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).

Review: The Bakery Cafe.

A snapshot of Dorset’s most priviliged diners

I need to move to Sherborne. Pronto. I need to live near the Bakery Cafe.

That place is everything your friendly neighbourhood eatery should be: welcoming, warm, and full of wonderful things to gorge on.

Think bowls of golden homemade Muesli, communal tables decked out with Butter and Jam, as much toasted home-baked bread as you like, and a bakery stuffed with all manner of super-fresh treats.

On our recent visit, seduced by the sights in the window, the Man and I shared a Scone and a Bun – both of which were, quite frankly, blooming massive.

So massive, in fact, they could not be confined by a plate

The Scone would have been the biggest I’d seen were it not for those mutants in Ditchling I wrote about back in January. Even so, it was easily the size of a large clenched fist – Hulk Hogan’s perhaps, or Goliath’s.

Inside was a colourful riot of fruit: not just your average Sultanas, but cubes of Dried Apricot too.

I slathered my half in Butter, enjoying the various textures (a topping of toasted flaked Almonds – YUM) and marvelling that it had cost only five pence more than that controversially tiny specimen bought from the sewing cafe in Bristol.

Our Bun was a bargain £2 as well and turned out to be similarly juicy, with plump Sultanas, sticky white Icing and buttery Cinnamon innards (the core of which were scoffed by the Man before I could punch him hard enough).

Though not nearly as gooey or cloud-like as Cinnabon, it was nevertheless pretty soft, with a pleasant yeasty undertone that made it feel far more wholesome.

However, as undeniably flavoursome and exciting as both these Cakes were, a spontaneously-bought Chocolate Brownie was what really won me over.

First Place! Now collect your prize in my stomach…

We were already stuffed and on our way out, but as the last slice it instantly caught my eye, being larger than a single portion, yet not large enough for dividing. I took it away, convinced it had earned its £2 price on size alone.

But the taste, dear Ogglers – the taste!

This was no ordinary Chocolate concoction, but a special slab laced with Fennel and Caraway Seeds.

Goodness, it was delicious: not soft, but crisp and chewy – not to mention being moist in the extreme. Combined, these attributes made it one of the most exciting textures I’ve tried (and, believe me, I’ve tried a lot).

As for that flavour, who knows how much Butter had entered the mix, but the taste it gave out was superb. Salty, dense, sweet, spiced – it was, in a word or three, MY PERFECT BROWNIE (needs capping-up, don’t you think?).

Seriously. I almost moved house there and then. And, as we walked back to the station, I wondered why people were buying Cakes anywhere else.

People of Sherborne: you don’t know how lucky you are.

The Gluten-Free Cornflake Treacle Tart.

The tastiest Tart in the Hog House – aside from the Pud-Hog herself, that is…

I ADORE Treacle Tart: when made well, it’s one of my favourite puddings. Sticky, gooey, moist – especially nice with a hint of Lemon.

Weirdly though, I don’t seem to eat it that often. I suppose it seems rather luxurious: no fruit or pretensions at healthiness, just Syrup and Breadcrumbs and Pastry.

Before Saturday night, the last one I had was in March; a perfect specimen from the People’s Supermarket which I promptly declared to be the best in the city.

Then I went to the Screen Bites finale and came across a company called Christine’s Puddings, and my love for all things treacly and tarty was swiftly reignited.

Like the Honeybuns Bakery, Christine’s Puddings is based in Dorset and also specialises in gluten-free treats. What’s more, like Snowy Hills (those tasty layered gluten-free Shortbreads), their Treacle Tart was delicious enough to make me question why anyone really needs gluten.

Granted, it wasn’t the same as your usual Treacle Tart – but it was still highly delicious, and only £2 for a portion the size of a saucer.

Strangely enough, in lieu of the normal Breadcrumbs were Cornflakes, making it seem somewhat of a hybrid: a rich and sticky Cornflake Cake in a sound Pastry base.

Though lacking the softness of the average Tart my taste buds remained excited by the goo of Golden Syrup and the crunch of flaky cereal.

