Classic desserts with a twist.
One of the great things about winter is that we all feel a little less guilty about merrily diving into warming puddings.
Maybe it’s that we need something to cheer us when the weather is ghastly, or maybe it’s just that we have more time to make desserts when there’s not the lure of the beach, but winter has some cracking attractions in its sweet arsenal.
As the months drag on, though, the desserts can begin to feel a bit repetitive. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, here are some of my simple ways to put a new spin on those old favourites.
Before you start sharpening the pitchforks, lighting the flaming torches and coming to my house to forcibly dissuade me from such heresy as, “changing Nanna’s pudding recipe,” I should point out that these ideas are in no way meant to detract or replace those much-loved originals.
STICKY DATE PUDDING
The first thing you can do is to change the butterscotch sauce. I make mine the way my friend the farmer’s wife first showed me a couple of decades back with 1 cup (250g) melted butter, 1 cup (250g) brown sugar and 1 cup (250ml) cream. Adding up to 1 tbs white vinegar to your sauce is an old bush trick used to knock some of the sweetness off the sauce. Add it little by little until you hit your ideal balance.
I also like to garnish my sticky date with chunks of fresh dates and lots of Vietnamese mint. This hot mint has a bizarre affinity with fresh dates and it adds brightness to the whole affair.
SELF-SAUCING CHOCOLATE PUDDING
You may have seen me presenting a classic self-saucing chocolate pudding on Masterchef recently.
While you’ll find lots of tips for pimping your self-saucing pudding that range from adding raspberries and rose water or all manner of nuts and caramels to more unusual ideas like adding blue cheese, the savviest addition I’ve come across is adding salt flakes. This knocks off some of the teeth-aching sweetness and makes it taste even more chocolatey.
The simple change to this other classic self-saucing pudding is to step up the citrus and, instead of lemon, use lime or passionfruit, or both.
Any citrus will do, but remember that this sweet, custardy pudding needs a good whack of acidity to make it sing. For this reason, keep some of the ordinary tart lemons in the recipe if you decide, for example, to make a Meyer lemon delicious pudding.
If you choose to make a lime delicious, serve with coconut ice cream instead of the usual vanilla.
This dessert is ripe for reinvention. You can change the fruit or step up the apple filling by adding anything from currants and walnuts or other fruits like rhubarb, kiwifruit or blackberries with a little port.
You can also add any of the spices you would find in an apple pie. A nice combination is to add cardamom and some plump sultanas to the apple.
And remember to use the right apple. A tart apple is needed if you are adding cranberries and maple syrup, or dates and a splash of muscat.
You can help alleviate sweetness by rubbing orange zest through the sugar before mixing into the crumble and adding a little orange flower water into the whipped cream you serve with it.
This neatly takes us to all the ways you can customise the crumble topping itself. The basic recipe is just flour, sugar and butter, but really, you are only limited by your imagination as to what else you can use.
Try crushed pecans for an apple and cranberry crumble, or have a think about using coconut or other nuts and seeds. And while I find oats always a welcome addition, you can also add a different type of crunch with Cornflakes, Weet-bix, coarse breadcrumbs, oats or even muesli.
Recently I’ve been wondering if it’s too mad to give the crumble a bit of savouriness to bounce off the sweetness of the filling by adding grated parmesan, toasted prosciutto or herbs like thyme or a little rosemary. Too much?
Oh, and remember, never overmix your crumble topping. It needs to be crumbly when spooned over the apples. And don’t forget to season with salt.
This classic French upside-down apple pie can be given a whole new lease of life by sprinkling a few rosemary flowers or ever fewer chopped rosemary leaves on it before serving. A little flake salt is another easy twist, or go the whole hog and play with other firm fruit like pineapple, or par-cooked quinces instead of apple.
DARK DELIGHTS Matt Preston’s self-saucing chocolate pudding. For recipe, go to delicious.com.au