Rated: Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Me Up.

In honour of Free Cone Day, here’s a little B&J post to get you going…

Peanut Butter Me Up

PB and Yay

What? One of Ben & Jerry’s more exciting flavours: a new concoction consisting of Vanilla and Peanut Butter Ice Creams, a ‘core’ of Raspberry Jam, and miniature Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

The PB Ice Cream was particularly luscious, with a rich taste and super-smooth texture.

The Jam core was excellent too – the tang of it cut through the creaminess, adding a pretty exciting dimension (with an unusual, pulpy texture).

That said, there was room for improvement.

More Jam would have gone down well, for starters.

And as for those Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups: amazing – but sadly sparse.

Without them, my teeth just got BORED

Where? Available at most decent supermercados

How Much? Typically £4.99 for 500ml (though you might get lucky and snap up a tub on offer)

Rating?

8/10

More killer, less filler – and then it might even warrant a 10

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Rated: Waitrose’s Butterscotch & Pecan Danish Swirl.

Go on, give it a swirl

The Pecan Pud Canon continues

What? An oversized circular Danish, dotted with Pecans and shaped like a windmill.

Though it looks fairly plain and dry in its tin, when warmed in the oven it turns into something quite spectacular: by turns crisp, flaky, buttery, soft, and soggy from hidden reserves of BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE (*drool*).

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, the Pastry itself is suffused with Cinnamon – clearly, whoever designed it was a genius (or out to reel me in with a dish that contains all my favourite things).

The only thing I took issue with was the recommended serving size: though hardly large, one Swirl is supposed to feed FOUR PEOPLE.

Heck knows who could possibly stop at a quarter – not this Pud-Hog, that’s for sure.

Then again, when it comes to counting calories, even this (apparently ‘four-person’) flake-fest works out healthier than a single Caramel Pecanbon.

When you think of it that way, the idea of having a second slice doesn’t seem nearly as naughty…

Where? From the shelves of your nearest Waitrose (home of the infamous Sugar Mouse Biscuit)

How Much? Currently on offer at £2.32 (normally £3.49)

Rating? 9/10

Go ahead, Ogglers: give it a swirl

Rated: Madame Macaroon’s Fab Florentines.

Florentine

Yes, Ma’am!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating?

9/10

Madame Macaroon? More like Queen Florentine

Rated: The Rhubarb and Hazelnut Tuffet.

NOT to be sat on

It’s a Tuffet, Jim – but not as we know it

What? Never tasted a Tuffet before?

That’s hardly surprising, given that Tuffet is usually a word for a low seat (of the type perched on by Little Miss Muffet).

Recently, however, Tuffet has started to mean something else; reclaimed by Jacqui of Saucy Puds, in order to name her tasty homemade creations.

These Tuffets are a lot like Muffins, but covered in baked sugar and flat on the top (all the better for sitting on, I suppose).

Made using seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients, the Tuffet I went for was flavoured with Rhubarb and Hazelnuts.

Despite its humble appearence it was truly delicious: moist with Rhubarb strands (but not bitter), and crunchy with chopped and whole Nuts.

A pleasure from start to finish, it tasted like a real Cake of the Earth: golden, light and wonderfully wholesome

Where? The Man and I saw Saucy Puds at Marylebone Farmers Market (not far from the stall with that mutant Manor House Fruit Cake). They’re there on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month

How Much? £1.75 each

Rating?

9/10

Not even the scariest spider could tear me away

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?!

Rated, Y’all: T-Bone’s Turtle Cream Cheese Bar.

Time for T

Time for T

What? All the best things in one edible square: Pecans, Chocolate Drops, Chocolate Sauce, and – of course – Cream Cheese.

Fairly small as American portions go, it made for a moreish mouthful.

The crunch and chew of it were great – but extra goo would have been even better…

Where? T-Bone’s Cafe in Hattiesburg, MS

How Much? $1.79 excluding tax

Rating? 7/10

The ‘T’ is for tasty. Probably

Rated, Y’all: Sal & Mookie’s Pecan Bar.

EXCITING NEWS, OGGLERS: I am writing to you today from MISSISSIPPI, where the puds are huge and the hogging is sweet.

It. Is. Awesome.

As was the first Cake the state had to offer…

Pecan Perfection

Pure Pecan Perfection

What? A warm and buttery square of nutty goodness, freshly made and drizzled with syrup.

