Individual summer puddings

Homemade summer pudding served with creme fraiche and currants 1
Summer pudding is one of my all-time favourite desserts; I think it could even give the chocolate fondant a run for its money. The pudding has a nostalgic, exciting feeling for me, partly because it meant that the berries and currants at my dad’s allotment were ripe and ready to be used which in turn signaled that summer was well and truly here, but also because I think it’s the first properly impressive pudding that I learnt to make. It’s a sinfully easy recipe, but turning out a perfectly set pudding and slicing into the stunning pink exterior to reveal the jumble of different summer berries inside is a very satisfying feeling indeed.

This is based on a Katie Stuart recipe (the kitchen goddess that our household regularly turn to for instruction, and who I’ve mentioned many times before), though she makes one large pudding to serve about 6 people. If you’re feeding a crowd then I’d highly recommend this – just double to quantities of fruit and sugar below to fill a 2 pint pudding basin (about 1.1 litres) and you will need to use a bit more of the loaf of bread. If, like me, you’re catering for less people then these make the cutest little treats.

A few tips before we begin: make sure you do use stale bread, so remember to buy a loaf in advance. I bought mine two days before I made these and it worked perfectly. Use whatever combination of summer berries that you prefer or have available, but try to use more redcurrants than other berries. For example, I used 180g redcurrants, 100g raspberries, 100g blackcurrants and 70g raspberries. Katie Stuart recommends 450g redcurrants, 225g raspberries and 225g strawberries for one large pudding (double this recipe). You do need to leave the puddings in the fridge overnight so that they set properly so no short cuts here I’m afraid! Inevitably you will be left with crusts and small cuttings from the slices of bread – throw them into a food processor or blender and blitz to breadcrumbs. They can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for months and used as you require for recipes.
Turning scraps of stale white bread into bread crumbs to freeze
One year ago:
Stuffed courgettes
Ingredients for summer pudding
Ingredients (makes 3 individual puddings)
One loaf of stale white bread (you will use about half of it – the rest will make perfect toast!)
450g summer berries
70g castor sugar
Crème fraiche and extra berries to serve

Method
1. Rinse 3 small pudding basins (150ml capacity each) with cold water and thinly cut about half the loaf into 1cm slices – you can always cut more later if you need it.
Sliced stale white bread for summer pudding
2. Trim the crusts from the slices of bread and cut 6 circles – 3 small circles for the bottom of the bowls and 3 larger ones to cover the top – and enough wedges to cover the sides of the basins. Firmly press the small circles into the bottom of the basins and do the same with the wedges round the sides. Make sure there are no gaps at all in the bread lining and plug any with small pieces of the leftover bread.
Removing the crusts from slices of stale white bread
Lining mini pudding basins with stale white bread
3. Put the fruit and sugar into a small saucepan and cover with a lid. Place over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until the fruit has softened.
Summer berries and castor sugar
Summer berries and castor sugar cooked until the fruit has softened
4. Spoon the hot fruit into the pots, ensuring an even distribution of the different types of berries. Fill the basins right to the top, pouring over as much of the juice as possible.
Cooked summer berries ready to fill pudding basins
Filling the bread lined pudding basins with summer berries
Bread lined pudding basins filled with summer berries 3
If you have any extra juice left at the end then don’t throw it away – you can pour a little extra liquid over the puddings once they are turned out, especially useful if there are any little pieces of bread that haven’t been completely soaked through.

5. Place the basins on a large plate or tray (some of the juice will probably spill over the top so this keeps your fridge shelves clean!) and gently press the last 3 circles of bread on top of the puddings.
Topping the pudding basins with circles of stale white bread
6. Put small plates or saucers on top of each pudding and weight down with tins or other suitably-sized heavy objects. Refrigerate the puddings at least overnight.
Weighting down the individual summer puddings
7. When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of each of the puddings and tip out onto small plates. If you have saved some, spoon over a little extra juice.
Homemade summer pudding 1
Serve with a generous dollop of crème fraiche and a few fresh berries or currants.
Homemade summer pudding served with creme fraiche and currants 2
Sweet, soft, sharp and undeniably summery.
Cutting into the mini summer pudding
What do you like to do with summer berries? Do you have any favourite, nostalgic puddings?

Victoria sponge with fresh strawberries and cream

Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again (and many times more): Scottish strawberries are the best strawberries. Despite the amount of moaning we do about our weather here, we are actually lucky enough to live in a country which happens to have the perfect strawberry-growing climate: long daylight hours during the summer, consistent temperatures that aren’t too scorching (see, it’s good for something!) and water, water everywhere. Right now we can get a kilo of Scottish strawberries for £3 in our local supermarket, which is the perfect excuse for over-indulging in the small, sweet treats until your finger tips are stained pink and your tummy is just a liiittle bit sore.

