Hot Desserts


What a big month!

I resigned from my job.  Started another.  Prepared for Christmas, our special visitor and all our festive entertaining.  Oh, and somehow managed to squeeze in some Christmas baking in between!

The beginning of the month hailed the end of my job for six years.  I returned to work from maternity leave at the end of August, but quickly started to search out a part-time alternative – as the work-life balance in the Mélanger household lacked the necessary harmony, to say to least!  Fortunately, a few months later, I secured the perfect part-time alternative at a brand new company, and immediately made the switch.

But there was no time to dwell on leaving my old job, as Christmas was fast approaching.  Much to organise and prepare!

I have to say, this year has been one of my best Christmases yet, thanks to my pint-sized minature.

It may technically have been baby Melanger’s second Christmas, but it certainly felt like her first.  With bub only a few months old last year, the day came and went without much fanfare.  This year, however, was bursting with endless shrieks, giggles and laughter at the endless stream of everything ‘new’.

The tree attracted the greatest attention.  There was nonstop pointing and ‘talking’ with lots of fast hand movements.  And there were quite a number of dances in front of the tree, including the odd twirl or two for added effect.  It seems to have made quite an impression!

Our visit from bub’s Ukki, also added much to the festive cheer.  It was such a delight for baby Mélanger to meet her grandfather face-to-face for the first time, and for her Ukki to see her BIG personality first hand.

I also had a lot of fun baking up some new traditions this year.  The Joulutortut and Joulupulla were the firm favourites.  And I have no difficulty visualising baking these goodies up year after year (whilst trialing some new flavours and ideas, too!).  Many thanks again to my friend Celina Laaksonen who was an enthusiastic guide in this month’s menu.

I hope you all enjoyed the selection this month, too?  I may or may not take a little break in January, but I hope to post a new exciting theme again soon.  In the meantime, here is the round up of this month’s recipes.

:: I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday and that 2012 brings much joy and happiness to you all xxx ::

{ Joulutortut :: Finnish Christmas Stars } For some time I have greedily eyed off these tender butter pastries, simply shaped as a festive star, and dotted with a small kiss of sweet prune filling in the centre.  This recipe produces a soft, cream based pastry.  It is incredibly simple to put together, and fairly easy to work with.  These little Finnish Christmas stars got an immediate thumbs up from Mr Mélanger{ Read more here…. }

 

  { Jouluriisipuuro :: Finnish Rice Pudding & Joulupiparkakut :: Gingerbread } Traditionally, this Christmas rice pudding can be served alongside a dried fruit soup (sekahedelmäkeitto), and there is always a whole blanched almond hidden inside (a bit like hiding a sixpence in a Christmas pudding!).  But I could not resist sharing this combination as a tribute to Celina!  The idea is genius.  The creaminess of the pudding, goes deliciously with the spicy, crunchy gingerbread.  I particularly love the gingerbread.  As soon as you warm up the spices with the syrup, the entire kitchen starts to smell a little of Christmas.  { Read more here …. }

  { Taatelikakku :: Finnish Christmas date cake } Finland has some light, fragrant and curiously bundt shaped Christmas cakes.  Far different from my Christmas cake memories.  I selected to bake up the taatelikakku, as part of this month’s experiment.  This is a wonderfully light yet moist cake.  The addition of coffee to the mixture adds a lovely depth of flavour against the sweetness of the dates.  And in my opinion, this cake should not be reserved just for Christmas.  It is simply too delicious!  { Read more here….}

  { Joulupulla :: Finnish Christmas buns }  This is really just a basic pulla dough shaped into the special festive shape.  I have made pulla more times than I can remember, and I have ultimated adapted this recipe from a few different sources (Beatrice Ojakangas, the Nordic Bakery Cookbook plus my friend Celina Laaksonen).  My father-in-law mentioned his mother’s pulla was less sweet, but he preferred the extra sugar in this recipe.  So feel free to experiment! { Read more here….}

Blogging has given me the opportunity to meet people from around the world who share a similar passion for baking.

Back in 2010, I received a comment from a girl in Finland – who I later came to find out was a professional baker in Espoo.  The lovely Ms Laaksonen has been a great “penpal” ever since, and also an always enthusiastic guide about baking, in particular Finnish specialities.

She has helped me enormously with oodles of background detail on Christmas baking in Finland, and provided endless tips and ideas for this month’s theme.

