Rated: The Greggsnut.

Greggsnuts

The Glaze Craze Continues

What? With Doughnut-Croissant hybrids sparking a feeding frenzy in New York and dampening chins all over the world, it was only a matter of time before someone this side of the Atlantic started selling their own brand.

First major business to get onboard? The omnipresent chain of budget British bakeries, Greggs.

Now, at Greggs, they’re not called Cronuts – most likely because that label has been cannily trademarked by Dominique Ansel, the man who first brought the Cronut into being.

Instead, these balls of dough and glaze are known, somewhat inelegantly, as Greggsnuts.

Their makers describe them as ‘delicious’ and ‘fluffy’, with ‘layer upon layer of soft, light pastry’.

Again, no doubt to avoid litigation, they’re specifically aligned with Yum Yums (that other fried and flaky treat) and claim to have been inspired by the ‘craze’ of Cronuts, rather than Cronuts themselves.

Yeah, right.

Like Cronuts, they are glazed and filled, with two flavours available to buy: Summer Berry and Crème, and Caramel and Pecan.

Like Cronuts, their supply has been deliberately limited: only 13 shops are stocking them – less than one per cent of the company’s 1,671 UK outlets – and these will only sell them in September.

Unlike Cronuts, however, one bite is enough to confirm that they are not a taste sensation.

Don’t get me wrong: they’re not awful. They’re just not awfully good.

While devotees of the Cronut will wax lyrical on its freshness, flakiness and chew, the Greggsnut leaves a lot to be desired.

It is not Croissanty at all – the layers are thick and heavy, and they cloy together, sticking between the teeth.

The fillings are sparse, not gooey, and dwarved by great big pockets of air. And while the Caramel adds a certain salty silkiness (never a bad thing), neither it nor the bodiless Berry Crème pack the filthy, no-holds barred punch that I’d hoped for.

Of course this is hardly surprising. Unlike the original Cronut, these aren’t gourmet products, lovingly made in a tiny batch by a top Pastry Chef and his team.

In fact, they’re more or less what you’d expect from Greggs: sugary, bulky, cheap, and more impressive in looks than taste.

So, Ogglers: if your nearest shop isn’t supplying them, don’t be blue.

There are far more delicious things in this land – and countless better bakeries than Greggs in which to buy them

Where? Controversially available at selected London stores only (until 1 October 2013). Check the Greggs website for details

How Much? A solid £1 per ‘nut

Rating?

3/10

Worth a pound? Possibly. Worth a queue? Definitely not

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, Y’all: Chocolate Meringue Pie from Mammy’s Cupboard.

Chocolate Meringue Pie

The old two-fork trick: one for each hand…

What? The tallest slice of Pie I’ve ever had – with Meringue coiffed higher than Elvis’s quiff at its bounciest.

Homemade at Mammy’s Cupboard – a Natchez roadside restaurant housed inside a black woman’s skirt (!) – it’s also the first slice of Chocolate Meringue I think I’ve ever seen (though they do sell the Lemon variety there as well).

I have to say, it made for a great introduction, with a flaky, slightly salty Pastry base, a pleasingly gooey layer of Chocolate Blancmange, and a soft egg-white mountain which topped it like sweet, fluffy clouds.

Only the addition of real Chocolate – in chunks or some kind of Ganache – could have made it more desirable.

As it was, if I hadn’t already been stuffed with Grilled Cheese and Sweet Tea, I might well have gone for seconds…

Where? You’ll find Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez – just look for the huge red skirt

How Much? $3 per slice, without tax

Rating?

8/10

Sometimes mammy does know best

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…

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

Rated: The St John Eccles Cake.

St John Eccles Cake

Currantly one of the best in the biz

What? A Currant-stuffed pocket of sugared Puff Pastry – almost as good as ol’ Granny Hog’s version (not that I’m biased… ahem).

On a serious note, rarely do shop-bought Eccles Cakes taste this decent: the filling was so thick with fruit it had practically turned into Fudge (with very nice nutmeggy notes to spice things up).

The Pastry was super crisp too – just as it should be with Eccles

Where? This proud specimen came from the St John Bakery cubbyhole at Maltby Street (same place I got that outrageous Doughnut)

How Much? £2.50

Rating? 7/10

Ain’t got a granny to make one for you? Then this is the next best thing…

A New Turn… and Rated: Kastner & Ovens’ Lemon Slice.

