Fruit puddings

Fruit puddings

Leiths School of Food and Wine
19 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
978 184949 550 9
Peter Cassidy

Fruit, with its natural combination of sugar and acidity, provides a wealth of inspiration to the cook. In late summer, a plate of perfectly ripe figs, drizzled with honey and a spoonful of Greek yoghurt, makes an elegant ending to a Mediterranean meal, and takes little effort. A winter treat of a hot fruit pudding, juices bubbling through a crumble, provides a different kind of satisfaction, and even more so when served with custard or clotted cream.

We love the sheer variety when making fruit puddings; cooking with fruit in season, especially when that season is tantalisingly short, as well as the luxury of using varieties available from all over the world.

Some of these recipes were developed to make the most of a fruit in the short spell it is at its best, such as the ripe cherries needed for the cherry cobbler, and some to enjoy a summer glut in a new and delicious way, such as the raspberry and cinnamon torte.

Segmenting citrus fruit

Citrus fruit is an essential ingredient in many puddings. The aromatic zest adds depth and contrast, particularly to rich dishes, the juice can be used to make jellies, and the segmented flesh is lovely in fruit salads.

Removing the segments cleanly from citrus fruit, leaving behind the core and membrane, makes the segments much more attractive and more palatable. To catch any juice as you segment the fruit, you can place the board over a lipped tray.

Top and tail the fruit, to remove just the ends and no more.

Stand the fruit on its end. Using a small, serrated knife, cut off the remaining zest and pith, following the natural curve of the fruit, then trim away any pith left on the fruit.

Put the fruit on its side on a board. Carefully cut on either side of the membrane dividing the segments to release them and place in a bowl. Once all the segments are removed, squeeze the core and membrane over a bowl, to extract the juice.

Zesting citrus fruit

The zest – the very thin outer skin – of citrus fruit, lends a wonderful flavour. It does not include the thick, white, soft pith beneath, which is bitter. If you intend to use the zest, buy unwaxed fruit if you possibly can.

GRATING CITRUS ZEST Use a very fine, sharp grater or fine zesting Microplane, to grate the zest. Avoid digging deeply with the grater or some of the white pith will be removed with the zest, giving a bitter flavour.

Where a recipe calls for the zest of ½ lemon, lime or orange, you will find it easier to zest this quantity from a whole fruit. If the juice is not required for the recipe, wrap the fruit in cling film and keep in the fridge to use another time.

PARING CITRUS ZEST A strip of finely pared citrus zest is sometimes used to lend flavour. Using a swivel peeler, remove a wide, fine strip of zest from an unwaxed lemon (or other fruit), avoiding the bitter pith. If some pith is removed with the zest, use a serrated knife to carefully shave it off from the zest.

CITRUS ZEST JULIENNE To obtain needle-like shards to use for decoration, trim the edges of the zest strips to neaten, then layer on a board and slice into fine julienne. To soften, simmer gently in stock syrup for 3–5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay out on baking parchment to dry.

Fruit jellies

Jellies are a fantastic way of serving fresh fruit and fruit purées, and make a light and elegant end to a meal. Their jewel-like colours and the way they catch the light, especially when served on a bright white plate, can be stunning.

Jellies are served cold, as gelatine will melt as it warms up, causing a beautifully moulded jelly to end up a colourful puddle on the plate. Chill jellies until about 20–30 minutes before they are required, as to serve them straight from the fridge can mean a firm textured jelly on the plate rather than one that is meltingly soft. A jelly made of a very acidic mixture, such as citrus juice, will tend to have a softer set, so can be taken out of the fridge later.

You can experiment with all manner of cups, glasses and dishes as jelly moulds – just pour water into them to wet the inside, and tip the water out before pouring in the jelly mixture. It is a good idea to stick to moulds with reasonably smooth sides to make it easier to unmould the jelly in one piece.

Gelatine is made commercially from animal bone and skin, which sounds unappealing for use in desserts. However, no taste of its origin can be detected in the final flavour of the dish, and those who choose not to use it can substitute vegetarian alternatives such as agar agar. (When using alternatives, follow the packet instructions.) The texture of the finished dish may not be quite as smooth and refined as a dish made with gelatine, but it is a good option for vegetarians.

Gelatine can be purchased in powdered and leaf form. We tend to use powdered when a cold liquid is to be set, and leaf gelatine to set a warm mixture. Powdered gelatine should be soaked (or sponged) in a little cold liquid, then gently warmed to dissolve it. In this liquid form it then combines easily with a cold liquid mixture.

Leaf gelatine is soaked in cold water to soften it, then stirred into a warm mixture to dissolve it, making it ideal for warm mixtures such as a vanilla custard.

Using powdered gelatine

Powdered gelatine needs to be rehydrated with water, a technique called ‘sponging’. The gelatine is then dissolved gently over a low heat before use.

Sprinkle the powdered gelatine evenly over a minimum of 3 tbsp cold water in a small saucepan.

Set aside to ‘sponge’ (absorb water) for 5–10 minutes. The gelatine will become jelly-like and translucent. The sponged gelatine can happily sit like this for a while.

When ready to use, put the saucepan over a very low heat and leave the gelatine to dissolve gently, until no grains are visible. Avoid stirring or splashing up the sides of the pan.

A note on using powdered gelatine…

Don’t dissolve gelatine over a high heat. If gelatine gets too hot, it can lose some of its setting properties. Once the powdered gelatine is fully dissolved and has the appearance of a clear, smooth liquid, it is ready to use. Make sure the liquid or mixture you are adding dissolved gelatine to is not fridge cold, or the gelatine will cool very quickly into strings and lumps as it is added, resulting in an uneven set and unsatisfactory texture.

Using leaf gelatine

Leaf gelatine is much easier to use than powdered, but because it needs a warm to hot liquid or mixture to dissolve, it can’t be used universally, as powdered gelatine can.

Place the leaf gelatine in a bowl of cold water, ensuring the leaves are covered and leave for 5–10 minutes to soften.

Once the leaf gelatine is soft to the touch, pick out the individual leaves. Count the sheets in and out to ensure they are all removed and used (as the leaf gelatine absorbs water it turns translucent and is difficult to see in the water).

Give the sheets a squeeze to remove excess water, then add them to a warm to hot liquid or mixture, to dissolve them completely. Strain the mixture, if possible, to ensure all the gelatine is completely dissolved, checking the sieve for any undissolved gelatine.

A note on using leaf gelatine…

You need to be aware that different brands of commercial leaf gelatine vary in strength. The gelatine recipes in this book have been tested with bronze leaf gelatine. If you are using a different variety, follow the recommended quantity on the packet per 570–600ml liquid.

Don’t use warm or hot water to sponge leaf gelatine, or it will melt and dissolve in the water, leaving nothing to lift out.

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