Hot Puddings

 

These comforting, time-honoured favourites like creamy rice puddings, sensuous sweet soufflés and moulded fruit charlottes are easy to master and so utterly satisfying to prepare.

MAKING A STOVETOP RICE PUDDING

Gentle simmering is required for the grains to absorb the milk gradually and acquire a creamy texture. A heavy pan is also essential for the rice to cook evenly, and to prevent scorching. Bring 550 ml milk to the boil, add 115 g pudding rice, 60 g caster sugar and ½ vanilla pod. Simmer gently until thick and creamy, 30 minutes.

Stir often during cooking to distribute the rice in the milk. This will help the rice to cook evenly and prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

MAKING A BAKED RICE PUDDING

This English favourite has a thin golden crust. Put 50 g pudding rice in a buttered baking dish with 60 g caster sugar, 1 tsp grated lemon zest, a pinch of salt and 600 ml warm milk. Sprinkle with nutmeg and dot with butter. Bake, uncovered, at 150°C for 1-1½ hours, stirring only once, after the first 30 minutes.

For a rich flavour and crisp skin, dot rice pudding with knobs of butter before baking. Grated nutmeg also adds colour and flavour.

MAKING A HOT SWEET SOUFFLE

The foundation of a baked soufflé is a simple white sauce, and sugar and vanilla are the classic flavourings. The pastry chef’s secret is to bake individual soufflés rather than one large one - it is easier to see when they are done, and they are less likely to collapse. Here are two other professional techniques.

TRIPLE COATING

To ensure soufflés rise evenly, brush inside ramekins with softened butter, working brush from bottom upwards. Chill until set, then repeat. Half fill ramekin with caster sugar and rotate so the sugar coats the inside, allowing excess sugar to fall into the next ramekin to be coated.

CLEANING RIMS

For straight-sided soufflés, run thumb around inside of rim.

BAKED VANILLA SOUFFLES

 Makes 6
125 g butter
60 g plain flour
500 ml milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
125 g caster sugar
8 eggs, separated

Make a white sauce using the butter, flour and milk. Stir in the vanilla essence and 2 tbsp of the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then beat in the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites to a soft peak, then gradually whisk in the remaining sugar to form a soft meringue. Gently fold the meringue into the white sauce with a large metal spoon. Spoon the mixture into six prepared 125 ml ramekins and bake at 190°C for 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately, lightly dusted with icing sugar.

MAKING A HOT CHARLOTTE

Like the chilled dessert of the same name, this type of charlotte - the pairing of a buttery bread "crust" with a sweet and juicy fruit filling - is traditionally moulded in a bucket-shaped tin of the same name. Stale bread works best because it holds its shape better against the moist fruit.

1. Halve 4-5 slices of bread diagonally, then cut each triangle with a plain biscuit cutter as shown, so they fit in bottom of tin.

2. Halve remaining bread slices as shown. Dip all bread slices in melted butter and overlap them in tin.

3. Put the filling in the centre, packing it down with the back of the ladle, then cover with the remaining bread slices dipped in butter. This will prevent the filling from spilling out when unmoulding.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Charlotte is the name of two different desserts: one is hot (as shown here) and the other, a charlotte russe, is cold. The hot pudding was created by a chef during the reign of England's most famous mad king, George III. It was named in honour of Charlotte his wife and queen. The cold version, charlotte russe, was the inspiration of Carême, a famous French pastry chef to the Russian Tzar Alexander in the 19th century. It is an elaborate uncooked dessert made of a rich cream poured into a mould lined with sponge fingers.

STEAMING A PUDDING

Old-fashioned puddings were wrapped in pudding cloths for steaming, but nowadays foil is used. Careful handling is required because the bowl and foil become extremely hot during the long steaming time. The technique shown here reduces the risk of scalding.

1. Pleat together a piece each of baking parchment and foil large enough to fit comfortably over bowl.

2. Put parchment and foil over bowl and tie string under the lip and over the top of the bowl to make a handle.

3. Use the string handle to lift the pudding in and out of the pan. A trivet in the pan distributes heat evenly.

APPLE CHARLOTTE

Serves 6
500 g each cooking apples and Granny Smith's, roughly chopped
100 g unsalted butter
250 g sugar
50 g walnut pieces
10-12 large slices of white bread
Apricot jam glaze

Sweat the apples and 25 g butter over a low heat for 15 minutes until softened. Stir in the sugar, walnuts and cook until the apples begin to break up. Melt the remaining butter. Remove crusts from bread and cut bread to ft inside a 1.5-litre charlotte tin. Dip bread into butter and use to line tin. Fill with compote; cover with remaining bread. Cover with foil and bake at 190°C for 1 hour or until firm. Turn out on to a serving plate and brush with warm glaze. Serve hot.