During our correspondence on Christmas baking, she happened to mention she adores Finnish Christmas rice pudding (Jouluriisipuuro) with gingerbread (Joulupiparkakut) crumbled on top.

Traditionally, the Christmas rice pudding can be served alongside a dried fruit soup (sekahedelmäkeitto), and there is always a whole blanched almond hidden inside (a bit like hiding a sixpence in a Christmas pudding!).  But I could not resist sharing this combination as a tribute to Celina!

The idea is genius.  The creaminess of the pudding, goes deliciously with the spicy, crunchy gingerbread.  I particularly love the gingerbread.  As soon as you warm up the spices with the syrup, the entire kitchen starts to smell a little of Christmas.  I will be whipping out a few more batches of this cookie dough!

{ Jouluriisipuuro :: Finnish Rice Pudding } Recipe by Anja Hill from The Food & Cooking of Finland

* Ingredients *
90g short grain rice
1.2 litres of milk
Pinch salt
15ml ground cinnamon
200ml double cream
50g caster sugar
25g toasted flaked almonds

* Directions *
Put the rice and milk in a pan and bring to the boil.  Add the salt, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour, until the rice has absorbed most of the milk and is almost tender.  Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan.  Add the cinnamon, cream, sugar and almonds to the rice and cook for further 10 minutes, until the rice is tender.

{ Joulupiparkakut :: Gingerbread } Recipe by Anja Hill from The Food & Cooking of Finland

* Ingredients *
100ml golden syrup
5ml grated orange rind
5ml ground cinnamon
2.5ml ground pepper
2.5ml ground ginger
2.5ml ground cloves
5ml ground cardamom
10ml baking soda
100ml double cream
200g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
400g plain flour

* Directions *
Put the syrup, orange rind and spices in a pan and heat generally until warm.  Remove from heat.  Mix the baking soda into the cream. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together until fluffy.  Whisk in the warm spiced syrup, the egg and cream mixture, until well combined. Add the flour and mix together to form a dough.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate overnight. Preheat the oven to 200C.  On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 3mm thickness.  Place a sheet of baking parchment over the top of the dough, then turn the dough over so the paper is underneath.  Using round cutters, cut out the dough, re-rolling as necessary.  Bake for 7-10 minutes until light brown.

 

Juggling the demands of life is a daily challenge for most people.

As Mr Mélanger continues to survive full time work obligations with writing a thesis (brave man!), and I the art of juggling full time work and the inevitable “always feeling like you are falling short” role of mum to baby Mélanger, our spare time is spread incredible thin.

The volume of collective commitments and responsibilities in our lives seems to create a massive deficit in the family time bucket.  So snatching a precious minute here and there together is a priority.  But the reality is, a weekend breakfast may be the only genuine time we get to spend together all week.

This month’s theme has reinforced my goal to create a new food tradition for my family.  But more importantly, it has become the catalyst to earmark what little time we have, and steal a few moments enjoying breakfast together on the weekend as a family.  I cannot think of a more delicious way to spend that time.

Here is a roundup of this month’s recipes.  For versatility, ease and speed, our favourite pick is the Pannukakku, the Finnish baked pancake. 

 { Wholemeal English Muffins }  Topped with homemade marmalade or jam this dish is the epitome of simple.  With a boost of wholemeal flour for added nutrition, this little recipe is a keeper.  Prepare the dough the night before, for freshly baked English Muffins in the morning.  Left overs are great to freeze for breakfast on the run. { Read more here … }

 

  { Clementine curd crêpes with seasonal fruits } Citrus curd makes a perfect complement to a stack of crispy, wafer thin crêpes.  Prepare a stack in advance, or freeze leftovers for a quick crêpe snack any time.  Enjoy with any endless combination of fruit.  Whatever you have on hand.  Ditch the fruit if you prefer! { Read more here … }

 

 

{ Marinated mushrooms on bacon bread toast }  The hearty bacon bread marries well with the light, fragrant flavour of the marinated mushrooms.  This dish is a bit of a twist on a childhood of ‘mushrooms on toast’.  { Read more here … }

 

 

  { Baked Apple Pancake }  This baked pancake is popular for dessert or as an accompaniment for coffee, or, as here, makes a nice main dish for breakfast or a brunch served with juice, smoked sausage and coffee (always coffee, of course!). { Read more here … }

Acknowledging the Nordic influence in my life introduced by Mr Mélanger, I wrap up my ‘breakfast theme’ with Pannukakku, the popular Finnish baked pancake.

