Mary Berry’s Queen of puddings

queen of puddings3 

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.

queen of puddings6


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.

queen of puddings13


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.


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.

queen of puddings12


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!!!

queen of puddings11


My first real challenge: Mary Berry’s treacle tart with woven lattice top

The History Treacle Tart is odd.  It doesn’t have any treacle in it! Treacle Tart’s key ingredient is actually Golden Syrup, which makes this delightfully British desert, fairly young, as it was only “invented” with the advent of the gold … Continue reading

Mary Berry’s Tarte au Citron

The History I must admit, I have really struggled with finding the origin of this recipe.  No amount of support from Twitter has been able to support either. Thanks go to my friend Jane, who found a couple of French websites as … Continue reading

Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The History

This flat bread topped with olive oil, spices and other ingredients is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or Ancient Greeks.

Focaccia, known and loved in Italy and abroad, is yeasted flat bread which belongs essentially to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Early versions were cooked on a hearth of a hot fire, or on a heated tile, like the related flatbreads. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread. Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a brush prior to rising and baking.

Many regions of Italy have an inventive range of flavorings they add to their focaccia. For many centuries it has had an association with Christmas Eve and Epiphany. Italian focaccia has branched out in various directions. Savory versions are more familiar, they can contain olive oil, rosemary, sage, garlic, cheeses, and onion. There are also sweet recipes of focaccia containing eggs, honey, raisins, anise, sugar, and lemon or orange peel. These enrichments make the product so different from plain bread that in at least one place in Italy though history it escaped a tax placed on bread.

Today we enjoy this versatile bread alone as a snack or light meal or on the side, complementing a full meal.


My experience

I have never made bread before. The closest thing to a Foccacia I have baked, would probably be a brioche, which was a complete disaster as I used the wrong yeast. So I was quite nervous about this. Added to the mix, I was making this for a dinner party so really couldn’t afford to mess it up.

But, it was a infallible success.  It was, quite simply delicious. Light, perfectly formed and really tasty. I was so impressed. And I couldn’t believe how easy it was.

To ensure success, I would recommend watching the following video so you can hear all of Mr Hollywood’s tips, plus see for yourself the texture of dough you’re looking to create – without that I would’ve added more flour as I thought the dough was too wet, and in doing so, would have completely messed it up.

But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed making the Foccacia. The whole kneading process was quite therapeutic. My hubby and friends were suitably impressed too. I would definitely recommend this recipe. Thank you Mr Hollywood.



The Recipe

Over 2 hours preparation time

30 mins to 1 hour cooking time

Makes 2 loaves

This focaccia recipe is easy to make and easy to adapt. Try adding herbs such as rosemary or thyme, or perhaps some chopped chilli.


  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 sachets dried easy blend yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 400ml/14fl oz cold water
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • fine sea salt

Preparation method

  1. Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.
  2. Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre, turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.
  3. Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.
    Kneading bread with oil
    Watch technique: 1:01 mins
  4. Line two large baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and divide into two portions. Flatten each portion onto a baking sheet, pushing to the corners, then leave to prove for one hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.* When cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.


*it’s at this point you can add your herbs, tomatoes, potatoes etc.  I made one simply with fresh rosemary and sea salt, and the second as the first but with sun-dried tomatoes.  Lovely!

A good tip, included in the GBBO book, but not here, is that as this recipe makes two, you can freeze the bread quite easily.  Wrap it it in greaseproof paper and clingfilm, bung in the freezer.  When you’re ready to bake it again, allow it to defrost (takes a couple of hours), sprinkle with olive oil, and bake in the over for 5-7 minutes.  Fabulous!

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.


Classic crème caramel

  The History Crème caramel is, in essence, a custard dessert made with whipped cream eggs and topped with caramel.  Whilst, we traditionally think of it as a French dessert, there are actually a number of different variations, with different names. … Continue reading