Fruit and puddings

Fruit and puddings

Leiths School of Food and Wine
58 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
Peter Cassidy

A pudding can be a simple arrangement of seasonal fruit or a baked crumble, or an elaborate and complex combination of flavours and textures. This chapter teaches the skills and techniques needed to create recipes that can be served as stand-alone puddings, or be used as a component of a more intricate dessert. Flavourings are classic, well known and loved, with some interesting contemporary twists. This allows the cook to create the popular classic puddings and, having mastered the techniques, to experiment with and explore more unusual flavour combinations.

Citrus fruit

Citrus fruit, whether playing a dominant or minor role, is an essential ingredient in many puddings and plays an important part in savoury dishes too. The aromatic zest adds depth and contrast, particularly to rich dishes, and can transform creams, chocolate or even crumble toppings from the ordinary to the sublime. The juice can be used to make jellies, and the segmented flesh is easily transformed into the much loved classic pudding: caramel oranges.

Segmenting citrus fruit

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

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

2. 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.

3. Trim away any pith left on the fruit, but don’t over-trim, which wastes fruit and makes the segments misshapen.

4. Put the fruit on its side on a board and carefully cut on either side of the membrane, dividing the segments.

5. Use the knife to ease each segment out and place in a bowl.

6. Once all the segments have been removed, squeeze the remaining core and membrane over a bowl, to extract all the juice. Tip any juice caught on the tray beneath the board into the bowl as well.

Zesting citrus fruit

The zest is the very thin outer skin of citrus fruit and does not include the thick, white, soft pith lying beneath, which is very bitter. The zest is made up of tiny little cells filled with the natural oils of the particular citrus fruit, which provide a wonderful, concentrated flavour. Buy unwaxed fruit if you are using the zest.

The best way to remove the zest is to use a very fine, very sharp grater or fine zesting Microplane, and to grate only the outer skin. Avoid digging too deep with the grater or some of the white pith will be removed with the zest, giving a bitter flavour.

Sometimes a strip of finely pared zest is used to lend flavour to a savoury or sweet recipe, then discarded before serving. Again, use unwaxed fruit.

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

1. Using a swivel peeler, start from the top of the fruit and, as you draw the peeler down towards the bottom, wiggle it a little to remove a wide, fine strip of zest, avoiding the bitter pith.

2. If some pith is removed with the zest, place the pared zest on a board, pith side uppermost, and use a serrated knife to carefully shave the pith off the zest.

Citrus zest julienne

To obtain needle-like shreds of zest, to use as a garnish, trim off any uneven edges from zest strips, then layer on the board and, using a large knife, slice through the zest into fine julienne.

To soften citrus zest julienne

To use the julienne in a savoury dish, simmer them in water for 3–5 minutes to soften before adding them.

If you are using them in a sweet dish, they must be softened in a sugar syrup first: Pare and julienne the zest from one or more oranges, lemons and/or limes. Put 1 quantity of stock sugar syrup in a saucepan and add the citrus zest julienne. Place over a medium heat and simmer gently for 3–5 minutes, or until the zest is starting to soften. Remove the julienne with a slotted spoon and place on baking parchment, spreading them out to cool and dry.

To crystallise citrus zest julienne

Dredge a sheet of baking parchment with caster sugar. Once the julienne have softened in the sugar syrup, remove them with a slotted spoon to the parchment, separating and coating each julienne with the sugar. Once cool, transfer to an airtight container.


Any seasonal fruits can be used to make compotes, which are delicious served with yoghurt, ice creams, bavarois, plain baked cheesecakes or in soufflé omelettes. Spooned over pancakes or waffles, a compote can transform breakfast. They can be successfully frozen too, providing summer flavour for the darkest winter days. Any kind of dried fruit can also be soaked and then used to make a tangy compote when soft fruits are unavailable or out of season.


