Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Plethora of Puddings

Close your eyes and consider the word “pudding.” What images come to mind?

Are you visualizing Jell-O-brand boxes of packaged chocolate powder and gelatin? Bill Cosby advertisements? Pudding Pops? Chocolate pudding pie at Christmastime?

Yep, you’re an American.

Or, are you fondly recollecting your family’s favorite homemade pudding recipe, and slightly less-than-fondly remembering battles with your sibling over whose turn it was to pour a buttery sauce over the cake-like concoction?

Bet you’re from Europe, or from a country where a European nation, likely Britain, exerted considerable cultural - and culinary - influence.

How did a single word come to mean one type of dessert in the U.S., and a completely different type of dessert everywhere else?

In fact, over the centuries, "pudding" has meant many different things to many different people. According to The Food Timeline, the word was first used in medieval times to describe a boiled sausage dish. Lucky for us, puddings made by combining sweet, non-meat ingredients slowly gained in popularity and, by the late 1700s, your typical pudding was a cake-like creation. In the U.S., the introduction of custard powder combined with the skillful marketing of a new, custard-y “pudding” as a health food conspired, during the mid-1800s, to create the pudding we Americans know today.

The most popular South African incarnation of pudding (in the European sense of the word) is called malva pudding. Like a milk tart, malva pudding is a simple, straightforward dessert, easy to whip up for a weeknight treat. Even I – who can’t multi-task and am, shall we say, baking-ly-challenged – was able to pull together one version of malva pudding on Monday as I chatted with friends who had just arrived for dinner, and to prepare another version earlier tonight while my husband (who, by the way, was cooking Botswana chowder) and I shared stories from our day.

The version I liked best is a recipe crafted by the Boschendal Winery and Restaurant, which is located in a lovely spot in the Franschhoek valley, a little over an hour outside of Cape Town. The cake-like part of the pudding is spongy and moist, and the sauce is extremely sweet, although not so sweet so as to give you what Mark terms “sweater-teeth.” If you don’t like desserts that scream “sugar,” however, you might want to modify the recipe below by reducing the amount of sugar in the syrup to ¾ of a cup.

Malva Pudding
Adapted from the Boschendal Winery and Restaurant
Serves 8

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon smooth apricot jam
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Generous pinch salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
½ cup hot water

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the egg, sugar and jam until the mixture is light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. In yet another bowl – a small one – melt the butter, and then add the white vinegar.

Next, add half of the milk to the egg n’ sugar mixture, and stir to combine. Add half of the flour mixture and blend once more. Mix in the remainder of the milk, followed by the rest of the flour mixture. Add the butter and vinegar combination and mix well.

Pour the batter into an 8-inch diameter Pyrex baking dish and cover with a lid or with aluminum foil. (If you’re using foil, make sure the foil doesn’t rest on the batter.) Bake for 45-60 minutes. You’ll know the pudding is ready when the entire top is a toasty brown color.

Just before the pudding is finished baking, put the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepan, and warm over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted. Pour this sauce over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let the pudding stand for a couple of minutes to allow the sauce to soak in, and then serve with a dollop of cream.


Jeanne said...

Mmmmm, malva pudding. I have been meaning to make this for a while but never seem to get past Cape Brandy pudding which I ADORE!

Came across your blog today via Technorati - it's great! I will definitely be popping back to check on you again - keep up the great posts :-)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant blog ... which I've only just discovered


Carolyn said...

Hi Jeanne and Dianne,

Thanks for visiting! Jeanne, I did a quick search of your site and, lo and behold, there was a recipe for Cape Brandy Pudding. I think I may be about to start on a serious pudding kick! Others can find the recipe here:


Anonymous said...

Pudding it's delicious, when I was a child a nicaraguan lady that was my neighbor use to gif me pudding when she made it =3
Thanks for the recipe, now I can prepare it by myself.