a pretty big hit.

The sponge – vaguely tasting like something that might have been Strawberry or Raspberry flavoured – was amazingly light and moreish, and held together with generous layers of icing (a little too much icing for Ms Q’s tastes – but don’t worry: I mopped up the leftovers for her).

As for the look of the thing: superb. Like a Barbie-style Wedding Cake, or something a Care Bear might make for its Home Ec finals.

My photographs barely do the thing justice, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say it was great: a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

Not to mention my pud-loving spirit, of course…

Late-Night Puds at Princi.

Forget the nightcap – it’s nightcakes all round

When the time inevitably comes to leave London, I know I will miss the food the most – specifically (and unsurprisingly) the vast array of puddings.

Soho, in particular, has an excellent number of eateries serving dessert well into the night. Of these, the Milanese bakery Princi always seems to be the busiest, with a plethora of Italian treats available until midnight every day (except for Sunday, when it closes at 10pm).

As enticing as their bakery counter is, however, I’ll admit I’ve been reluctant to pay many visits.

It’s the price, mainly: the average slice of cake is about £4.60. And they’re not huge slices either.

In addition to this, the last time the Man and I went there for cake (now over a year ago), neither of us were that impressed. Indeed, the fact that we can’t remember what we ate seems like rather telling, and nowadays, when the munchies hit us on Wardour Street, we tend to spend our savings on sweet treats elsewhere.

However, after recently sampling some awesome savoury goodies from Princi a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like a good idea to give the place another chance.

Last night the selection on offer was seriously appealing, with at least ten different treats to choose from, all of which looked like worthy contenders for Pud of the Year.

There were Pear and Chocolate Slices; three different types of chunky Cookie; glistening Chocolate Profiteroles; Cannoli the size of bath taps…

I deliberated for minutes on end, eventually plumping for the Creama and Ricotta Slice (a cheaper choice, at £3.60), while my pal (not the Man, but a knowledgeable Princi regular), went for her favourite Peach Pistaccio Cake (a high-end £4.60 classic).

So. Was it worth the dosh?

I have to say, this time I was more impressed – though admittedly not so much with the Peach Pistaccio.

Yes, it was tasty – with layers of ground Nut, and a fruity Peach slice topping – but the overall flavour was more like Almond than anything else, while the bottom crust verged on being too dry.

In essence it was very much like a Frangipane – no disaster, of course, though it could have done with more Peach and more Pistachio. Especially given its title…

My own choice suited me better (and jolly good too, I might add). It was, indeed, as creamy as I’d hoped: a thick, mellow topping on a thin Pastry base.

Inside were even a few cooked Cherries – three, to be precise – which added a very nice change in texture. Five or six Cherries would have been better, mind, but maybe that’s why it was the ‘cheap(er)’ option.

Overall, though, I didn’t regret the spend: as puddings go, they made for exciting finales.

Then again, as London puddings go, I’ve had a lot better for less: Gelupo’s Ice Cream Panettone; that Hungarian Sweet Cheese Strudel; the Pear and Whisky Pop Tart.

Our desserts were undeniably nice. But as far as this Pud-Hog’s concerned, there are plenty of worthier candidates for the throne of London’s Best.

In other words, Princi may be princely – but probably won’t ever be my king.

Review: Honey & Co.

I might never have sought out Honey & Co were it not for a few choice words from the Man. ‘We should go,’ he said. ‘They make Chelsea Buns with Sour Cherries and Pistachios.’

I didn’t need telling twice. However, the restaurant being a popular place – and not yet open on Sundays or after 7pm – we had to wait a little while to get there.

Despite being less than ten minutes from most of my daily haunts, I had not gone past the shop since it opened: a small and unassuming Middle Eastern cafe, just one street back from Euston Road. Run by a husband-and-wife team, with Ottolenghi and Nopi-based credentials, it’s no wonder it has been gathering lots of attention of late.

But was it worth the minor detour?

Now, this being the Pud-Hog Blog, I won’t bore you with details of mezze or perfect pittas (though I will say that the Orange Blossom-flavoured Iced Tea was the loveliest thing I have sipped in a while). Instead we’ll go straight to dessert.

With a counter full of house-baked cakes and buns, not to mention a rather appealing selection of puddings, it wasn’t an easy choice by any means. Thankfully, one of our friends had come for the ride. And more thankfully still, she was ready for a gorge-fest of desserts.

In the end, unable to whittle our choices down to just one pudding each, we decided to go all out: order four between us and work through them together.

And so it begins…

We started with the buns. First off was a glorious Cinnamon Swirl (£1.80, eat in), which glistened at us from beside the till.

Not gooey like its Cinnabon counterpart, it was nevertheless very flavoursome: packed with spices and crisp on the outside, with lots of cooked crusted sugar.

It was by no means the star attraction though. In the bun stakes, at least, that accolade went to the Fitzroy Bun (also £1.80, eat in) – the pudding that drew me there in the first place.

AKA The Fitzroy Temptress

This one was far moister – thanks to the large sour cherries and syrupy glaze – with the Man declaring it a masterpiece within moments of trying his share. I loved the pistacho crunch, and was thrilled at the overall concept, but would have preferred a warmer, softer bite (alas, we ate it late in the day – it had been in the open for quite a while).

In fairness, in any other context, the Fitzroy Bun might well have blown my mind. This time, however, it was destined to be overshadowed. As it happened, also on our table were two extremely strong contenders for the Pud-Hog Pud of the Year…

Contender No. 1

This beautiful dish was none other than a Cold Cheese Cake, layered on tendrils of Kadaif pastry, and drizzled with Regents Park Honey (£4.50, eat in). Topped with fresh raspberries, mint and halved almonds, after just one mouthful my world stopped turning.