Crumbles make a warming and satisfying pudding and are always popular. Varying the flavour means that you can make the most of fruit gluts in season, but fresh, frozen or even good quality tinned fruit can be used to delicious effect when fresh fruit is scarce. You can replace some of the flour with oats or granola to add interesting flavour and texture, or add chopped nuts and spices. The method for a crumble topping uses the rubbing in technique used for shortcrust pastry making. Taste the fruit filling before topping with the crumble; you may need to add more sugar if the fruit is less ripe and therefore less sweet.

Steamed puddings

Steamed puddings are simple to make, although this gentle method of indirect steaming does take longer than baking in a conventional oven. The basic recipe, which is a creamed sponge, can be adapted to include fruits or spices, and offers the creative cook the opportunity to experiment. Assembled well in advance to cook slowly, this is the ideal comfort pudding to round off a leisurely dinner in cold weather, when you want to avoid last minute preparation. Just don’t allow the pan to boil dry!

Preparing a pudding for steaming

1. Put a trivet into a large saucepan (big enough to easily contain the pudding basin) that has a tight-fitting lid. Alternatively, use a folded piece of thick cardboard or a cardboard egg carton (trimmed to fit). This will keep the base of the pudding basin off the bottom of the saucepan, which is its hottest part.

2. Cut out one sheet of foil and 2 sheets of greaseproof paper, at least twice the diameter of the top of the pudding basin. Make a small pleat, about 3 cm wide, in the middle of the foil.

3. Put one sheet of greaseproof paper on top of the other and make a similar pleat. Lightly butter one side of the double greaseproof paper. Cut a piece of string, the length of your open arms.

4. Spoon the mixture into the pudding basin and level it out. Place the greaseproof paper buttered side down on top of the pudding basin.

5. Cover with the sheet of foil and push it down and around the top rim of the pudding basin.

6. Fold the string in half and place the doubled string around the pudding basin under the lip, over the foil. Feed the cut ends between the folded end and tighten the string. Separate the 2 cut ends and bring each string around the pudding basin, still under the lip, then tie tightly in a knot.

7. Put the 2 strings together, take them over the pudding basin to the other side and tuck through the string on the other side, leaving the ends loose to create a handle. Tie the string securely.

8. Lift up the foil around the string to expose the greaseproof paper and trim the paper fairly close to the string. Trim the foil to leave a 3–4 cm border.

9. Tuck the foil around the greaseproof paper towards the lip of the pudding basin, ensuring all the greaseproof paper is enclosed in the foil. Your pudding is now ready for steaming.

Baked sponge puddings

The lovely self-saucing lemon sponge below and the slightly more temperamental chocolate fondant are two of the most tempting baked puddings. The lemon pudding separates invitingly on baking into a light sponge over a zesty sauce. The beauty of the fondants is that the batter can be made well in advance, transferred to the tins and kept in the fridge until required. As long as you keep a careful eye on the clock when they are in the oven, the centre should remain rich and saucy. Few puddings can boast this level of indulgence, or are more popular.

Sweet soufflés

Considered the most luxurious and (some would say) most challenging dessert, soufflés display the magical science of cookery at its best, yet they are actually relatively straightforward to prepare. A crème pâtissière base (or a variation of one) is flavoured, then lightened by folding in a simple meringue (whisked egg whites and sugar). On baking the mixture rises impressively in the oven.

Custards and crèmes

Eggs are the common factor in all the recipes in this section, primarily used for their ability to thicken, set, lighten and enrich a mixture. When whole eggs are used, the set of a dish is firmer than when only the yolks are used, so a baked custard set using whole eggs will be firmer than a crème brûlée, where yolks alone are used. Where eggs are the main component in a recipe, it is often necessary to use a bain marie to ensure gentle cooking, and success here is dependent on knowing how to cook eggs gently.

Bear in mind that the oven temperatures given are a guide. They will differ depending on the size of the ramekin or dish, the heat of the water in the bain marie and the oven.

Bread and milk puddings

Owing their existence to thrifty times, when a filling but inexpensive pudding was required, these have been both nursery and grown-up favourites through history. Appealing in their simplicity, they tend to be comforting rather than elegant. However, replace the bread in a bread and butter pudding with leftover panettone and a humble classic becomes something rather more sophisticated. Similarly, a rice pudding can be infused with spices, or adorned with a fruit compote to take it to a different level.