Today marks the start of something a little bit different – a new turn for the Pud-Hog, if you will.

Allow me to explain.

Since the end of last year, while the number of puddings I’ve tried has been steadily growing, the time I have left to write about them has become quite sadly reduced.

Thankfully, Ogglers, a solution is at hand.

Rather than thin out my coverage (or even – shock horror – cut down my consumption of cake), I’ve decided to try out a new little system.

Whenever I’m feeling low on time I am simply going to rate things: put up a picture, pass on the relevant knowledge, and give it a mark out of ten.

In no time, I’ll build up a list of To-Chews – and you’ll have the facts you need to find out what’s what.

Look on it as your trusty Encyclopudia

I’ll still put up my recipes, and longer features will surface from time to time – but now I’ll be able to share much more of my info.

Enough of the spiel for now though, methinks – let’s put this thing to the test!

Rated: Kastner & Ovens’ Lemon Slice.

A little piece of Lemon Heaven

A little piece of Lemon Heaven

What? A three-tiered square of lemony goodness: firm (yet doughy) Pastry-type base, sharp (almost Curd-like) Lemon syrup, and a slightly crisp layer of sticky and sweet Lemon Icing.

Tastes rather like a flat Lemon Meringue Pie, though infinitely softer and more gooey – so much so that it barely keeps itself together (just look at that rupturing finish!)

Where? From Kastner & Ovens in Spitalfields, London

How Much? £2

Rating? 8/10

Delicious, obscene, but perhaps a bit too sweet – even with the comforting plainness of the Pastry

Recipe: Easy Peasy Profiteroles (with a Homemade Chocolate Sauce).

BEHOLD! The Pud-Hog’s proudest pastry plate to date…

Profiteroles look so tricky, don’t they?

Not to eat, of course – as digesting goes, they probably couldn’t be easier – but to create with your own fair hands.

Not only must you make your own Pastry, but then you have to fill it with Cream and smear it with Sauce to boot.

Better to buy them from the supermaket, right?

WRONG!

As it happens, they’re one of the easiest pastry-based treats you can make. You just need the right instructions – and, thanks to a book I got last week, I’m delighted to say I have them.

The recipe came from a nifty new publication called A Little Course in Baking, which breaks down various bakeables into pretty easy steps.

Today, I am delighted – and excited – to report that the good people of Dorling Kindersley have allowed me to share this wisdom with all of you Ogglers too (thanks, DK)!

So. All you need to get in on the action is an oven, a saucepan, a piping bag and a few fairly basic ingredients.

Within 45 minutes you’ll have a trayful of beautiful-smelling, professional-standard Choux Pastry Balls, to fill with whatever your heart desires.

Double Cream doesn’t do it for you? Then cram them with Crème Pâtissière instead.

Be sure to experiment with toppings too, if you fancy it.

With just the one batch, the Man and I made Chocolate Sauce from scratch, used dollops of Salt Caramel, and, for a particularly lazy option, squeezed out the Sauce we had left from our Stay-at-Home Ice Cream Parlour.

DEEELICIOUS.

Next time I might even try the next recipe in the book: a version with booze and Chocolate Orange.

Ach – who am I kidding? There’s really no ‘might’ about it…

Easy Peasy Profiteroles (makes approximately 30)

A choux-in for snazziest sweet-thing of the year

A choux-in for snazziest sweet-thing of the year

Ingredients:

For Cream-filled Profiteroles:

  • 60g (2 oz) plain flour
  • 50g (1 ¾ oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300ml (10 ½ fl oz) double cream

For (optional, yet delicious) Chocolate Sauce:

  • 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) double cream
  • 200g (7 oz) dark chocolate (good-quality, if you can afford it), broken into pieces
  • 25g (scant 1 oz) butter
  • 2tbsp golden syrup

You will also need a piping bag, as well as a 1cm plain nozzle and a 5mm star nozzle

Method:

