Mary Berry’s Queen of puddings

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The History 

Queen of Puddings is a quintessentially English milk pudding.

Apparently, it wasn’t that long ago, that breadcrumbs boiled in milk was an acceptable meal.  In 1833, Scots essayist Thomas Carlyle wrote that,

“On fine evenings I was wont to carry forth my supper (breadcrumbs boiled in milk) and eat it out-of-doors…many a sunset have I, looking at the distant western mountains, consumed, not without relish, my evening meal.”

I can’t imagine hubby being too impressed with me dishing up a bowl of soggy bread and milk for tea!  Although the devil in me fancies giving it a go just to see what reaction I get!  Watch this space . . . ;o)

But, historically, and even today, bread plays such an important part in our staple diets, and it’s not cheap or quick to make; so one hates the potential waste of a stale loaf.  To ensure there wasn’t any waste, it quickly made it’s way into a pudding.  The first domestic puddings were boiled or steamed, and later as ovens were introduced into kitchens; the baked versions which were soaked, spiced and fruited became more popular.  If you were really well off, they might even contain eggs to create the custardy consistency!

But what about the name?  A very similar pudding, the Monmouth Pudding, was first served in the seventeenth century, and an identical pudding, the Manchester Pudding, was popular in the nineteenth century.  Rumor has it, that the Queen of Puddings was given its regal name, when Queen Victoria visited Manchester, and admired a chef’s cooking of the local Manchester Pudding so he thought he would re-name it.

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My experience

Until GBBO, I, like most watching it seems, had never heard of the “Queen of Puddings.”  Having baked this today, I can certainly understand why it was so popular during the frugal post-war years.  However, having now tasted it myself, I’m surprised it warrants such a grand name.

It wasn’t difficult to make.  My one slight downfall was that I didn’t have a 1.4l oval dish, so I think using a dish slightly too big did mean I didn’t have clearly defined layers as they were all a little bit thin.  But overall, I believe it pretty much came out as it should.  At the end of the day, with the full recipe and video for reference, how could you go wrong?  Bread, custard, jam and meringue.  Staple parts of any food lovers repertoire.  I’m not just not 100% sure, as I’ve never tasted it before, so I have nothing to compare it with.

Having said that, I’m not sure if I’d bother making it again.  I think I’d rather have a trifle.  It’s certainly great for an emergency pudding as it uses everything you have in the cupboard.  But it’s just a bit of a nothing pudding.  Just a bit stodgy.  A bit disappointing really.  I think it looks nicer than it tastes.  Sorry Mary.

Anyway.  If you’re not put off by my own experience, remember to watch the GBBO videos prior to attempting the bake.  This is to ensure you know all the tips of the trade, which really create the perfect bake.

You can find Mary’s video for the Queen of Puddings here.

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The Recipe

Less than 30 mins preparation time
30 mins to 1 hour cooking time
Serves 6

Mary Berry’s step-by-step recipe for this retro British pudding of custard, cake and jam topped with soft, chewy meringue.

You will need a 1.4L/2½pt oval ovenproof dish that will fit inside a roasting tin.

Ingredients

For the base
  • 600ml/1 pint full-fat milk
  • 25g/1oz butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
  • 1 lemon, zest finely grated
  • 50g/2oz caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs, yolks only
  • 75g/3oz fresh white breadcrumbs
For the meringue
  • 175g/6oz caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs, whites only
For the fruit jam
  • 200g/7oz fresh mixed summer fruits, or 500g/1lb 2oz frozen. (Alternatively you can use raspberry jam if you prefer.)
  • 200g/7oz caster sugar (or to taste)
To serve
  • Pouring cream

The method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and grease a 1.4 litre/2½ pint shallow ovenproof dish (one that will fit into a roasting tin) with butter.
  2. For the base, very gently warm the milk in a small saucepan. Add the butter, lemon zest and the 50g/2oz of sugar, stir until dissolved.
  3. Lightly whisk the egg yolks in a bowl. Slowly pour the warm milk into the eggs, while whisking.
  4. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the base of the buttered dish and pour over the custard. Leave to stand for about 15 minutes, so the breadcrumbs absorb the liquid.
  5. Carefully transfer the dish to a roasting tin and fill the tin halfway with hot water. Bake the custard in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes until the custard has set. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a little.
  6. Meanwhile, put the mixed summer fruits into a pan and warm over a gentle heat. Once they’ve softened and released their juice, add the sugar and cook for a further three minutes.
  7. Heat gently until you have a jam-like consistency. If you are using frozen berries they will release more liquid so you might need to cook for longer to thicken to the right jam consistency.  If you are using jam from a jar, just heat this up too to make it easily spreadable
  8. Whisk the egg whites using an electric hand whisk on full speed until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Add the remaining 175g/6oz sugar a teaspoon at a time, still whisking on maximum speed until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Transfer the meringue mixture to a piping bag.
  9. Spread 4-5 tablespoons of the fruit jam over the set custard, then pipe the meringue on top.
  10. Lower the oven temperature to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and return the pudding to the oven (not in the roasting tin with water) for about 25-30 minutes until the meringue is pale golden all over and crisp. Serve at once with pouring cream.

Recipe courtesy of bbc, full of more advice and videos

How did you get on with this technical challenge?  Please send me photos of your completed bakes for inclusion in the humble technical challenge gallery, so we can show off to Paul and Mary.

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The Taste
As I said above, I was a bit disappointed really.  It tasted nice.  Custard, jam and meringue isn’t a bad combo.  But it was just a bit blah!  I don’t know how else to put it.  Not to be horrible, but I just wouldn’t bother!!!

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From Russia With Love

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