English Summer Puddings

Having an English grandmother means having memories of superb and peculiar summer desserts. Considered quite unusual by North American standards, these desserts rely heavily on molds and gelatin tins, pound cakes soaked in fruit juices and swirls of heavy cream whipped with well-cooked berries, rhubarb and apples - mashed and chilled and arranged in a semi-formal presentation that is best given outdoors. With strange names like Whim-Whams, Syllabubs and Fruit Fools, the array of English summer desserts are as lively to the palette as they sound.

In the June, 2000, issue of Martha Stewart Living there is a wonderful and nostalgic look at these grandmotherly, English 'puddings' and how to prepare them yourself.

The classic summer pudding terrine takes center stage in front of an arrangement of fragrant roses in Martha's back yard. The dessert consists of white bread soaked in berry juices molded around a melange of cooked, sweetened and chilled berries and fruits. Towards the back of the table is the blancmange, a molded jelly dessert made of almond-steeped milk. Each place setting offers a healthy helping of red gooseberry fools - a mixture of whipped cream and sweetened berry preserve.
Plate cakes are an English tradition that date back decades. Black currants, raspberries, gooseberries and apples are mixed inside a flaky dome of pastry crust. They are baked on oven-proof plates and can be served either warm or cool.
Fools are made with crushed, sweetened, soft fruit that is folded into whipped heavy cream. Green and red gooseberries are used to make two of the fools above. Blueberries flavour the third.
Whim-Whams are essentially miniature trifles, combining delicious custard, berries, cream, brandy (optional) and crisp almond biscuit pieces.
A closer look at the blancmange: For presentation, sugared currants are placed around the cake plate. The flavour is light, nutty and creamy.
Iced lemon-and-raspberry syllabubs look beautiful topped with candied lemon rind. These simple and refreshing desserts have been popular in England for more than 300 years.

1 comment:

Pru said...

I enjoyed this post alot. Everything looks so quaint and 'English'. A confession though - I still don't know what a whim wham is, but I did spend most of the day dreaming of Syllabub and was planning on making a Summer Pudding soon - maybe with brioche instead of white bread though.

Thank you again for such a lovely post.