I am fascinated in Mr Melanger’s Finnish ancestry.  Not only because his makeup and personality is very much predisposed by that background, but no doubt will shape baby Mélanger, too.

So this month’s theme would not be complete without some Finnish inspiration.

During this month’s experiment, this little pancake has been made multiple times in the Mélanger kitchen.  Not only is it a versatile dish (feel free to use any fruit or omit if you prefer), but it is the simplest of all breakfasts to prepare.  As the batter needs to rest, you can whip it up the night before, and be ready to get baking in the morning practically as soon as your oven is hot.

I also like that the style of this pancake reminds me of the Yorkshire pudding, which featured very strongly in my childhood.  So inadvertently, a nod to my English background in this selection, too!

{ Baked Apple Pancake :: Omenapannukakku } Recipe adapted from Beatrice Ojakangas

Beatrice reveals that this baked pancake is popular for dessert or as an accompaniment for coffee, or, as here, makes a nice main dish for breakfast or a brunch served with juice, smoked sausage and coffee (always coffee, of course!).

* Ingredients *
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup plain flour
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup cinnamon sugar

* Directions *
Beat the eggs until thick then add the milk, salt and sugar.  Sift in the flour, mixing it in well.  Let the batter stand for 30 minutes (or overnight).  Meanwhile prepare the apples.  Butter two au gratin dishes and sprinkle with part of the cinnamon sugar.  Arrange the sliced apples in the dishes.  Sprinkle with the rest of the cinnamon sugar and dot with butter.  Pour the pancake batter over the apples, dividing evenly between dishes.  Bake at 190C/375F for 30 minutes or until the top of each pancake is golden and set.  Serve hot with fresh fruit, maple syrup and cream.

Serves 2

I finish my four courses of Asian Inspiration this month with a simple pudding.

I have never used tapioca before, after being personally less than enthusiastic from my mother’s description she recalls from her London-hot-school-lunch-days.

But then motivated by Ellie’s post earlier in the year, by a silky looking tapioca pudding (with banana spring rolls, a sweet kaffir lime syrup and crunchy toasted coconut flakes!), I was instantly converted.

(Sorry, Mum.)

I made a few twists to Ellie’s recipe, the most obvious omitting the banana spring roll and instead pairing the pudding with a green mango fritter.  I stuck with the tradition of serving the green mango with salt and chilli by sprinking a healthy dose on the fritters once cooked.

The inherent sweetness of the pudding (from the coconut milk as well as the lime syrup), is the perfect balance to counter the spicy, salty flavour of the fritter.

But the best part?  It is so simple.

{ Coconut lime tapioca pudding with chilli salt green mango fritters } Adapted from Ellie of Almost Bourdain.

* Ingredients *

Tapioca
1/4 cup tapioca / sago pearls
1 cup water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/3 cup coconut cream

Syrup
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
Zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1 lime

Fritters
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup iced water
1 green mango, sliced
1 teaspoon coarse salt, ground
1 teaspoon chilli flakes, ground

* Directions *
To make coconut tapioca pearls, boil the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add tapioca pearls and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the tapioca pearls are cooked and translucent. Add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and stir in coconut cream. Mix well, cool to room temperature and keep in fridge until needed.  To make the lime syrup, add the sugar, lime juice and water to a saucepan and stir to dissolve.  Heat over medium heat for 3-5 minutes without stirring.  Take off the heat, add the zest and set aside to cool.  To make the fritters, combine the flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the iced water.  Mix until combined, and then pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Heat up a small saucepan of oil.  Dip pieces of the sliced mango into the batter and then fry in the oil until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes).  Drain on paper towel.  Sprinkle with the chilli salt while hot.  To assemble, place the tapioca pudding in the bottom of a glass and drizzle with syrup.  Serve with the warm fritters.

Serves 3-4

Cakes.  Cookies.  Pastries.  Breads.  Puddings.

The latest round up on Mélanger explores sweet recipes that exemplify comfort food.  Home baked goodies that provide a little nostalgia and feed your emotions.  Foods that lift your spirits and soothe the soul.   Old fashioned favourites that bring back fond memories.

I chose the theme of ‘comfort food’ as I was saddened by the extensive damage around me here in Brisbane and throughout Queensland with the recent floods.

But now I finish this theme faced with truly heart breaking images of the earthquake devasted city of Christchurch, New Zealand.  My heart goes out to everyone there.  My thoughts are with everyone and their family.