The Pastry itself – made from several intriguing ingredients including Potato Flour and Parsnip – was pretty darn impressive too: extremely crisp, with just the right level of give. If I hadn’t known it was gluten-free I would never have guessed a thing.

Was it better than the People’s Supermarket Treacle Tart though? I guess that’s the million dollar question…

Well, Ogglers, this time I wouldn’t say ‘better’ – though nor would I say ‘worse’.

They’re just so different: while one is sloppy and stodgy (this being the traditional, glutenised version), the gluten-free Tart is crunchy and dripping with syrup.

Depends what mood you’re in, I suppose, but either would be delicious warmed up and served with a pouring of Cream.

Hell, unless you can’t digest gluten, why not just eat them both?

Problem solved. Now, somebody, fire up the oven: let’s get this Tart Party started!

Snowy Hills.

The hills are alive – with the sound of munching

Contrary to what its title might suggest, this isn’t a post about the sudden random weather freeze in London (snow in Raynes Park? On the first day of November? WHAT?!) .

Instead, this post is about something much more enticing: my favourite cake from Honeybuns, Dorset’s tastiest gluten- (and wheat-) free bakery.

They may sell these glorious Shortbreads all year round, but for me they are an autumn treat, being regular tasters at Screen Bites (the Food/Film Festival which generally keeps me sweet until early November).

As it happens, if it wasn’t for their appearance at Screen Bites, I might never have given them a go. Wrapped up in their plastic jackets they look fairly normal – nice and golden, but hardly show-stopping.

The taste though?

Oh.

By which I mean oooooooooooooooh.

Concealed beneath that sparkling sugared surface are some of the tastiest layers I’ve tried: a crunchy Ginger Shortbread, plus the juiciest, loveliest topping of some squidgy Lemon Curd-laced Sponge.

Honestly. I don’t know why I bother writing proper words sometimes. Let’s just stop and ponder those tastes for a moment.

Aah.

Mmm.

Mmm.

Ahem. Now back to blogging in multiple syllables…

Truly, Ogglers, this is a cake of champions – and I do not say this lightly. As well as that gorgeous sweet tang, there are so many awesome textures (Sugar crystals, Shortbread, Sponge), with an overall feeling of lushness that makes me want to melt into the floor.

Clearly these wheat- and gluten-free types know just what’s good for the gob. Using Almonds and Polenta instead your average Wheat Flour makes for a much more exciting nibble: I love the crunch and graininess they create, not to mention that added Almond moisture.

Seems like I’m not the only fan either – these cakes won a Great Taste Gold Award in 2010 (that’s a Gold two stars, in case you were wondering).

Then again, they’ve been in my good books since 2006, the year that Screen Bites first entered the world.  As far as I’m concerned, that ought to give me first dibs on the next batch I see.

Never mind Snowy Hills – I’m up for a whole Snowy Mountain Range. No need for boots and hiking gear: just a plate, a corner, some Cake, and half an hour to myself.

Trespassers will be shot – so make sure you get your own stash.

Your taste buds can thank me later.

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…

Purbeck Ice Cream Soup.

It’s been a little while since I had a Sundae – not since my Ice Cream Crawl, in fact. But last weekend I had an encounter which returned them to the forefront of my mind.

We were back in the shire of Dorset; in the vicinity of Swanage, no less. And you know what that means, Ogglers: we were back in the land of Chococo – the chocolate shop-cum-café which served us our Jubilee Chocolate Cream Tea.

As before, there were plenty of sweet treats on offer – Scones, Brownies, Cakes, Ice Cream – and, naturally, I was paralysed with indecision.

While my fellow diners settled on savoury courses, I paced between the shop and our table, overwhelmed with opportunities.

Still harbouring fond memories of those Chocolate Chip Scones, I eventually had one warm with butter. Delicious.

Meanwhile, the rest of my table had moved on to dessert: Sundaes made with Purbeck Ice Cream.

The ‘Harry Met Sally’. Orgasmic

The Scone now reduced to sparse crumbs on my plate, it didn’t take long to feel hungry again.

