Rated, Y’all: The Pecan Cobbler.

Pecan Cobbler

Read it and weep

What? A truly dreamy dessert of Pecans, thick Syrup and crunchy Crumble, crowned with a scoop of Praline Ice Cream, which gradually turned to a lovely nutty puddle as I went.

I knew I was on to a winner before I even started eating (that smell, Ogglers! MON DIEU!).

As for the texture, I swear it had it all – plus more Pecans than a Pud-Hog could wish for (and you know how much I love Pecans…)

Rich, sweet, soft and creamy, it made me so happy I swear I actually cried.

Pathetic? Possibly.

Such is the power of pud…

Where? From the excellent Carriage House restaurant in Natchez, MS

How Much? $6 before taxes

Rating?

10/10

Oh, my sweet Cobbler: where have you been all my life?!

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Review: Za Za Bazaar and the Pudding Bowl Blowout.

Food as far as the eye can see…

There are some concepts I just can’t resist, however much I might want to.

Za Za Bazaar is a prime example: an all-you-can-eat buffet, with 1,000 covers – apparently making it Britain’s largest restaurant.

Before I go on, you should know that I hate crowds. I also hate feeling like I am competing for food – there’s nothing worse than having your eye on a certain Cake or Pastry, only to see it snatched up by the person in front of you.

Nevertheless I was drawn to the place, namely because of the choice: most of the world’s cuisines in just one room – from Sushi to Sausage and Mash – with a dessert list longer than anywhere outside my dreams.

Since we were in Bristol – i.e. home to this particular Bazaar – it seemed like we really should give it a go. The website alone made my eyes spin, but when else would we get the chance?

From the outset it was clear that this wasn’t your usual dining experience. You can’t just book any time you want, but have to go on the hour.

The price also varies depending on when you go (as does the range they offer). Our visiting time being peak (i.e. Saturday night), we supposedly had the whole range of their dishes, for a fairly meaty £15.99 per head.

When we got there almost the first thing they told us was what time we had to leave: it was 8.45 at the latest; little more than ninety minutes after we’d arrived.

Which brings me to another thing I hate: time-limits.

With one-and-a-half hours to sample various cusines, the main temptation was to pile up our plates and start scoffing. But no: the Man and I had been working on a plan.

It ran as follows: do the rounds first to scope out the joint; try tiny samples of everything we fancied; minimise the carbs (too filling and cheap – not easy to get your money’s worth); drink plenty of water; and – most importantly – try to avoid being sick.

I have to say, our main meals went surprisingly well. The food quality wasn’t generally great, but the spectacle was amazing: our first recon took about ten minutes, so vast was the range on offer. Each station was themed by place, and was manned by at least two chefs; some of whom could make things on request.

Enough about savouries, though – this blog post is hardly the place. As I learnt that night, it’s vital to save space for pudding.

So here it is (brace yourself):

Four kinds of cake on this side…

…a Chocolate Fountain with Fruit, Marshmallows and Cake Chunks…

…Gulab Jamun, Sweets, and two cabinets of Jellied Desserts…

…a Mr Whippy-style Ice Cream Dispenser…

…PLUS Ice Cream for scooping, Crème Brûlée (in the background), AND Kheer, Apple Crumble and Custard (just out of shot). WHEW.

In short, there was quite a lot – and my aim, as the Pud-Hog, was to try a little snuffling of each thing.

Alas, however, my ambitions were unfulfilled. Not, I might add, because my stomach was overwhelmed (I’d been sparing with my savouries in preparation for this challenge), but because a great deal of what was on offer was apparently not vegetarian.

In fact, the issue of what was and wasn’t veggie caused myself (and the Chefs) no small amount of headaches, mainly because the labelling was so ambiguous: on the few occasions that it was visible, it was hard to tell exactly what it meant.

Take this label for the Indian-style Rice Pudding, for example:

Vegetarian: X

Where most of the labels wrote ‘Y’ or ‘N’ beside the word ‘Vegetarian’, this one plumped for an ‘X’.

But was that an ‘X’ as in a tick box? Or an ‘X’ as in I’m-crossing-this-bad-boy-off-my-list-and-so-should-you?

Nobody seemed to know. One Chef said it wasn’t veggie, another disagreed. Back at the table, our waiter told us it was gelatin-free…

Who to believe?