{ Cinnamon apple Danish braid }  This 5 minute Danish pastry is nothing short of spectacular! Perfect for a quick sweet breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up.  Filled dough with diced Granny Smiths and a hint of cinnamon, this braid is simple and comforting.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Fleur de sel chocolate sablés }  Sweet and salty and melt-in-your-mouth.  Baked exactly per original instruction.  When a recipe is inspired by a Pierre Hermé creation, and developed by Dorie Greenspan, really, who needs to make changes?  { Read more here … }

 

{ Plum and white rose tea cake }  There is something comforting about a simple teacake topped with fruit.  With blood plums in season, inspiration for a flavour partner came from the floral scent of rose to add a subtle perfume to the entire cake.  A delicious combination with the sweet plums.   { Read more here … }

 

{ Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding }  Slices of lightly toasted chocolate babka are soaked overnight in a simple custard then baked until golden.  The resulting pudding is soft, creamy and chocolately!  Very comforting (and filling!), indeed.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Omenapiirakka :: Finnish Apple Pie } You need to try this pie.  The best part for me was how easy the pastry was to make.  And even better than that, how delicious it was.  I actually made the pastry a day ahead and was able to quickly roll out, top with apple and then bake in less than 45 minutes.  To keep it simple, I served with a light dusting of icing sugar and some rich vanilla ice cream to complement the gooey caramelised apple centre of the pie.  { Read more here … }


{ Rhubarb, strawberry & ginger crumble tarts } Rhubarb is synonymous with English desserts.  Growing up, I recall my mother creating a number of desserts that incorporated rhubarb.  Not to the extent that I eventually had to throw a hand to cover my eyes, and gesture any oncoming fruit ladened dish away, but to know that this humble fruit was versatile, practical and a hint towards winter.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Sticky toffee bread & butter pudding } Combining the essence of two favourite British desserts, the essence of the bread and butter pudding was sustained  using a homemade spice ladened bread, and the rich, buttery butterscotch sauce, made for a slightly more self-indulgent pudding.  A perfect treat for the cooler Brisbane winter evenings.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Marmalade & golden syrup steamed puddings } The sweet, steamed pudding descends from the traditional boiled pudding – a favourite at Christmas time.  The basic steamed pudding recipe is easy to play around with. It is one of the most simple and comforting desserts to make.  { Read more here … }


{ Mustikkapiirakka :: Blueberry Tart } This simple, rustic style tart is a snap to make and a treat to share.  The blueberries piled high look as inviting as they are delicious.  The simplicity of the tart is the winning secret.  Fresh berries sweetened ever so slightly with a sprinkling of sugar, and topped on an easy to prepare, flaky pastry.  Perfect for any time of year.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Banana pudding ice cream } A creamy and rich ice cream base injected with custard powder and cinnamon, along with a healthy dose of tropical bananas, produces a refreshing dessert reminiscent of banana pudding.  A winter pudding, with a summer twist. { Read more here … }

 

{ Chocolate pecan & maple scrolls } Soft, rich and sweet bread is layered with chocolate, pecans and drizzled with maple syrup.  Straight out of the oven it is hard to resist not pulling them apart and enjoying straight away.  Fill with your own flavour combination to personalise your own scrolls.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Mini doughnuts with homemade dulce de leche } Mini balls of fried yeasty goodness.  The distinct aroma of the cinnamon s ugar on the warm doughnut.  The unbeatable taste of that just cooked doughnut.  These fluffy yeast style doughnuts are a lovely reminder of old fashioned doughnut shop confections.  { Read more here … }

 

 

 

Seinfeld is a favourite show in the Mélanger household.  So when Mr Mélanger and I were in NYC most recently (and in honour of the Dinner Party episode), a sampling of babka was in order.

One sunny summer day, we took a little trip uptown to Zabars.  After dropping quite a few green bills at the register for all the food we purchased, we left loaded up with bags in hand.  We wandered to Central Park, found a little shady spot – which we ultimately shared with a group of curious (and hungry!) squirrels – and enjoyed our pickings.

We polished off an entire loaf of chocolate babka.  (I eased the guilt knowing we had taken our running shoes on our trip.)  Mr Mélanger had never seen nor eaten babka before, and was only familiar with it from the Seinfeld episode.  I had eaten (probably too many) chocolate and cinnamon babkas while living in Boston.