It was the Man’s Sundae wot dunnit: two scoops of Ice Cream (‘Stawberry Seduction’ – studded with pieces of fruit), a sprinkle of Chocolate Malt niblets, a stick of solid Milk Chocolate and a HUGE jug of warm Chocolate Sauce.

So big was this jug that he couldn’t eat more than half. So I did my Hoggy duty and bought some more Ice Cream to finish it with. Not that this was all I asked for…

If you’re going to go for a Sundae-type treat, there seems little point in being restrained. So along with a scoop of Honeycombe Hash, I ordered a drizzling of Dulce de Leche Sauce, along with a handful of bright-coloured Chocolate Beans.

Ice Cream, meet Jug: your new best friend.

Twas a beautiful combo if ever I ate one (so texturally exciting), though on the way I learnt some things which I feel it is now my duty to share:

  1. Chocolate Beans (or any other sugar-coated candies for that matter) do not take long to become rock hard under Ice Cream. Ogglers with fillings: AVOID
  2. Good Chocolate Sauce can’t be beaten. By anything. Warm, thick, melty… It’s the best Ice Cream Sauce there is (especially at Chococo)
  3. It may not yet be socially acceptable to lick out a jug in a cafe – but some things just need to be done

There’s one more thing I’d like to pass on, but it isn’t something I learnt – more of a realisation: I love eating Ice Cream Soup. And when I say ‘Ice Cream Soup’ I don’t mean anything warm or specially made. I mean a bowl of tasty Ice Cream that has been thoroughly pulverised by a spoon.

Like so

As you can see, I did this in Chococo, much to the Man’s disgust. ‘It looked so nice before,’ he told me. ‘Now it just looks like poop.’

But did it taste like poop, Ogglers?

Hell no!

Every mouthful was Honeycombe, Sauce and hard Chocolate combined: all the components mixed together; not one of them missed out. A glorified milkshake, I suppose you could call it. Only so much thicker and more exciting.

Maybe it’s a regression back to babyhood, when everything was mashed and soft and mushy. Whatever. I’m not ashamed.

In fact, the more naysayers the better: once my pud had been souped up, you see, all pleas for a taster swiftly vanished.

My hunger did too. But not before I’d licked the bowl clean…

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…

The Vegetarian Lardy Cake.

As most of you know by now, I have been a vegetarian since I was but a wriggling foetus in Ma Hog’s womb. As such, I have learned to accept that certain foods are (and always will be) off limits.

I’ll never sample bacon with maple syrup, I’ll never try Heston Blumenthal’s intriguing-looking ‘Meat Fruit’, and – until they remove the gelatin from their recipe – I’ll never be able to bite the heads off Jelly Babies.

It’s annoying, yes, but that’s that, and on the whole I get by without too much bitterness.

Even so, some things are harder to overlook than others, and one thing I’ve always yearned to taste is Lardy Cake.

For those of you who’ve never seen it in your local bakery, the Lardy Cake is a rich and sweet concoction: part bread, part dried fruit, and – you guessed it – part lard. It’s a particular speciality in my family’s neck of the woods, where you will often see huge chunks of it glistening in bakery windows.

Just look at the shine on THAT

In theory, I know, it sounds disgusting. But in practice it has always looked so tempting: gooey, soft and luxurious.

Given the overwhelming presence of pig fat, however (not only in it, but often all over it), even the slightest mouthful would amount to cannibalism for a Pud-Hog such as myself. My normal routine is to see it, mutter, and walk by before the disappointment gets too much.

I say all this in order to help you imagine my feelings when, on Saturday, I saw a small sign in the window of Leakers Bakery. Upon this sign was a phrase I’d never even dared to conceive as a possibility. 

Vegetarian Lardy Cake, it said. £1.70 a slice.

I have never gone into a bakery faster.

It was like I’d stumbled into an alternative universe – a universe in which I could eat everything. And for the rest of the day I was as high as a kite.

Come evening, when it was finally time for dessert, I ran around the kitchen squealing, like a piglet in the brown stuff. The slab I’d got from Leakers was both thick and enormous – enough to feed myself, the Man and Ma Hog, with even some left over.

As I plated up our portions, the smell that reached my nostrils was divine: a thick haze of sugar and fresh bread.