Batters form the basis of so many simple and delicious dishes, from pancakes to Yorkshire puddings. The trick is knowing how much liquid to add, so that the perfect consistency is achieved, particularly when mastering the art of the French crêpe. Resting a crêpe batter before use also makes the end result lighter and more delicate. Clafoutis, a classic French dessert traditionally made with black cherries, is easy to prepare, and transforms a simple batter into an informal pudding which can be adapted to accommodate the soft and stone fruits of the season.

Whisking cream

When cream is whisked, air bubbles are trapped as the cream thickens, enabling whipped cream to lighten and enrich mixtures, even helping them to set.

Whipping cream, which generally has a fat content of 35%, creates a good volume when whisked. Double cream (45% fat) can be relatively easily whisked, but produces a heavier result than whipping cream. Single cream has too low a fat content (22%) to be successfully whisked.

It is very easy to over-whisk cream; many a roulade has been ruined by the grainy, fatty texture of over-whipped cream. To help avoid this, make sure the cream is cold before you whisk it. On a hot day, it is a good idea to whisk cream slowly, by machine or with a balloon whisk, as it can suddenly thicken.

If you are adding sweetness and flavourings to cream, such as icing or caster sugar, vanilla seeds or grated orange zest, add them before you start whisking. If added at the end of whisking, too often the cream becomes over-whisked, because as you adjust the seasoning, the cream thickens up more and more. If you add acid or alcohol to cream, it will thicken much faster than usual.

If you are folding whipped cream into a sweet mixture, taste it when the other ingredients have been added, then adjust the sweetness accordingly. If you are eating the whipped cream with no added flavourings, you need to sweeten it with sugar or it will taste bland. If the cream is to go with something very sweet, such as meringue, it must be sweetened more, rather than less, than cream served with something less sweet. This is because the extreme contrast in sweetness gives the cream a slightly savoury flavour.

Whipping cream to different consistencies

–Soft peak: When whisked to this stage, cream is thick enough to form soft peaks that hold briefly as you lift the whisk, then dissipate back into the cream. If cream is to be folded into another mixture, such as crème pâtissière, it should be of a similar consistency, usually soft peak.

–Medium peak: To use for sandwiching cakes together or for piping, cream needs to be whisked to a slightly firmer peak, so it is just holding its shape but not splitting or looking ragged and textured if piped.

–Piping consistency: When piping whisked cream, it may overheat in a piping bag held by warm hands, and the last of the cream may curdle before it is piped. To avoid this, slightly underwhisk the cream, or only half-fill the piping bag.

Rescuing over-whipped cream...

If cream is a little over-whipped, you can rescue it by folding a little milk into it. It may first appear to thicken lumpily, but then it should smooth out and soften a little. Take care, as too much milk will loosen the cream too much, and it will be too runny to use.

Folding-in technique

Developing an effective and efficient folding in technique will help to maintain volume in egg whites, mousses and foams and prevent lumps of flour or other dry ingredients from being suspended in the mixture. When folding in, choose a very large bowl and spoon (with a fine edge, so ideally metal; a wooden spoon is not ideal for folding). A large rubber spatula is also effective for folding in.

Recipes will often ask for you to stir one spoonful of egg white into the mixture first. This ‘sacrificial’ spoonful can be stirred in more vigorously than the rest, as it helps to loosen the mixture, making it more accepting of the remaining egg white. It is then easier to fold through the remaining egg white, creating minimal loss of volume.

When folding, use the spoon to cut through the centre of the mixture down to the bottom of the bowl, then draw the spoon diagonally through the mixture to the opposite side of the bowl closest to you. Turn the bowl about 90° and repeat the folding action, and keep repeating it until almost all the egg white has been incorporated. The mixture will be further folded as it is poured into moulds; it is important that the mixture is not over-mixed or it will lose volume.