Elaine suggested in the Dinner Party episode that the cinnamon babka was the lesser babka.  I think not.  But my babka is definitely the lazy babka.  I was feeling a little too serene in my bread making on the day and really did not give this little loaf the necessary number of rolls and twists to create the endless wave of layering all the best babkas boast.  But despite my shortcuts, the sweet chocolately goodness of this bread still did not disappoint.

In my curiosity of babka, I was interested to find out that the commonly known Jewish version of babka (as eaten at Zabars), is a more modern cousin to an Eastern European version.  The traditional babka is apparently baked in a round, fluted babka mould (similar to a turban shaped kugelhopf mould), the shape resembling a grandmothers skirt.  Not surprisingly, babka means grandmother in Polish, the country of origin of this buttery, rich bread.  The original babka is often filled with raisins and dried fruits and traditionally eaten at Easter.  The Jewish babka version, filled with chocolate or cinnamon, is twisted and baked in a loaf pan – and is certainly not an Easter bread!

Baking this bread brought back many happy memories of my years in Boston, as well as my first overseas holiday with Mr Mélanger.  So combined with one of my ultimate childhood puddings, this dish is comfort food supreme for me!

{ Chocolate babka bread pudding }

Slices of lightly toasted chocolate babka are soaked overnight in a simple custard then baked until golden.  The resulting pudding is soft, creamy and chocolately!  Very comforting, indeed.

* Ingredients *
250g, about 6 slices of chocolate babka (recipe following), crusts removed
1 ¾ cups of milk
3 eggs
2/3 cups of sugar

* Directions *
Grease two 20x10cm (8x4inch) loaf pans. Set aside.  Lightly toast the bread, then cut into about 2cm/1 inch cubes.  Place into mixing bowl.  Warm the milk to almost boiling point.  Whisk the eggs and sugar together and lightly pour the warmed milk. Strain the mixture over the bread.  Mix well and pour into prepared tins.  Bake at 180C/350F for 20-30 minutes, or until set and lightly browned.
Makes 2 bread puddings

{ Basic sweet dough recipe } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

For the loaf I made for this recipe, I simply twisted and shaped the rolled dough into a simple figure 8 before popping into the loaf pan.  Alternatively, twist the rolled up dough between 6 to 8 times.  When then forming into a figure 8 shape, twist the loaf once more before resting into your prepared tin.  I did not include the streusel topping which is sometimes common on these more modern babkas, as I knew I would be using it in a pudding.  I simply used my basic sweet dough recipe to start, and then piled on lashings of butter, chocolate and sugar for the filling.

This recipe takes around four hours from beginning to end.  You will need to plan accordingly but the taste will be worth the effort.

* Ingredients *
1 cup milk
¼ cup water (110F/45C)
3.5g / ½ package dried yeast
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4½ to 5 cups of plain, all purpose flour
¼ cup / ½ stick of butter, melted
Glaze:
1 egg, lightly beaten

* Directions *
Warm the milk in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edge.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 110F/45C.  In the meantime, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Stir in the milk, sugar, salt, beaten eggs, and 1 cup of the flour.  Beat the mixture until smooth.  Add 2 more cups of flour and continue to beat.  Continue until the dough is glossy.  Add the melted butter and stir well.  Add a further 1 ½ cups of flour and continue to beat well.  Stir in the remaining ½ cup of flour bit by bit until the dough is stiff – you may not need to add it all.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.  Then knead the dough lightly until it is smooth and glossy.  Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, lightly spraying the top of the dough with oil to prevent drying.  Allow to double in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.  Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled, about 1 hour.  Turn out onto a floured surface.  You should have roughly have between 2.4-2.6lb / 1.1-1.2kg of dough in total.  The quantity of dough should be sufficient for three small loaves.  Once you have shaped your final dough, let rise for 20-30 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Brush lightly with egg and then bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on size.

{ Chocolate Babka variation }
1.    Prepare the filling ingredients. Soften 125g (1 stick) of butter, coarsely chop 200g (7oz) dark chocolate and measure 1/3 cup sugar.  Set aside.
2.    Grease two 20x10cm (8x4inch) loaf pans.
3.    After the third rise, roll out the dough to a 30x30cm (12×12 inch) square.
4.    Spread the butter across the dough.  Sprinkle across the chocolate and sugar evenly.
5.    Roll up length ways, like a jelly roll.  Twist the rolled up dough between 6 to 8 times, then join the ends and form into a figure 8 shape.  Twist the loaf once more before placing into your prepared tin.
6.    Allow to proof for 1-2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
7.    Bake in a preheated 180C  (350F) oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 2 babkas

:: Yeastspotting ::
I am submitting this Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding to Yeastspotting.