Elsewhere, as well as the usual no-nos (the Marshmallows and Jellies) a whole cabinet of cakes was apparently off-limits too. Not that this seemed rational either.

Perhaps someone had made up their mind to bake gelatin into everything like some hog-hungry maniac. Or perhaps the labelling department was being incredibly lax.

As for the contradictory Chefs, I’m not sure what the problem was. A language barrier? Undertrained members of staff? A ruse to prevent the Pud-Hog from gobbling up all the stock?

I have my suspicions…

But, again, let’s bring ourselves back to dessert.

What, after all this confusion, did I eventually choose to eat?

Well, this was my first plate:

And so it begins

Sadly, some of it didn’t get eaten (the Chocolate Square, the Swiss Roll and the Pie), but purely because of my aforementioned bewilderment. As for the rest, I’m surprised to reveal that it wasn’t half bad.

Indeed, as products for what is basically a mega (and generally indiscriminate) feeding frenzy, they could have been a whole lot worse.

The Crème Brûlée tasted nice and fresh, with a thin but crunchy caramel top.

The Chocolate Tart was pleasantly rich and dark (if a little too thick and soft in the Pastry department).

The Carrot Cake was something I’d be happy to pay full price for in a bakery, while the Gulab Jamun wasn’t perfect, but just as syrupy as you’d hope to get.

My next stop was the Chocolate Fountain, where I dosed up on Tinned Peaches and a square of Sponge. Alas, you couldn’t just spoon the Chocolate in (instead you had to spear and dip), but I managed to get a fairly decent covering, topping the lot with a scattering of generic chocolate-filled shells.

Like so

Again, it was OK. No Purbeck Chococo wizardry, obviously, but fine as long as you had average expectations. The Chocolate was slightly too thin and oily, but the Peaches were juicy and moreish.

My third bowl quite surpassed them though, with both Kheer and Apple Crumble being pretty gosh darn tasty.

Trust me, it was better than it looked

The former (which I’d decided just had to be veggie) was nice and creamy, with a lovely flavour of Cardamom. The latter was very comforting: a stodgy (though only part-baked) Crumble, with plenty of warm, cooked apple.

It was so comforting, in fact, that I went for seconds – this time with some custard.

My thirds came with Melon and Pineapple.

My fourths with another Gulab Jamun and a sliver of Chocolate Fudge Cake (like one of those Betty Crocker ones; sludgy, but not too bad).

Of course, if you think six bowls of pudding sounds rather piggish, you’d be right.

Then again, it could have been worse: I didnt have the Cupcakes or the Ice Cream – they just didn’t seem that exciting. By the end I was also feeling slightly full…

…and then we were herded out.

The verdict then? A pretty impressive experience, but not one I’d like to repeat.

One session of scoffing against the clock is more than enough for me.

BUNANZA! One Dough, One Tray, and Many, MANY Flavours.

That’s right, Ogglers: it’s Bun-Time again; my favourite time of all.

Yesterday, I gave you a recipe for Orange and Dark Chocolate Buns. But why should we stop at just that?

You see, once I realised that Buns didn’t have to be Cinnabon Clones (delicious as they are) – and that it was perfectly possible to experiment – the universe seemed to open up before me.

I could do ANYTHING.

Armed with this knowledge, and a few choice ingredients, I set about assembling my Bunanza: a host of differently-filled sweet Buns, all from just the one batch of dough.

Below you’ll see a role call of my various creations. And you know what? It’s just the beginning.

All you need to do to join me in this Brave New World, is follow yesterday’s Bun recipe, minus the Chocolate filling and Orange extract.

Then, my friends, the only limit will be your imaginations.

Fill ’em with chocolate, crumble, marmalade, sweets, fruit, loads and loads and loads of butter; whatever takes your fancy. Just remember to be liberal with your measurements (if you skimp on the filling, the whole thing will feel a bit dry).

It’s clearly a new dawn, Ogglers. And you know what’s good for new dawns? A steaming fresh batch of HOMEMADE BUNS.

BUNANZA (numerous flavours in just the one tray)!