Flour and butter are folded into egg and sugar foams when making cakes. When folding in flour to a mixture, wiggling the spoon a little as it is drawn diagonally through the mixture is often effective in breaking up small pockets of flour.


Meringues are universally popular and they form the basis of many desserts, from pavlova to Îles flottantes (poached meringues floating on a pool of custard). There are three basic types of meringue:

Swiss meringue: This is the most straightforward, widely used meringue, made by incorporating caster sugar into whisked egg whites. It is also the least stable and should be cooked as soon it is made. The resulting meringues should be crisp and dry all the way through. The addition of acidity such as white wine vinegar or lemon juice, as well as a little cornflour, helps to keep the meringue mallowy inside if required, for example for a pavlova. Using an electric whisk, the sugar can be added, little by little, once the whites have reached the stiff peak stage. The method adds just a tablespoonful of sugar per egg white to begin with, before the remainder is folded or whisked in. This method is less likely to lead to a loss of volume or softening due to over-whisking.

Meringue cuite: This is most often used to create baskets and structures, because the mixture is so stable and the resulting meringue is very dense, chalky and dry throughout. It is made using icing sugar, added to egg whites which have been whisked to a foam. The meringue is then whisked over heat, which helps to stabilise the egg whites. Meringue cuite’s stability means that the uncooked mixture can be kept for 24 hours before using.

Italian meringue: For this meringue a sugar syrup, made with granulated sugar, is whisked into egg whites that have been whisked to the stiff peak stage, which helps to stabilise the meringue. It should be dry throughout when cooked.

Gelatine-set desserts

A well-flavoured fruit jelly, creamy pannacotta or softly set cold soufflé can provide a light and elegant end to dinner. Understanding how to use gelatine is a valuable addition to your culinary skills.

A guide to using gelatine

Gelatine is a natural setting agent, refined commercially from animal bone and skin. It has a fairly low setting and melting point, so dishes set with gelatine are always served cold. Agar agar, a vegetarian alternative, can be used to set dishes that are served hot.

Gelatine has a better mouthfeel than agar agar and can literally be soft and melting when served at the right temperature. Agar agar has a different structure and retains this even when warm, providing a much firmer texture than gelatine.

Gelatine is available in both powdered and leaf form. A guide for use is that 3 teaspoons powdered gelatine is equivalent to 3 sheets of bronze leaf gelatine, which will set 570–600 ml liquid. If the liquid is a purée, a little less gelatine is required.

Gelatine is affected by alcohol and acidity and you may need to add extra gelatine when using a high proportion of these ingredients. For agar agar, follow the packet instructions, as different brands can vary. Gelatine is also sensitive to certain enzymes in fruit and will not set kiwi, papaya or pineapple, although pineapple jelly will set if you add a little chilli to it.

When serving gelatine-set mixtures such as jellies, mousses and cold soufflés, always remove them from the fridge at least 20–30 minutes before serving to allow the mixture to come to room temperature, which softens the gelatine and makes it more palatable.

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.

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

2. Leave this 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.

3. 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 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.

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

2. 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).

3. 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 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 570–600 ml 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.


A bavarois is a flavoured custard, or crème anglaise, lightened with cream and set with gelatine. It is unmoulded to serve and often presented with a fruit compote.

Cold soufflés

Cold soufflés are really very light flavoured mousses set with gelatine, using the technique of setting point described; they are not made at all in the same way as hot ones. Traditionally, they are set in soufflé dishes, within a paper collar, so the sides are raised, giving a soufflé-like appearance. Alternatively, they can be served in glasses or a large bowl, just like a mousse.

Setting point for cold soufflés, mousses etc.

A liquid or mixture with gelatine in it must be brought to ‘setting point’ (over an ice bath for speed), so it can combine with a foamy mixture without separating. Whipped cream, whisked egg whites or a mousse of yolks may be added to a gelatine mixture, to create volume and lightness in the finished dish. The gelatine also prevents other ingredients sinking to the bottom, such as the vanilla seeds in a cold vanilla soufflé.