Saturated with what I guess must have been butter, the dough squelched under my knife. Expectations were soaring.

After more than a quarter-century of deprivation, it was finally time to take the plunge.

Ready… Steady…

Chomp.

My tastebuds went into overdrive. There was so much butter and sugar that the cake seemed almost alcoholic; so much grease that my fingers struggled to keep it in place. These were both things I had expected (and hoped for). But there was something else too – something that came as rather a big surprise.

There, in the middle of it all, was a wedge of solidified sugar and fat so thick that it hurt my teeth. It was like a portion of Scottish Tablet, only harder and more grainy.

For a moment I thought this was what Lardy Cake was supposed to contain, and continued to crunch away, wincing at the abundance of barely-melted sugar.

Then the Man put me right. He’d never had a Lardy Cake like it, he said. This filling was just darn weird.

In a sudden stroke of genius he opted to extract it, advising me and Ma Hog to do the same.

Sugar lump blockage begone!

In one fell swoop the cake became amazing: moist, rich and doughy, without being sickly. At last I could taste it properly – the hints of yeast, spice and salt. It was lovely. Everything I’d imagined it would be, in fact.

Of course, it was still full of fat. Of course it still wouldn’t win any prizes for healthy eating. But now, at least, my teeth could continue unhindered.

Which they did. For as long as they could.

A Jubilicious Chocolate Cream Tea.

Some of you might have noticed that there’s been a bit of fuss in the UK over the past few days – something about the Queen and sixty years? Whatever. It is not the job of this blog to stay up to date with current affairs. Currant buns, maybe, but not the news. Unless it has some bearing on puddings…

Oh, all right then. The Queen’s 60th Jubilee is kind of important. But only because it led to one of the most gorgeous cream teas I’ve had on this tiny isle: a Jubilee Tea from my favourite shop in the Kingdom of Dorset, Chococo.

For those who don’t know it – and who’ve missed my past musings on the subject (see here and here) – Chococo is that wonderful combination of chocolate-shop-cum-tea-room, based in Swanage and faithful to the principles of hand-made, ethical, local, scrumptious treats. When I heard that they were doing a one-off Jubilee Tea for Bank Holiday, I bought my tickets immediately.

Suddenly, all these Royal Celebrations seemed like an awfully good idea.

Luvly Jubilee!

For the bargainous sum of just ten pounds – TEN! – the Man and I were treated to two-tiers of drool-inducing goodies, and a couple of the tastiest dark hot chocolates I have had since Jaz and Jul’s came to town.

Twas a menu fit for a Queen – not to mention her most porcine of subjects. In the savoury category, Coronation Chicken (duly eaten by my carniverous ally), and Egg and Cress Cucumber Tarlets did the job superbly. But then – then! – came dessert:

  • Mini Madagascan Chocolate Chip Scones with Cherry Jam and Clotted Cream
  • A Chocolate Mousse Crown with Fruit and Popping Candy
  • Dubonnet and Juniper Chocolates
  • A Lemon Fairycake
  • A Strawberry Meringue filled with White Chocolate and Creme Fraiche
  • Sea Salt and Caramel Ganache Tartlets

It. Was. Stupendous.

The fairycake: so fresh and zingy. The Tartlets: crispy shortbread-like pastry, cuddling smooth pools of caramel. As for the Dubonnet and Juniper Chocolates? Cor. I felt like Christmas had come early.

Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed my Chocolate Scones as well (something they routinely serve in the Chococo cafe). In fact, let’s be honest, they make so much more sense than studding a scone with sultanas. As does the concept of a Chocolate Crown, now I come to think about it (all these years, I thought pastry was the best way to encase a mousse. What a fool I was).

As I’m sure you can imagine, it was hard to choose a favourite, but – if hard-pressed – I think I would have plumped for the meringue. Fruit and white chocolate will always float my boat (or River Pageant), especially when the texture is so moreish…

Mmm.

Roused by a newfound sense of patriotism we polished it off in no time, wishing we’d both had a cakestand each.

I just hope we don’t have to wait sixty years for the next one.

Frankly, even ten is pushing it.