Method:

  1. Prepare your Bun Dough as per yesterday’s recipe, excluding the orange extract (unless you want that citrussy taste). Stop when you reach Step 7
  2. For optimum chances to experiment, cut the dough into 12 strips and coat each one with whatever filling you choose (see below for ideas)
  3. Resume with Steps 10 to 15

Those Bunanza Bad Boys in full:

Salt Caramel (ooh)

Honey and Chopped Almond (aah)

Crumbled Biscuit, Chocolate Cream Cheese, AND Salt Caramel (whew)

Peanut Butter and Blackcurrant Jam (no way!)

A Bun full of juicy Mincemeat (this year’s Christmas Classic?)

As I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s quite a line-up.

But that’s not everything. Finally, with the benefit of such extensive experimentation, I feel I ought to tell you some of the things I learned:

  • Crumbled Digestive Biscuits don’t crisp up in the oven (they get moistened down by the dough)
  • Salt Caramel and Honey tend to leak into the baking tray while they cook – so brush those buns with more of the good stuff when they’re done for an extra boost of flavour
  • Peanut Butter fillings need LOTS of moistness (jam, butter, etc) or else they get far too dry
  • Mincemeat Buns are DA BOMB
  • BUT Cinnamon Sugar still rules the roost…

So there you have it, Ogglers: the Pud-Hog’s first Bunanza.

It certainly won’t be the last.

The King’s Cross Ice Cream Festival (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sunday).

Seven foot tall but zero calories – almost the perfect Ice Cream

At last: a festival that does what it says on the tin! No dingy concrete shop shells, or miserable shop-bought offerings (take that, British Biscuit Festival).

No, sir. The King’s Cross Ice Cream Festival, held over the weekend at Granary Square, had just what the doctor ordered: lots and lots (and lots) of Ice Cream.

Various producers turned up in their vans, or came with gigantic freezers in tow. With plenty of choice on offer – including Ice Cream Floats, Frozen Yoghurts, and DIY flavour combos – the only downside (from a Pud-Hog’s point of view, at least), was just how popular everything proved to be.

We arrived at Sunday lunchtime and, although it was apparently busier the day before, crowds swarmed around almost every stall, with queues stretching out from all the more popular places.

There wasn’t much room for casual sampling – unless you wanted to wait five minutes a time, that is. Indeed, unlike the excellent Southbank Chocolate Festival, here it was more a case of browsing menus before committing to just the one location.

Thankfully, there were a couple of exceptions, the most intriguing of which was a presentation from Lick Me I’m Delicious. Here, a dapper gent and his fair assistant demonstrated the making of Ice Cream with Liquid Nitrogen, using their very own portable steampunk-style contraption.

Ice Cream from scratch in minutes, you say? SOLD!

Apparently able to make any flavour within 6-7 minutes, experimentation was clearly the name of the game. They’ve even got a Glow-in-the-Dark variety in the pipeline.

In the meantime though, if you had the right elbows – and just enough patience – there were two exciting flavours to be sampled. The first – Port and Stilton – came served on a plain Water Biscuit, and was surprisingly soft and sweet. It would’ve been right up my alley, were it not for the small yet pungent chunks of cheese.

The second, though…

Wowzers.

Small but sweet

Served in a white chocolate cup, this was a sample of Salted Caramel Cookie Cupcake. Made with Artisan du Chocolat’s Salt Caramel Sauce, not to mention a generous load of crunchy cookie niblets, it was definitely worth the tortuous wait: just the right balance of salt and sweet, plenty of vanilla, and a texture that made me tingle with pleasure.

In fact, both of them were lovely on the tongue – a result of the rapid freezing process, apparently: extremely smooth, with none of the pesky ice crystals that ruin your more inferior scoop.

Still, you don’t have to have a crazy machine to make a damn good Ice Cream.

Once again, Sorbitium pulled it out of the bag – and not a tendril of Liquid Nitrogen in sight. You may remember me writing about these guys last month, in reference to a splendid scoop of Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli.

Well, one look at their menu yesterday, and I knew straight away where I would be queuing.

Ten minutes I stood in that slow-moving line, all because of the sound of one flavour. And you know what? I would do it all again in a flash.

Ladies and gentlehogs, I give you: the Greengage and Hazelnut Custard Crumble.

Ta-Dah!

