Monday, January 30, 2012

Malva Pudding

Malva Pudding
This past week, I was reading Moxyland by Lauren Beukes for my Around the World reading challenge.  Beukes is South African and Moxyland is also set there.  As I researched desserts for South Africa, I was looking for something a little different this time - not something that had to be native but representative of the blend of cultures. 

I was torn between melktert (milk tart, like over on What's Gaby Cooking?) and malva pudding, both of which were absolutely everywhere.  Malva pudding has even been on Oprah, recreated for her by the famous Art Smith.  He is famous, I swear.  At least on this blog.  Then I came across this story about South African home cooking and comfort food on Honest Cooking, and that solidified my desire to make a malva pudding. 

Remember, there is a big difference between what Americans call pudding (a thick, set custard) and the rest of the world calls pudding.  In this case it is a moist cake, made moister by pouring a syrup over the top at the end of cooking.  This is apricot jam based, and every recipe I looked at was emphatic that it must be served with custard.  Luckily I still had some birds custard powder from the import store.  You can see in the picture that I've not exactly perfected it yet (mine is gloppy).

This was delicious, but I didn't come close to being able to eat one serving of it.  It is very rich, very sweet, and very very South African.

South African Malva Pudding (from Honest Cooking)
Serves 6-8
  • 2tbsn unsalted butter
  • 1 cup / 250dl sugar
  • 2tbsn smooth apricot jam/preserves
  • 2tsp white vinegar
  • 2 cups/ 500dl flour
  • 2 cups/ 500dl milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
Syrup :
  • 1 cup / 250dl sugar
  • 1/2 cup / 125dl boiling water
  • 3/4 / 190dl cup unsalted butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°c / 356°f and grease a 20cm square pie/baking dish.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter, sugar, apricot jam and vinegar together until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile sift the flour.
3. Alternating, add the flour and milk until the mixture is smooth and thick.
4. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.
5. Add the baking soda and salt and beat well.
6. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish and bake for 30-45 minutes until the pudding is dark and baked through (a skewer inserted should come out clean).
7. In a small sauce pan, heat the syrup ingredients and cook until all the sugar has dissolved.
8. Pour the syrup over the cooked pudding and allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving with custard. (In South Africa it would be a sin to serve this with anything other than UltraMel custard but you can use any custard you can find)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Po'e - Tahitian Fruit Pudding

Po'e - Tahitian Fruit Pudding
This month for the Around the World challenge, I visited Tahiti by reading Frangipani by Celestine Vaite.  Two recipes come up for baked goods and desserts, at least in internet searching - coconut bread that seems to be a hotel or maybe French influenced tradition, and po'e.  I was very interested in po'e, which was described as a fruit pudding, typically served as part of the traditional tamara'a barbecues, after being baked in the fire pit.  A very poetic description of po'e within its meal context can be read on

The main recipe I found online for po'e is posted on The Polynesian Kitchen blog, and that is the one I used.  It is pointed out that traditionally this would be cooked wrapped in banana leaves, over a fire, but the recipe is adapted to the modern indoor kitchen.

Po'e is basically a fresh fruit, pureed and mixed with cornstarch or arrowroot, a bit of sweetener, and then baked.  It is served by being topped with coconut cream, and I found references online for serving it hot as well as serving it chilled.  The smell of my banana po'e was so enticing, there was no way we were going to wait for this to chill before trying it the first time!  On the French language blog La Cocinera Loca, you can see a wonderful photographic step by step demonstration, even if you can't read the directions.

I thought this was delicious, and different.  I love that you can do the same method with almost any fruit - I came across multiple mentions of pumpkin, yuca, and papaya variations.  


4 to 6 servings

* Ripe bananas, peeled and cut into chunks -- 6-8 Bananas
* Brown sugar -- 1/2 cup
* Arrowroot or cornstarch -- 1 cup
* Vanilla -- 2 teaspoons
* Coconut cream -- 1 cup


1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Puree the bananas in a blender or food processor. There should be enough puree to make 4 cups.
2. Mix together the brown sugar and arrowroot or cornstarch. Add this mixture and the vanilla to the bananas and process well. There should not be any lumps of starch. Adjust sugar to taste.
3. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and pour in the puree. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the pudding is firm and bubbling. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled.
4. Cut into cubes and place into a large serving bowl or in individual bowls. Top with a dollop of coconut cream, a little more brown sugar and serve.**


**Boil and Cook the Bananas on the stove until the fruit turns brown.  Add in remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and pour in mixture. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the pudding is firm and bubbling. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled.

** Try substituting papaya, mango, pineapple, canned Pumpkin or other tropical fruits for some of the bananas. Just make sure there is a total of 4 cups of fruit puree. Ripe plantains can also be substituted for the bananas. For juicier fruits, you will probably have to add more arrowroot or cornstarch.