For the Profiteroles:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (gas mark 7). Line two baking trays with baking parchment. Sieve the flour into a bowl, then over a low heat, melt the butter and 150ml (5fl oz) of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from heat, and ‘shoot’ in the flour all at once [NB: to ‘shoot’ the flour, transfer to a sheet of parchment after sifting into the bowl, then tip it into the saucepan all in one go]
  2. Beat the mixture together with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and forms a ball. Then leave it to cool for about 10 minutes. Careful: don’t be impatient and go on to the next step before the dough has had time to cool or you will start to cook the eggs instead of incorporating them…
  3. Gradually add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition until the eggs are fully incorporated. The more you beat the mixture, the more you develop the gluten and the more air you will get into it, helping the dough to puff up
  4. Continue to beat until you end up with a very smooth and shiny dough. Use a wooden spoon so you don’t cut into the mixture, as this would break up the developing gluten and result in the profiteroles not setting or rising wellChoux Mix
  5. Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with the plain nozzle [ACE TIP: if you find this part difficult, place the piping bag in a jug or tall glass to make it easier to fill]. Pipe small rounds (roughly an inch across and half an inch tall), set well apart, onto the sheets. Flatten the tops by pressing down lightly with a dampened finger. Bake for 20 minutes until well risen – and don’t be tempted to open the oven too early or the buns may deflate. While waiting, wash out and dry your piping bag in preparation for the filling…
  6. Remove the choux buns from the oven, then make a slit of roughly one inch in the side of each one, allowing the steam to escape [warning: you may get hot fingers]. Work as quickly as you can. If you don’t, the steam will make them soggy. Return them to the oven and bake for another two minutes until golden brown and firm. Cool on a wire rack. If planning to serve with homemade sauce, start preparing this nowChoux Slits
  7. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. It’s ready if it holds its shape when the beaters are removed. Spoon the cream into the piping bag with the star nozzle
  8. Squeeze the cream into the centre of the choux, making sure you don’t overfill the buns (but don’t underfill them either). Widening the existing slits with a sharp knife will make this process easierProfiterole Filling
  9. Serve with whatever sauce you fancy and dig in…

For Chocolate Sauce:

  1. Place cream, chocolate, butter and syrup into a saucepan and heat over a low heat until melted and smooth. Stir frequently to speed up the melting process
  2. When ready, spoon it over the profiteroles
  3. Voila!

WARNING: these Profiteroles are exceedingly addictive, so if you think you might want to prolong their destruction, you can freeze them, pre-filled, in an airtight container. Then whenever you’re ready for more, leave them out to defrost and continue from Step 7.

Alternatively, you can keep them, post-filling, sealed tightly in your fridge. They’ll lost their crispness but stay gosh-darn tasty. Just make sure you eat them while the cream stays fresh…

Happy Hogging!

P-H x

Recipe taken and lightly adapted from ‘A Little Course in Baking’, published with prior permission from Dorling Kindersley, January 2013

The Gypsy Tart.

Yesterday, not entirely by chance, the Man and I found ourselves in Canterbury.

As usually happens whenever we go exploring, our walk through the city consisted of visiting bakeries, tea rooms and sweet shops, in search of edibles new and exciting.

Within just a few minutes we found something special, nestled inside A.E. Barrow & Sons.

It was this: the Gypsy Tart.

Gypsy Tart

The Pud that travels no further than Kent

Neither of us had seen one before, but we soon learned a few things about it:

  1. The filling is made from a mixture of Condensed Milk and Brown Sugar
  2. It’s a Kent speciality, well-known as a school dinner staple (probably coz it’s so cheap to make)
  3. The girl at the bakery counter can’t stand it (in a word, she thought it was ‘bleurgh’)

Of course, I bought one as soon as I could and, later, while shielding myself from the wind, I had me a tentative bite.

It was not what I’d expected.

At all.

From the outside, it looked so innocuous: beige Pastry; beige filling; not a single decoration or Chocolate Curl.

The flavour, however, was a veritable no-holds-barred explosion of sweetness: part-melted granules whisked into a mousseline frenzy with an unnatural amount of syrupy Condensed Milk.

The Brown Sugar gave it a strong molasses taste – not a hundred miles away from that of Liquorice – and the fact that the Pastry was sweet as well made things even more intense.

I could see why the girl at the bakery hadn’t been keen – it certainly had the air of a pud that would be an acquired taste (far too rich for most, I expect).

As to feeding it to schoolchildren? Might as well give them crack cocaine, for all the addictive powers of that Sugar…

That said, it wasn’t unpleasant. The texture was particularly nice: light and bubbly; quite a bit melty too.

It just wasn’t something you could (or should) buy often.

Once a month/year/decade would probably do it…

Good thing we don’t live in Kent.

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