A more lovely collection of words I have yet to find on an Ice Cream Van. The taste itself was even lovelier: a thick and custardy backdrop, swirling with pieces of Crumble and Nut and tangy Greengage splodges (Greengage being a wild green Plum, in case you weren’t quite sure).

I was overwhelmed, Ogglers. Crunchy, smooth, creamy, sweet, sharp. Everything a Pud-Hog ever wanted in an Ice Cream.

I wonder…

Could these people be the most exciting Ice Cream makers in all of London town? They might not have the wizardry, but they certainly have the taste.

I suppose it will take some more sampling to be sure. But for now, Sorbitium: I salute you.

That flavour was best at the Fest by a mile.

The Dorset Apple Crumble Cake.

It may be the original. But is it still the greatest?

A couple of months ago, I wrote about Granny Hog’s Top Ten Puddings – and in at number eight was her Dorset Apple Cake, made from the Upwey Wishing Well Tea Rooms recipe. As sponge cakes go, it may well be my favourite: not only for its juicy apple chunks, but also for its crunchy crumble topping.

Sadly, until last weekend, it had been a long while since I’d had it. But on Saturday, as the Family Hog drove towards the seaside town of Weymouth, I was finally presented with a chance to retry the original – on location at the Tea Rooms themselves.

Size-wise, it certainly did not disappoint. For a mere two-hundred-and-fifty pennies (or £2.50 in modern parlance) I was given a slice so large it took me longer to eat than the soup and roll that preceded it (though the tiny dessert fork that came with it might have had something to do with slowing me up…).

Rather disappointingly – and to my surprise – it wasn’t quite as tasty as I remembered. Perhaps it was because I had the slice at room temperature – and without a side serving of cream.

However, while the topping was moist, crunchy, and sweet (as cake toppings usually are) the vast amount of apple-less sponge at the bottom was rather a chore to get through. And when cake turns into a chore, you know you’re in trouble.

Another explanation for my lack of rampant enthusiasm might also have been related to what else was on the table. You see, I wasn’t the only Hog to have pudding…

Distractions! Eek!

Also in the vicinity were a cream-covered Chocolate Sundae, and a slice of home-made Millionaire’s Shortbread.

Now, I wasn’t too bothered about the Sundae (though Granny Hog seemed to enjoy it), but the Millionaire’s Shortbread… *SIGH*

It may not have looked as impressive as my giant slice of cake, but my taste buds ranked it up there with the best of them. A sizeable layer of real milk chocolate, a stupendous centre of thick, soft caramel, and a shortbread base so perfect that the world slowed down as I ate it: crisp, fresh, buttery, and very slightly chewy.

Rarely are Millionaire’s Shortbreads so divine (this is just what I meant when I moaned about all the bad ones) and, needless to say, my Apple Cake paled in comparison…

But wait – there’s a twist in the tale!

For, having spent so long without Apple Cake in my life, on Sunday (the very next day after Tea Room Time) Granny Hog made her own version from scratch.

Two Apple Cakes in one weekend? Oh, go on then.

Instead of following the Upwey recipe, this time Granny Hog went rogue, and created it using her decades of baking knowledge. As a result, when I asked how she’d done it, she couldn’t give me the weights or details (it was only a bish-bash-bosh job).

As far as I can gather, the process was relatively simple: she knocked a bowl of sponge mix, added plenty of sliced apple (though whether that apple was Cooking or Eating, alas, I cannot say).

When the sponge mix was in the tin, she knocked up some crumble with butter and sugar, spread it out over the top, and kept it in the oven until it was all cooked through.

Even though I distracted her while it was baking – so it came with a few burnt patches here and there – the final result was GLORIOUS. I ate it warm, of course, and had it fresh as it could be.

Days later it still bested the Upwey version.

Now, being the scrupulous Ogglers that you are, I’m sure you’ll be keen to learn why Granny won out. Well, I’ve had a good ponder and cracked it. Firstly, she used much more apple than Upwey (never a bad thing). Secondly, the tin she baked it in was shallower.

Combined, this made for a moister cake, with the goodness spread right the way through – not merely confined to the top.

The fact that she’s a Baking Wizard may well have helped matters too.

If only that woman would write down her spells.

The Pud World could do with more magic…

Yam the Cassava’s Vegan Cakes.