As I get older, I am accepting my memory is deteriorating.

Well, at least I think it is.

When recollections of my childhood are patchy, I can exhaust a number of frustrated hours trying to piece together rough detail in my mind.  In the process, I am sure I create memories based on what seems most logical.

I was struggling to remember the most common breakfast spreads that formed my childhood pantry.  I blanked.  Was Vegemite a staple in the pantry when I was little?  Not sure.  I remember the odd jar of English marmite finding its way in there, but not the all-Australian yeast extract version.  I remember conserves and jams, but not the specific flavours that were favourites.  I probably could confidently say there was no peanut butter in the pantry when I a child.  But what about honey?  Not sure.

Fortunately, even with this doubt, I do remember two items.  Two items that seemed to always be in the pantry.  A hefty jar of orange marmalade and the distinctive green tin of Lyle’s golden syrup.

Well, at least I think there was.

Perhaps again I have created this memory, and if so it is quite a delicious fortune, for it is the impetus behind this dish for ‘British Desserts’ month.  Marmalade and golden syrup steamed puddings.

I have to admit that the sound of a steamed pudding sounds insipid and bland, but a British steamed pudding is anything but.  The sweet, steamed pudding descends from the traditional boiled pudding – a favourite at Christmas time.  The basic steamed pudding recipe is easy to play around with.  Typically you use one part fat, one part sugar and two parts flour.  (Puddings traditionally included suet as the fat component and partial breadcrumbs as a flour substitute, too.)

It is one of the most simple and comforting desserts to make.

{ Marmalade & golden syrup steamed puddings } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

This syrup-soaked pudding is made richer when served with a creamy vanilla custard.

* Ingredients *
90 g or 3/4 stick unsalted butter
90 g or  1/2 cup less 2 teaspoons caster sugar
2 eggs
180g or 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons marmalade
2 tablespoons golden syrup

* Directions *
Grease 4 x 200 ml (6.8 fl oz) pudding moulds.  Drop 1 teaspoon of marmalade into the base of each mould, and then cover with ½ tablespoon of golden syrup.  Set aside.  Mix together the butter and sugar until pale, and then add the eggs.  Add in the remaining marmalade and mix until combined.  Then gently fold in the flour and baking power.  Add enough orange juice to produce a dropping consistency similar to a pound cake.  Divide mixture up evenly between the pudding moulds.  Cover each pudding mould with non stick baking paper, pleating around the edges if preferred, or simply securing with kitchen twine.  Using a saucepan/steamer insert combination, steam for 45 minutes over a low heat.  To check the pudding has cooked, remove the cover and gently press the pudding to check it is firm.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the moulds, then turn out and serve with custard.

Makes 4 individual puddings

Along comes another British dessert where its origins are based on frugality.  The bread and butter pudding.  This crafty little pudding, popular not only in Britain but around the world, was apparently created back in medieval times as a way to use up old, stale bread.  Who knew that thriftiness could be so tasty?

In its simplest form, bread and butter pudding is made with plain white stale bread, raisins or currants, milk, egg and a sprinkling of nutmeg.  For something more decadent, you can substitute a rich, buttery brioche or croissant for the bread, some cream for the milk, and spike with alcohol for a more grown up version.

The traditional version of this dessert was a regular pudding in my household growing up.  And a favourite.

For my version to showcase as part of ‘British Desserts’ month, I wanted to give a nod to the flavours of another of my favourite British dessert, the Sticky Toffee Pudding.  So instead of using a store-bought bread, I baked up a version of my own sweet bread, injecting all the date and spice flavour typical of this popular pudding.  The final baked pudding was then served with a healthy dose of homemade butterscotch sauce.

The result?  The essence of the bread and butter pudding was importantly sustained, but the spice ladened bread, and the rich, buttery butterscotch sauce, certainly made for a slightly more self-indulgent pudding.  A perfect treat for the cooler Brisbane winter evenings.

{ Sticky toffee bread & butter pudding } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

Quick note  – do not confuse the humble bread and butter pudding with its heavier and richer cousin, the bread pudding.  Both are equally delicious, but they are different desserts.