It’s got the crunch, it’s got the melt – and it’s got the perfect amount of chopped Pecans

Where? From Sal & Mookie’s in Jackson, MS

How Much? $2.50 (plus tax)

Rating? 10/10

Just couldn’t fault it – or get enough

Junk Bars, Dirtballs & Cookie Dough Truffles.

Do you remember when I wrote about Cake Pops?

They were delicious – but I couldn’t quite see the point of the stick. Why not just dole out balls of Cake, I wondered? Why bother adding to landfill?

Well, in December, I came across these, fresh from the Kooky Bakes stall (no.7 on my Top Ten Pud Producers list):

That's more like it

Not a stick in sight

These were more like what I’d envisioned – stick-free clumps with exciting fillings: Cookie Dough, ‘Dirtball’ and Peanut Butter Pretzel.

With each £4 bag holding four tasty Truffles, the only issue I then had was deciding what to buy.

For a while I stood there, agonising.

Then, just as I was ready to make my choice, I saw something even more thrilling: a bag of thick Chocolate shards, littered with Pretzels, Peanut M&Ms, and – wait for it – READY SALTED CRISPS.

And the name of this shameless creation?

Well, it could only be: the Junk Bar.

So filthy...

Filthy. In a good way

How the heck was a Hog to resist?

In the end I skipped home with a bag of goodies – not just slabs of Junk but Truffles too.

The Cookie Dough kind were delicious: extremely moist, jam-packed with Chocolate Chips, and – as far as my taste buds could tell – very faintly alcoholic (a hint of Rum, perhaps? Or maybe a potent shot of Vanilla…).

The Dirtballs, meanwhile, were not quite so much of a textural thrill, but tasty nonetheless, with innards of Chocolate Fudge Cake and Oreo crumbs on their Dark Chocolate coats.

In both cases, however, it was the size that really won me over: each ball took two or three bites to vanish (just as all good Truffles should).

And as for the Junk Bar… well… that’s a whole different class of Hoggery.

What with all those crunchy toppings, its shards were near impossible to eat slowly.

Indeed, its whole make-up demands that you chomp every mouthful with gusto, working your jaw like a garbage compactor.

Chocolate, Peanuts, Pretzel, Potato – none taste quite so good when sucked. Of course, this is great if you’re in the mood for a mindless few minutes of munching; not so much so if you’re after a night of indulgence.

Thankfully, that evening I fancied the former, so down the chute it went.

You can’t leave junk lying around, after all…

Cakehole’s Coffee & Walnut Cake.

Cakehole Coffee and Walnut Cake

The Coffee Cake that fills a hole – and then some…

In all my years as a Pud-Hog, I never once thought of Coffee and Walnut Cake as a luxury item.

Essential tea-time staple, perhaps, but not generally the main event.

After a trip to Herne Hill Market, however, I’m starting to think that I just hadn’t tried the right one…

There, you see, at a stall run by Cakehole, I picked up a rather appealing slice in an exciting end-of-day mark-down (being a bargainous £1.50 – or £1 less than the norm).

It was the last slice left – pleasingly large and fat with filling – and, having walked for some miles before finding it, I’d certainly built up the hunger to knock it back.

Or so I thought.

Those first few mouthfuls were totally dreamy, with an obscenely generous quotient of milky Coffee icing and a scattering of finely-chopped Walnuts, which gave the top level a lovely crunch.

All too soon, however, after just under half had been eaten, I suddenly felt unable to finish the rest.

It was all those thick layers of filling: super-sweet slabs which seemed to exceed the subtler sum of the Sponge.

While they started out as a blessing, providing three decadent pockets of moisture, eventually they verged towards being sickly.

At that point, I did something quite out of character: I decided to stop eating.

Not since Honey & Co’s Chocolate Sandwich had I felt such a need to share – but the Man didn’t want to partake (being no fan of either Coffee or Nuts).

Instead I was forced to wrap the Cake up and pop it back into my bag.

For a moment I felt like I’d failed. The Sponge had overpowered me.

But then I realised: two sittings of Cake are better than one.

The next day, prepared for its sugary hit, I brought out the half-eaten chunk after lunch.

This time, it was the perfect size.

And thankfully, once again, it was delicious.

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