Normally, Saturday is my favourite day: a whole week of work is over, there are a multitude of eating ops on the horizon, and I still have the protective cushion of Sunday to keep me from feeling too trapped.

This Saturday, however, was God-awful.

Hunting for an inexplicably elusive cake tin was bad enough, but then, in the apparent sanctuary of The Brunswick Centre (yes, that Brunswick Centre), I found I had been pickpocketed. PICKPOCKETED. Somehow, in the ten seconds it took me to put my debit card back in my bag, some arse-hole had nicked my wallet.

What followed was a miserable afternoon of calling police and security guards, cancelling cards, reordering new ones, still failing to find the cake tin, and marvelling at the crappiness of life in general.

What I needed was a miracle. Something to restore my faith in humanity.

I needed some bloody good cake.

Luckily for me, one of the stores which claimed to have the tin I needed (it didn’t, btw), was close to a market in Marylebone. Luckier still, it was one I hadn’t visited before: the intriguingly named Cabbages and Frocks Market.

Keen to boost our souls with some sugar, the Man and I hurried on in.

We found the cakes we craved on a stall selling Vegan Soda Bread. A product of ‘Yam the Cassava’ – a woman who oversees a mini Creole-style food empire – I had seen these stalls in various London markets before, and always enjoyed the free samples.

It was finally time to go the whole hog.

The decision of what to buy was an easy one, despite the array of glorious looking fruit loaves. Two enormous cakes, cut into the hugest of pieces, stood out as just what we needed. How better to smooth the ruffles of thefts and tin disasters?

One piece of Apple Crumble Cake, please.

And one of the Chocolate Mud Pie.

That ought to do it.

Unfortunately, you can’t really see the scale of the cakes in these photos. If you’re a ‘dog person’, it might be helpful to say they were about the size of a jack russell’s head (if you’re not a ‘dog person’, think… fox). The slices were so big, in fact, that on a normal day, we might – might – have bought only one between us. But, as I told myself then, if being pickpocketed isn’t enough of an excuse to pig out, I haven’t a clue what is.

Thankfully, the Man had not lost all his money, so he paid (only £2 each!) and we shuffled on home, laden with our goodies.

It proved to be a wise investment: my taste buds were very impressed.

Now, you might be one of those people who think that vegan puds (i.e. puddings made without things like eggs and butter) are dry and flavourless things, suitable only for lining the roof. You could not be more wrong.

Let’s start with the Apple Crumble Cake, a cake that already had good associations, being rather like my Granny’s own Dorset version. Like hers, it was delicious: super moist, with generous chunks of apple and a heavenly sweet crunchy topping which was more than a centimetre thick in places. Never mind lining the roof with it: I felt so nourished afterwards, I could probably have built a whole cottage from scratch. Glorious.

The real star of the show, however, was the Chocolate Mud Cake. I’ll be honest (and this may surprise you), but I’m not the world’s biggest fan of chocolate cake (most of the time, I’d rather just have chocolate).

The reason I wanted to get this one was simple: it was ENORMOUS and it had glittery icing. I know I sound like a twelve-year old Barbie fan, but glitter has a magpie-type effect on me – so no judgements, please.

Back to the cake though: fabulous. It was super dense, super moist, and tasted ever so slightly like banana (was it used as a butter subsitute? Who knows!). The icing gave me the shivers too: bound the whole thing with a lovely, melty edge. Just the kind of Mud that a real Pud-Hog likes to wallow in.

It took us two sittings to finish both slices – and as I kept munching, my murderous thoughts stayed away.

Now that they’re gone though, well…

Pickpockets of London beware.

Granny Hog’s Top Ten Puddings.

After yesterday’s painful admission that Americans make the best cinnamon buns, I thought I’d redress the balance with an ode to Grandmother Hog and her Great British Puddings.

Ever since I could walk on my own four trotters (and undoubtedly long before), that woman has diligently ensured that I and the rest of the hogs are well fed. Frankly, I’ve lost count of all the excellent cakes and desserts that have swam into my stomach thanks to her, but these are my top ten favourites, firmly etched on to the taste buds of my mind.

Should you ever find yourself lacking ideas for a proper Sunday Tea, the following will serve you well. Also, if you’re reading this Granny Hog, and you ever want to make me something tasty, you no longer have any excuse to delay. Back to the oven you go now.