* Coconut cream is the thick coconut milk that rises to the top of a can of coconut milk. Don't shake the can before you open it and you can skim it right off the top.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Caraway Seed Cake

Caraway Seed Cake
In Dubliners by James Joyce, there is a story called Counterparts.  The main character, Farrington, moves in and out of pubs in Dublin.  As I was reading the stories in this volume, I started marking the food words that I hadn't experienced so I could research them later - barmbracks, blancmange, and then what is mentioned in this passage:
"The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it at a gulp and asked for a caraway seed. He put his penny on the counter and, leaving the curate to grope for it in the gloom, retreated out of the snug as furtively as he had entered it."
While Joyce may have meant a literal caraway seed (this could be a drinking tradition), any search I did of "caraway seed" and Ireland brought me to a variation of the caraway seed cake!  I have had bread with caraway seed in it before, but never something sweet.  I'd already made soda bread in the past, and endless scones, so I was looking for something new to me.

Caraway seed bread may be new to me, but it isn't new to Ireland.  According to Imen over on the I Married an Irish Farmer blog, caraway seed cake is merely a variation of the Madeira cake, which dates back at least to the 18th century in Ireland.  The Maderia cake, really just a pound cake of sorts, is thought to have been developed to eat while sipping Madeira or port wine.  It is very much an afternoon tea type cake, and would have been far more likely to be consumed by women, in groups.  She has a recipe on her site, but I found a version I wanted to try over on Rosa's Yummy Yums.  Rosa is someone I've "known" for several years through the Daring Bakers, so I trusted her recipe!  The two recipes aren't much different - Rosa adds a bit of almond meal and uses orange zest for the lemon, while I went back to the lemon for a more traditional flavor profile.  We will just pretend that Rosa doesn't call this an English cake.  I'm sure it is impossible to keep delicious baked goods a secret for long anyway!

Caraway Seed Cake Slice 

Caraway Seed Cake
A variation of the recipe on Rosa's Yummy Yums

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 Tbsp ground almonds (almond meal/flour)
1/3 cup milk or buttermilk
3 Tbsp caraway seeds

1. Cream butter, sugar, and zest.
2. Beat in almond extract and eggs, one at a time.
3. Blend dry ingredients together and add slowly to mixture, alternating with milk.
4. Stir caraway seeds in by hand.
5. Bake in loaf pan at 350 F, 50-60 minutes.
6. Let cool, slice, and serve!

It is my personal opinion that since this is so close to a pound cake, you probably want to serve it with something, like fruit and whipped cream or some kind of spread.  It could be that I'm just not pound cake's biggest fan.

I made this to accompany my Irish reads for the Around the World Challenge.  Both were easy reads, and recommended.
Dubliners by James Joyce (my review)
A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle (my review)

Monday, January 02, 2012

Croatian Black Pepper Cookies (Paprenjaci)

Croatian Black Pepper Cookies (Paprenjaci)
This year, I am doing a reading challenge called Around the World in 52 Books with a group in GoodReads.  Making the list of what I wanted to read and hunting down the books online and in used book stores has been a blast, and I will be posting reviews in GoodReads and in my reading blog, Reading Envy.

Of course, reading 52 books didn't seem like enough.  I started to wonder if I could challenge myself to do a baked good from every country too.  Either a bread or a dessert.  I'm not sure I'll have time every week, but I'm going to try! 

Most of the time, I will hunt down a recipe before reading the selected book, but I might find myself changing my mind based on what is in the book.  I definitely did that this time around.  I was all set to make a Povitica, which is a nut bread prominent throughout eastern Europe, particularly the former Yugoslavia.  As I read The Tiger's Wife, I kept coming across mentions of pepper cookies in the beginning of the book.  I got curious, did some internet research, and I found such interesting anecdotes connected to paprenjaci that I changed directions.

The one recipe I find online was originally posted by a man named Nitko, who lives in Zagreb and seems to have posted many of his grandmother's recipes online.  These have been copied and reposted many other places on the internet.  His recipe for paprenjaci was promising, but contained lard, and everything was in grams.  I don't eat lard, and wanted a recipe I could share, so what you see below is my take, as close to the original as I could make it.

Croatian Black Pepper Cookies (Paprenjaci)

  • 6 oz butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper*
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons light honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup walnuts, ground (measured first)
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cream butter, sugar, and honey. Mix in egg. Mix in spices, then nuts and flour. Chill dough at least two hours. Roll out and use cookie molds or cookie cutters. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.

* - These are pretty peppery.  Given the chance to make them again, I might do just 1 tsp.

The Tiger's Wife and Croatian Black Pepper Cookies
According to WikiTravel, paprenjaci are said to reflect Croatia's tumultuous history because they combine the harshness of the war periods (pepper) with the natural beauties (honey). This fits right in with the story in The Tiger's Wife. Come read my review!