Seriously, Ogglers: if I could have frozen time right then and there, I would have. All I wanted to think about was what was on my tongue. So many complementary textures and tastes: juicy and crisp shredded pastry, bursting berries, solid almonds, cool and creamy curd-like cheese, with a subtle swirl of honey that came in like a light breeze through an open window.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. It was wonderful. Sweet, light, and perfectly balanced.

Nevertheless, almost as soon as I’d given this pudding my undying love, I found something else to distract me.

If the Cold Cheese Cake was an angel (complete with honey-coloured halo), our final cake – the Chocolate and Hazelnut Loaf (£3.60, eat in) – was the sexiest, naughtiest slut you could find to take home and debauche you.

*Swoon*

Not only was it enormous (to eat it side-on would have led to a jaw dislocation), but this beast was rich to the extreme. Those dark brown swirls weren’t spots of cocoa-saturated bread: they were bounteous pools of gloopy, softened chocolate. Better still, there were absolutely loads of them.

We’re talking a loaf in which every bite was a moment of melting bliss, studded with fresh, whole hazelnuts.

If it hadn’t been so indecent, I’m sure I would have been in heaven. As it was, I was somewhere far, far better.

Take me now, Monsieur Loaf. I’m all yours.

PICNIC! And The Ultimate Summer Cheesecake…

Plant the old buns on a rug, why don’t you?

Boy, do I love a good picnic. Securing a grassy space beneath a tree, laying out the blanket, surrounding yourself with snacks and goodies.

When the weather’s hot, it’s pretty much all you can do – the most strenuous part being choosing the perfect spot. No one should work (either body or mind) when the sun’s strong enough to heat a computer keyboard – even by a couple of degrees.

FACT.

Take Saturday, when the London air was well into the thirties – thick, bright and stifling. There was no chance of staying indoors to roast, so my old chums Beardie and Mrs C accompanied me on a leisurely stroll to the park.

What followed was a couple of hours of dedicated grazing, safe in the shade of a huge leafy tree. Dips, nibbles, fresh bread, and – the star of the show by a mile – fresh-baked sticky pecan buns, made by Mrs C herself.

If you’ve ever wished to know the secrets of eternal bliss, look no further. All you need are sweet home-made buns, devoured on a lazy August day.

Especially when the buns are as good as Mrs C’s. Apparently, they were quite easy to make, but they looked just like professionals: pecan-covered swirls of dough, moist with a syrupy glaze.

YES.

Our pud-based bliss didn’t end there either. After yawning about on the grass all afternoon, we returned to the flat with another dessert to look forward to:

Mrs C’s Home-Made Strawberries and Cream Cheesecake

Ah me. Mrs C really excelled herself this time. The cheesecake was formed of a layer of biscuit, baked with a cream cheese and strawberry mixture, then finished with a generous load of sweetened mascarpone.

No amount of expletives can convey just how gosh-darn delicious it was. Made from a Hummingbird Bakery recipe, it was as close to summer as puddings can get.

Every mouthful was bursting with cream and ripe strawberries. I ate it with my eyes closed, convinced I was having some sort of religious experience.

If you ever get your hands on the recipe – I think it’s the Hummingbird’s Cake Days book – you should buy up some berries and bake it as soon as you can.

Just take the ‘Serves 12’ with a pinch of salt. It’s summer, God damn it. It’s not going to go on forever…

Hungarian Strudel at Old Street.

Pudding hammock READY

My ambition to try ALL the puddings just got a little easier. Last night, you see, the Man and I paid a wee trip to East London’s Red Market, where various food stalls surround a bar and sand pit, allowing you to munch away in the comfort of deckchairs and hammocks.

BLISS.

The market is going on all summer, staying open every day until late except Sunday. Yesterday we went there after work, mooching around the nine or so stalls for a spot of freshly cooked grub.

I’ll be honest, Ogglers: last night, at least, it was more of a haven for savoury lovers. All I tracked down were three puddings – each a variation of the other – which is hardly a Pud-Hog’s ideal situation.

Thankfully, it turned out not to matter: what we had was great.

Strudel-oo!

The three variations in question were all Hungarian Strudels (or Rétes as they are known in those parts), and came from a stall called The Hungarian Cuisine.

For an impressively reasonable £1.50 a slice, the Man and I tried two of the flavours on offer: Sweet Cheese, and Cherry and Poppyseed. The third, an Apple variety, was probably very delicious too, but didn’t sound quite as exciting for our needs…

So how exactly did they taste, I hear you ask?

Let’s start with the Cherry and Poppyseed (that purplish monster, lurking in the background of my close-up).

With its whole baked cherries and great swathes of cooked poppyseeds, it was quite a messy eat – but well worth the subsequent teeth-picking session. There were lovely citrus hints to be had – possibly even a touch of booze – with an overall texture of juicy fruit and moistness.

Indeed, to my surprise, the poppyseeds weren’t at all crunchy – neither was the pastry. Normally this might make me sad, but this time it really didn’t: the whole thing went down so smoothly that I could hardly bear to stop eating, let alone pause to complain.

As for the Sweet Cheese Strudel… Well, imagine the centre of a Cheesecake studded with sultanas and lemon peel, all wrapped up in a soft filo blanket. That’s pretty much what we were tasting here: a wedge of cottage cheese-style filling (called Túró in Hungarian), which practically dived down my gullet, hugging my tongue on the way.

AWESOME.

Neither were like any Strudel I’d had before and I’d seek them out again, for sure. Sooner rather than later, ideally – just thinking about them now is making me Hungary!

*SNORT*

Sorry, Ogglers: I don’t know what came over me. I think I need a lie-down.

If only I had me a hammock…