Granny Hog’s Top Ten Puddings:

10. Strawberry Jam Tarts

…look a little something like this

A staple afternoon favourite, ideally eaten hot out of the oven (not too hot mind – I’d rather keep my lip-skin). Also excellent made with lemon curd, Granny’s have always been better than mine: crispy salted pastry, deep jam puddles; lovely to the max

9. Cherry and Almond Cake

Soft, almondy sponge and whole glace cherries? Gorgeous. The cherries keep things nice and moist. The best kind of cake to pair up with a cup of Earl Grey

8. Dorset Apple Cake

This was a relatively recent addition to Granny’s baking repertoire and was found in a recipe book produced by the excellent Upwey Wishing Well Tearooms near Weymouth. It is the best apple cake on the planet: moist and fruity, with the unorthodox (and frankly genius) addition of a crunchy crumble topping. So many fabulous textures – and ruddy delicious served warm in a bowl of hot custard

7. Apricot Pudding

A slightly contentious entry here, as Ma Hog claims this is her recipe, and that Granny Hog merely purloined it. Whatever. Ma can have the credit too if she likes – there’s enough to go around.

Anyhoo, back to the pudding itself: plump apricots (soaked from dry), natural yoghurt, cream, and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts. Not too unlike my own Matcha/Apricot invention, but somehow infinitely better. A summer classic

6. Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Artist’s Impression

In the Family Hog, this is how apple crumble works: as soon as autumn arrives, Ma and I go for a Sunday walk in the hills, collecting blackberries, apples, and the occasional thorn (ouch). When visiting Gran for our post-walk tea, we hand over the goods. The next day we pick up our freshly-baked crumble and eat it after dinner. How’s that for service? Granny Hog’s crumble is so damn good, I don’t give a monkey’s when summer is over. In fact, the first thing I do when blackberry season finishes is start wishing for the next one.

Cold or hot, with custard or without, autumn wouldn’t be the same without it

5. Lemon Meringue Pie

Granny Hog taught me to make this once, but it was so blooming tricky I have never repeated the feat. Her version is AWESOME though: the lemon layer is thick and zingy – like lemon blancmange but firmer. Above that comes a heap of soft meringue, as light as a dish of sweet clouds. With its crispy top and crunchy pastry, I always find myself eating far too much for my own good

4. Chocolate Surprise

Like the Dorset Apple Cake, this one only came to my attention a few years ago. I wish it had turned up sooner. Apparently oh-so-simple to make, it is dense and exceedingly moreish: at the bottom are tightly-packed breadcrumbs, soaked in coffee (possibly liqueur – surprise!) and covered with granules of sugar for crunch. On the top is a layer of cream, generously showered with chocolate shavings. Hits all the right spots

3. Queen of Puddings

An old English favourite that I don’t think I’ve ever seen outside the family circle. For shame! It’s so delicious and gooey: a wobbly base of lemon zest, milk, breadcrumbs and sugar, spread with strawberry jam and topped with soft meringue peaks. God knows what the kingly equivalent might be, but I’d say it’s been rendered unnecessary.

Hello there, Your Majesty

I truly believe I could eat this all day. Every day. For the rest of my life. It goes down so smoothly you don’t even have to chew – just leave it to melt in your mouth

2. Eccles Cakes

There are those who would say these belong in the top spot (my unofficial godmothers for one). But they’re not writing this list, are they? Anyway, it’s no small achievement to come second and these are the cakes that have made my Granny Hog famous in certain circles (earning her the nickname of ‘The President’ to boot). Back in her baking heyday, she would make her own flaky pastry from scratch: crispy, fresh and studded with granules of sugar. Now she rolls out the pre-made stuff, but they still beat any you’ll find elsewhere.

It’s that juicy currant filling what does it: a generous mass of fruitiness, which oozes out after the sugary crunch. Does it count as one of my five-a-day? Who knows? Who cares? Not I

1. Yes, you guessed it: Trifle

This can’t have come as much of a surprise to you regular Ogglers – I write about it almost all the time. Granny Hog’s trifle has everything: vegetarian jelly, oodles of juicy fruit, soaked jammy sponge, more custard than you could dare to imagine (and so thick you could lose an arm in it), a layer of whipped cream, and grated milk chocolate all over the top.