And this weekend is the perfect time to fit some strawberry-themed baking into your schedule, since it’s the Wimbledon finals. This cake is just a regular Victoria sponge, but it’s a handy little recipe to have under your belt, or up your sleeve, or in whatever metaphorical clothing garment you desire. It’s the simple rule of 200:200:200:4, which means 200g of butter to 200g of sugar to 200g of flour and 4 eggs, and it works perfectly every time. A Victoria sponge is often sandwiched together with jam and butter cream icing, which is lovely too, but I think fresh strawberries and double cream are called for during the summer. And without horribly jinxing the outcome of tonight’s semi-final, maybe your Scottish strawberry cake will have a particularly patriotic connotation come Sunday afternoon…

One year ago:
Strawberry and vanilla muffins
Ingredients for Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream
Ingredients
200g soft butter, plus a little extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
300ml double cream
400g strawberries
Icing sugar for decoration

Method
1. Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. Grease and flour 2 x 21cm cake tins.
Greased and lined 21cm cake tin
Or if, like me, you only have one cake tin this size then just bake the layers one at a time. Be ready to wash out the cake tin, and grease and line it quickly the second time, as you don’t want the wet cake batter to sit for too long – the raising agents begin to react as soon as they come in contact with the wet ingredients so should be baked as quickly as possible.

2. Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat well to a light, fluffy consistency.
Soft butter and caster sugar
Creamed butter and caster sugar
3. Slowly beat in the eggs, one by one, and add the vanilla extract. A tip to avoid a split batter (where the mixture looks a little curdled) is to add a dessert spoon of the flour after both the first and third eggs.
Adding eggs to the butter and sugar
4. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold into the cake batter until well combined.
Sifting the flour and baking powder into the wet ingredients
Folding the dry ingredients into the wet mixture
Victoria sponge cake batter
5. Divide the mix evenly between the cake tins and bake for 20 minutes until they are golden brown. The sponge should spring back when gently pushed and a skewer pushed into the centre should come out clean.
Cake batter ready to be baked
6. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the tin. Then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Cooling the sponge in the tin
Cooling the sponges on a wire rack
7. Whip the cream to soft peaks and prepare the strawberries by removing the stalks and cutting into thick slices.
Preparing the strawberries and double cream
8. Place the bottom layer of the cake (I usually pick the flatter sponge for this) onto the plate you want to present your cake on and arrange the strawberry slices into a thick layer.
Arranging the strawberries on the sponge cake
9. Carefully spread a generous layer of double cream on top of the strawberries.
Spreading the whipped double cream on the strawberries
10. Sandwich the top layer of the cake on top of the cream, pressing down firmly.
Sandwiching the second sponge layer 1
Sandwiching the second sponge layer 2
Dust the cake with icing sugar just before serving.
Dusting the Victoria sponge cake with icing sugar
This cake doesn’t really need to be served with anything, other than perhaps even more strawberries piled on top. And of course a cup of tea, or a glass of Pimms if you’re really doing things right, to wash it down with.
Slice of Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream Continue reading

Strawberry Fool

Homemade strawberry fools
Today we’re talking about a quick, easy, straightforward dessert. The kind that you can rustle together in 20 minutes with just a few simple ingredients, and leave in the fridge until dinner time. This is the ideal dinner party pudding, especially during the summer months when you can get hold of perfectly ripe, juicy strawberries. I may be biased, but I think it’s hard to beat Scottish strawberries. Usually the smallest strawberries are actually the ones with the strongest, sweetest flavour, despite the enticing look of the larger, perfectly-strawberry-shaped fruits.

I loosely based this recipe on one from BBC Good Food (my go-to website for recipe guidance and inspiration). I finally got to use a splash of the delicious elderflower liquor that I was given for my birthday. We only added one shot of the liquor, and actually our strawberries had such an intense flavour that they overpowered the elderflower taste. If I was making this again I would definitely add another shot, but of course this will depend on what type of liquor you are using and how flavourful your strawberries are. My advice would be to taste the fool as you go along, to make sure you get the balance just right.
Ingredients for homemade strawberry fool
Ingredients (serves 6)
300g ripe strawberries, plus 100g extra chopped into small pieces
300g Greek yogurt
3 tbsp icing sugar
300ml double cream
1-2 shots of elderflower or fruit liquor

Method
1. Place 300g of your ripest strawberries into a blender and blitz until smooth.
Strawberries for blending to make strawberry coulis
Strawberry coulis
Homemade strawberry coulis
2. Beat together the yogurt and icing sugar.
Greek yogurt and icing sugar for a strawberry fool
3. Add the double cream and whip until thick. You want the mixture to form stiff peaks, but not have that over-whipped consistency.
Adding the double cream to the fool mixture
Whipping the cream and yogurt for a strawberry fool
4. Fold through the liquor and most of the chopped strawberries.
Folding the chopped strawberries through the strawberry fool mixture
5. Very gently fold through the strawberry coulis a little at time so that the mixture is rippled and not completely combined.
Folding strawberry coulis through the fool mixture
6. Spoon the fool into small tumblers or wine glasses, top with the remaining chopped strawberries and chill for at least an hour in the fridge.
Spooning the homemade strawberry fool into cups
We had these little puddings after Sunday dinner, served with amoretti and ginger biscuits. They had a light, but rich consistency and a really intense sweet strawberry flavour. We didn’t actually use all of the strawberry coulis, but it kept in the fridge for the next couple of days and was amazing drizzled over vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt.
Homemade strawberry fools