1. Once you have added the gelatine (either dissolved powdered or sponged leaf) to the mixture, place it over an ice bath (a larger bowl half-filled with ice cubes and cold water) and begin stirring gently.

2. Stir continuously and gently to ensure an even cooling and setting, until there is a visible thickening, and when a spatula drawn through the middle of the mixture creates a ‘parting of the waves’ (when the mixture parts briefly, for 3–5 seconds before flooding back together).

3. At setting point, remove the dish from the ice bath and gently fold in the lighter mixture, such as lightly whipped cream or soft/medium peak whisked egg whites.

Ice creams, sorbets and granitas

These can be served on their own or to complement another pudding and have the advantage that they can be made well ahead. There are 4 main methods of making ice creams. Some of these use techniques covered in other chapters; you may find it useful to refer to these.

Ice creams

All-in-one method: The easiest and quickest method, often used for a yoghurt-based ice cream with added flavouring, such as a fruit purée. The ice cream usually needs churning to develop a smooth texture, which is difficult to achieve otherwise as the fat content is low. These ice creams are crystalline and hard when frozen, but melt very quickly and are therefore difficult to blend in a food processor.

Custard method: This uses crème anglaise as a base, so the ice cream can be very rich. Flavourings are added by infusing the milk or cream before making the crème anglaise, or by adding flavourings, such as fruit purées, once the custard is made. Solid ingredients such as chocolate chips or chopped nuts need to be added after churning or breaking down the ice crystals in a food processor.

Meringue method: For this method a sugar syrup is whisked into stiffly whisked egg whites. Air is incorporated during this process, which gives the ice cream a smooth, creamy texture and makes churning unnecessary. Cream is folded into the meringue base to lend richness. Flavouring, often in the form of a fruit purée, is added at this stage too; intensely flavoured fruits with a high acidity work particularly well with meringue-based ice creams.

Mousse method: Here a sugar syrup is whisked into egg yolks to create a light foam or mousse. The ice cream is enriched with lightly whipped cream folded into the yolk and sugar syrup base. Air incorporated during the whisking process gives the ice cream a rich, smooth texture, which makes churning unnecessary; the ice cream can be frozen immediately. Small quantities of flavourings can be added to the yolks in powder or purée form before the syrup is incorporated. Alternatively, they can be folded into the mousse base, before the whipped cream is added. An ice cream made by this method is often referred to as a parfait.

Churning: Using an ice-cream machine is the best method of churning an ice cream, to break down ice crystals and incorporate air for smoothness and creaminess. If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, the ice cream can be blended in a food processor. It must be frozen in a shallow tray, cut into cubes when frozen and quickly blended to a purée before it melts. Returning the ice cream to the freezer immediately is essential, as if it becomes liquid again the churning is rendered ineffective. If using a food processor, the ice cream ideally should be blended at least twice.

Freezing: Freshly made ice creams are best eaten within 24 hours. They can be frozen for 2 months or more, but their flavour and texture will deteriorate after 2 or 3 days.

Serving: Unless the ice cream is very soft, you should transfer it from the freezer to the fridge 20–30 minutes before serving to allow it to soften a little, making it easier to scoop and serve.

Sorbets and granitas

Sorbets are frozen flavoured syrups or purées. The ratio of sugar in the syrup or purée is important: too much and the sorbet will be too sweet and will freeze to only a soft mush; too little and the sorbet will be icy and hard with large ice crystals. Generally a sorbet made with 1 part sugar to 2 parts other ingredients (such as fruit purée and lemon juice) will achieve a good texture.

Churning gives the smoothest sorbets, but if you don’t have an ice-cream machine, blending in a food processor once the sorbet is semi-frozen will break down the large ice crystals into smaller ones and incorporate air to give a more even texture. In the recipes that follow this is done once, but it can be done twice for an even smoother result. Adding a little egg white also helps to achieve a smoother texture, in part by restricting the formation of large ice crystals.

Granitas are made with slightly less sugar and are not churned or blended. They have an even texture of coarse crystals which are created by forking or breaking up the granita several times during the freezing process.

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