I’ve never managed to photograph one of Gran’s trifles (far too busy eating them)… Here’s the nearest approximation I could find

Now, I may well have mentioned this before, but in case you missed it, I have been known to eat a whole bowl (i.e. 4-6 people’s worth) in one sitting. Try and shame me all you like, but I do not regret it for an instant.

On the occasions I do manage to restrain myself, it isn’t half worth it. This pudding improves with age; the flavours grows stronger; the sponge gets softer; everything goes all melty and wet. There’s probably a lesson in here somewhere – something about delayed gratification – but I cannot quite put my finger on it (possibly coz I’m a pig. I have trotters). Anyway, all you need to know is that this is Hog-Slop, good and proper. The most luxurious, fulfilling, wonderful Hog-Slop I know.

Oh, Granny Hog: from the bottom of my heart (and stomach), thank you, thank you, thank you.

Dessert Pizza.

Oh. My. God.

Yesterday, I had what may have been the most exciting pudding of my life so far. What’s more, it’s a pudding I’ve longed to try for years: the Dessert Pizza.

Ever since I spotted a chocolate pizza on the shelves of Boots – many Christmasses ago – the concept was firmly lodged in my head. A doughy base with a tasty sweet topping? Who on earth wouldn’t want that?!

The Boots pizza was not exactly what I had in mind. In their version, the whole thing was made of solid chocolate, with sweets and shavings scattered all over the top. What I wanted was a genuine bonafide pizza – not just an oversized chocolate button.

So praise the Lord for Hell Pizza – the Dark Lord, the Light Lord, whoever. For it was due to this wonderful establishment, just up from Clapham Junction, that all my pizza dreams came true.

BEHOLD!

Looks like brie. Tastes like HEAVEN.

Isn’t it a marvel? That’s a thin and crispy pizza base right there, covered in chunks of apple, dried apricots, blueberries, raspberries and custard. Allegedly there was crumble there too, but I can’t say I noticed the crunch. Still, it didn’t matter. Because IT WAS AWESOME.

That wasn’t the only Dessert Pizza available either. Oh no. So shield your eyes and kneel to THIS!

Oops. My mouth just flooded.

Are you dribbling yet? Because you should be. What you have just witnessed is yet another glorious custard-slopped arrangement, this time dotted with berries, banana, and layered with a thin spread of chocolate.

Wowzers.

There are so many things to rave about here, I’m not quite sure where I should start… Well, let’s look at the price first: £3 for a pudding that had just been cooked to order AND was bigger than my face! Was there ever such a bargain to be found in London Town? I seriously doubt it. Not for such excellent quality, at any rate. The portions of fruit were generous and fresh (concealing at least two of my five-a-day, I’m sure). The layer of chocolate also gave the second pizza a mouth-watering depth, mixing with the custard to create a taste not unlike caramel (no wonder they call it the ‘Unearthly’).

The bases themselves were unsweetened, which I wasn’t too sure about at first. They didn’t take long to win me over, though. The toppings were deep and sweet enough without an extra smattering of sugar. Besides, the warm bready crusts were an excellent tool for mopping up all that custard.

The violent aftermath.

Ah, the custard: thick and bounteous to the extreme. The quantities were almost absurd (as you can probably tell), but I love, love, loved the mess of it all. Licking fingers, dripping on the pizza box, slurping like a pig in… a pizza shop.I was delirious. And, amazingly, despite all that custard, not utterly stuffed by the final mouthful. I couldn’t believe it. All that food and no tummy ache? Some might say it was a miracle…

Honestly though, Ogglers, what I will say is this: if this is what Hell is really like, I’ll be more than pleased to call myself a sinner. In the meantime, I fully intend to pursue a life of gluttony. Imagine the possibilities! White chocolate sauce, salted caramel, strawberries, jam, chopped nuts… If you can’t get out to Clapham (and aren’t within their delivery zone), then make some dough and get cracking. Your mouth deserves something wicked.

Eat now and repent at your leisure.

ChocFest Take Three: Outsider Tart.

