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

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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.

Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli Ice Cream.

The ice cream that’s so tasty, it wears a hat to celebrate

Once again, I have warmed to the London Olympics. Just as before – in my post about the Global Feast – the reason for this warmth is pud-related.

Thanks to the 2012 games, you see, several food vans were brought to the hood where I generally earn my wage. They were part of the Eat.St Collective, a street food movement based in Kings Cross, which is normally out of my reach.

Last week – and for one week only – a load of them parked up close to my workplace as part of a sport-induced festival. Finally, I would be getting a look-in.

On the evening I visited, however, the number of vans selling puddings wasn’t exactly overwhelming. In fact, as far as I could see, there were only two: one selling Frozen Yoghurt, the other selling Ice Cream.

Good thing it was muggy.

Good thing, too, that the flavours of Ice Cream (hand-made and sold by Sorbitium Ices) were so gosh darn exciting.

The Man and I were drawn like moths to a flame (or Pud-Hogs to a candle-covered birthday cake), and spent the next few minutes pondering all the possibilities: Sea-Salted Caramel; Cherry & Rice; Watermelon, Lime & Rose Sorbet; Dark Chocolate & Chipotle Chilli…

I was upsettingly close to Indecision-Based Paralysis when I discovered we could taste samples before committing.

Praise be!

If we hadn’t, you see, I might have not have tried the Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli, and would thus have missed out on one of the best Ice Cream Experiences of my life so far.

As you regular Ogglers will know, that’s quite a statement. After all, it’s been a great year for the Pud-Hog in terms of London Ice Cream (the Pistachio of my dreams at The Foundry, mind-blowing trips to Gelupo for Banoffee Pie and Panettone, lashings of Ben and Jerry’s at home…)

Sorbitium’s Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli though: PHWOAR (and that’s an understatement).

It’s weird. I’m not normally over-the-moon about Chilli in puddings. It goes so wrong so often (too hot, overpowering, not complementary), but in this was a match made in heaven.

Perhaps it was the smokiness from the Chipotle, blending so well with the sweet – yet dark – chocolate. I felt my seratonin levels soar with every mouthful.

And what wonderful mouthfuls they were…

Somehow, my Ice Cream had softened in storage, so was served to me in a cup with a cone perched on top like a hat. The resulting texture was seriously smooth: more like eating a bowl of cold melted chocolate than anything else. So rich! So decadent! And so good for me too, I’m sure…

The Man was equally impressed by his Watermelon, Rose and Lime Sorbet.

It seemed rather lovely to me as well, but by that point my mouth was buzzing with Chocolate and Chilli – there wasn’t much space for the delicate flavours.

Ah me.

For your sake, Ogglers, I really hope they serve up that combo again. No promises though: the good folks of Sorbitium make up their flavours with seasonal ingredients, so you never know what you might find.

If it’s Sea-Salted Caramel you’ll be in for a treat (I tried a wee morsel and couldn’t stop groaning).

If it’s Dark Chocolate and Chipotle, do not pass by without smearing some over your taste buds.

Then again, by the time you track them down, they could be selling anything.

Take a look at the flavours on their website. Witness all the different sorts they made last year; combinations that may or may not be there when you stumble across their van.

Salted Honey Caramel, Damson Sherbet, Chestnut and Meringue, Quince and Cobnut…

Blimey O’Riley.

I cannot convey how excited those prospects make me, so I’ll give up and leave you with this:

Best. Flavours. EVER.

End.