* Ingredients *
6 slices of spiced date bread (recipe following)
Butter to spread
2 cups of milk
2 eggs

* Directions *
Butter the bread, and cut into slices.  Place buttered side up, in layers, into a greased overproof dish.  Warm the milk to almost boiling point.  Whisk the eggs and lightly pour the warmed milk onto them, stirring at the same time.  Strain the mixture over the bread.  Bake at 180C/350F for 30-40 minutes, or until set and lightly browned.  Serve with butterscotch sauce.

Serves 4

{ Butterscotch sauce } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

* Ingredients *
1 cup (220g) brown sugar
125g / 1 stick butter
1 cup (250ml) cream

* Directions *
Combine the sugar and butter into a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat.  Once butter has melted and the sugar starts to dissolve, stir in the cream.  Bring the sauce to almost boiling point, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes.  While simmering keep stirring to ensure a smooth consistency.  Serve warm.

{ Spiced date bread } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

This recipe takes around four hours from beginning to end.  You will need to plan accordingly but the taste will be worth the effort.

* Ingredients *
1 cup milk
¼ cup water (110F/45C)
3.5g / ½ package dried yeast
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon mixed spice
4½ to 5 cups of plain, all purpose flour
¼ cup / ½ stick of butter, melted
1 cup chopped, fresh dates
Glaze:
1 egg, lightly beaten

* Directions *
Warm the milk in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edge.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 110F/45C.  In the meantime, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.   Stir in the milk, sugar, salt, beaten eggs, spice and 1 cup of the flour.  Beat the mixture until smooth.  Add 2 more cups of flour and continue to beat.  Continue until the dough is glossy.  Add the melted butter and stir well.  Add a further 1½ cups of flour and continue to beat well.  Stir in the remaining ½ cup of flour bit by bit until the dough is stiff – you may not need to add it all.  Knead in the chopped dates.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.  Then knead the dough lightly until it is smooth and glossy.  Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, lightly spraying the top of the dough with oil to prevent drying.  Allow to double in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.  Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled, about 1 hour.  Turn out onto a floured surface.  You should have roughly have between 2.4-2.6lb / 1.1-1.2kg of dough in total.  Divide into three equal parts and shape to make three separate loaves, and place into lightly greased loaf tins.  Let rise for 20-30 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Brush each loaf lightly with egg and then bake for 20-30 minutes.

It was the image of a red summer cottage that first caught my attention.  It was set in surroundings so lush and green, it almost looked artificial.  There was an impression of open space, as far as the eye, almost teasing you into the page.  The picture was serene.  Tranquil.   The scene was nested in the archipelago known as Åland.

I remember the article on Åland in that particular travel magazine well before I even knew I would be one day visiting Finland.  That handsome image of the red cottage somehow just stuck with me.

Unfortunately, despite now having traveled to Finland, I still have not had the pleasure of visiting this picturesque area.  But there was a plan.  In Finland, take the ferry from Turku (in Finland’s west) across to Stockholm.  Along the way, stopping at – you guessed it! – Åland.

But the plan was not foolproof.  A fear of my motion sickness, which regrettably is heightened on water, ultimately stood between me and discovering more about this charming area.  (I am still unable to erase the nightmare – for me and all the other passengers – of a rough ferry trip between Koh Samui and Koh Phan Ngan almost 20 years ago!)

Once part of Sweden, Finland now maintains sovereignty over the Åland Islands.  Although this Swedish speaking province is now an independent territory, an autonomous nation, I could not resist including this dessert during ‘Finnish dessert’ month.

{ Åland Pancake } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

This is a traditional dish of Åland.  I have seen recipes including a base of cream of wheat or semolina, as well as rice.  Some including raisins.  Most including cardamom (of course!).  And nearly all suggesting this unconventional pancake, be served with cream and cooked fruit or jam of fruit in season.

This version is my variation on the Åland Pancake.  If you enjoy the baked custardy taste of the Far Breton, the quintessential flan from Brittany, you will love the Åland Pancake.  It is creamy, dense and very smooth  – and just perfect with a dollop of lingonberry jam, a staple in this region of the world.

If you know of the Åland Pancake, I would love to hear about the technique you use.

* Ingredients *
¼ cup short grain rice
2 ½ cups of milk
3 large eggs
¼ cup caster sugar
¾ cup plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch salt
Lingonberry (or cranberry) jam, to serve

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F.  Grease an oven proof casserole dish.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients.  Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serves 4

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