I’ve done the intro. I’ve done the hot chocolate. So now it’s time to do the cakes. Not just any old cakes, mind you: the ones I would like to bring to your attention today are particularly exciting cakes – never-seen-before cakes – made by the geniuses of Outsider Tart.

Hailing from New York and now based in Chiswick, these guys do THE BEST American-style baked goodies in the biz. I’ve hovered round their stall a bunch of times (they appear at the Southbank a lot), and every time I have I’ve been tempted to spend all my money.

Brown sugar brownie? Pecan square? Oatmeal whoopee pie? Yes, yes, and YES.

On Saturday I couldn’t stop at just one cake – so naturally I bought two (and champed at the bit for a third). Why was I so excited? Well, I’ll show you the pictures in a moment, but mainly it was because – unlike a lot of other fancy-schmanzy places I could name – these guys plump for good, solid, densely-packed deliciousness over dainty, glittery overpriced fluff. And have therefore got their priorities straight.

Anyway, without further ado, I give you my weekend’s baked purchases: the Mile High Bar… 

…and a slice that I think was probably called an Oat Caramel Crumble Bar (…too… excited… Memory Banks… collapsing…)

Don’t they look excellent? Exactly what I look for in a cake as well: large, thick, gooey, and – in the case of the Mile High Bar – extremely generous with the chocolate.

So what was in these marvellous cakes? I hear you ask. Let’s start with the Oat Caramel Crumble Bar…

Actually, I think you can probably guess that one. However, I will add that I think I detected some chocolate in the base as well (a lovely added bonus) – plus a load of obligatory pecans (it just ain’t quite American without ’em). Altogether? A beautiful balance of crunch, chew and crisp. Thumbs up.

But the Mile High Bar – the MILE HIGH BAR! Now that’s what I’m talking about: an uninhibited slab of milk chocolate, cranberries and crunch to which my photo just does not do justice. You can’t really tell how much chocolate was packed into it (at least 51%, I’d say). And of course I can’t pass on the smell to you either.

Sorry.

Still, take it from me: the way my teeth sank into it was the highlight of my week. If I’m honest, from now on, any chocolate cake in which chocolate is not THE prime ingredient will be viewed as one that has not reached its full potential.

Bakers of the world: take heed.

Now somebody, please, buy me a copy of their cookbook – or buy one for yourself at least and send me the results.

This is Pud-Hog reporting. Over and out.

Oh, Crumbs.

Crumb = Yum

There are two kinds of baking disasters: the ones you can salvage and the ones you can’t. Last week, my Gran went through one of the former, convincing herself (quite wrongly) that things were beyond repair.

She had been making shortbread, but something about the recipe wasn’t quite right: when she took them out of the oven, they were dark brown, crumbly, and had merged into a single mega biscuit. Thankfully, just as she was preparing to open the bin, my aunt arrived to intervene. And, in a triumph of resourcefulness, declared she would take them for crumbs.

Having tasted these crumbs for myself last night, I can safely say that everyone should keep a tub of them safe in the cupboard. Aside from being excellent for cheesecake bases (not to mention fridge cakes), they possess all the powers required to make a tasty pudding spectacular.

Last night, for example, there was ice cream, fresh strawberries, pineapple chunks, and chocolate covered profiteroles on the table. And weirdly enough, even the profiteroles (which I’ve always thought of as needing no accompaniment) were magically enhanced when eaten with a generous spoonful of crumbs.

I suppose it makes sense, really. Although these little balls have almost everything (squidgy chocolate, cream, soft pastry), they don’t have any crunch. With just one small and simple addition, I felt like I’d found me a whole new dimension. The MeltSmoothCrunch Zone.

Take me now.

Is there nothing a handful of biscuit crumbs wouldn’t improve? Not that I can think of – or not in the world of pudding, at least. Trifles, fruit salads, apple cakes: all could transcend into mystical heights, with just a few sweet crunchy particles.

According to my aunt, they are amazing when sprinkled on natural yoghurt and ice cream (that’s ice cream, plus yoghurt, plus biscuit, mind you – not ice cream or yoghurt. My mind = blown). No doubt you could make a truly wicked granola as well. Breakfast pudding porn.

So next time you finish a packet of biscuits – or things fall apart in the kitchen – keep that bin lid sealed. Gather those crumbs and use your baking noggin. Your efforts will not be in vain.