FOOD & DRINK / A-Z of treats: Bakewell Pudding

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The Independent Culture
B is for Bakewell Pudding, second in our alphabet of sweet indulgences reserved for family and friends on high days and feast days. This British country classic comes down from medieval times when almond tarts were favourites at court banquets. It consists of a delicious filling of almonds, butter and (wishful thinking) new-laid eggs, poured into a pastry case spread with home-made jam, and derives from the Derbyshire village of Bakewell. It was conceived apparently by accident, when a kitchen girl in the village pub misunderstood instructions for a pudding recipe, failing to mix the jam with the other ingredients before baking. In the village it's still called a pudding, served at the pudding stage of the meal, though elsewhere it's known as Bakewell Tart and served cold at teatime.

BAKEWELL PUDDING

Serves 4

6oz short pastry or 8oz puff pastry (you can use frozen)

3 fresh free-range eggs

3oz caster sugar

3oz unsalted butter

3oz ground almonds

2 generous tablespoons raspberry or strawberry jam

Preheat the oven to 400F/

200C/Gas 6. Melt the butter in a pan, then allow it to cool without solidifying. If your jam is very firm, slightly warm it in a pan to make it more easily spreadable.

Roll out the pastry thinly to line a buttered pie dish 2in deep, about 8in across; traditionally, the dish for a Bakewell Pudding is oval with sloping sides. Spread evenly with a layer of jam.

In a bowl, beat the sugar and eggs to a frothy cream. Mix in the melted butter and then fold in the ground almonds. Pour the filling into the pie dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the filling is set (a skewer should come out clean) and the pastry is pale brown. Serve while still hot, and if in self-indulgent mood, with cream.

Variation on a theme: the Victorians knew and loved Bakewell Pudding and Mrs Beeton gives two versions, the conventional one as outlined above and a second which is quite unusual, like an upside down crumble. Instead of using pastry, she lines a pie dish with 3/4 lb breadcrumbs, spreading it with a thick layer of jam, and onto this pours a batter mixture of: 1pt milk, 4 eggs, 3oz melted butter, 2oz caster sugar and 1oz ground almonds. This is baked for one hour in a moderate oven at 350F/180C/Gas 4.

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