“Her griddlecakes done to a golden-brown hue and queen Ann’s pudding of delightful creaminess had won golden opinions from all….”
Ulysses, James Joyce
This month we are celebrating the ninetieth birthday of our monarch, and on this blog the most appropriate way of doing so is by dint of a couple of royal regal recipes. After much research I am sorry to say that the link between this pudding and any real queen is tenuous…Queen Victoria once enjoyed a spoonful or two but the mix of a milk custard thickened by breadcrumbs, and topped by sweetened fruit and meringue dates from much earlier, probably quite a long time prior to the first recorded seventeenth century description.
It was a favourite of my grandmother who liked the thrifty use of both yolks (in the custard) and whites (in the meringue).
There are endless variations of this dish, particularly in relation to the fruit component. Lemon zest has almost always featured in the milk-breadcrumb base, but the fruit topping can be jam made from any fruit, another type of fruit preserve, a fruit compôte, or a curd.
If you use lemon curd you produce a sort of soft breadcrumb-based lemon meringue pie. This goes particularly well with cubes of bitter chocolate hidden within its folds.
You can make the pudding in individual ramekins (in which case the cooking time will be less) or as one pie.
You can make the pie, including the baking of the meringue, a day ahead and reheat – the meringue will re-inflate – but it is still better to make the meringue element just before serving.
This is how to make it:
For 4 – 6
- 3 eggs, separated
- 75g/3 oz slices of white bread, crusts removed (weigh without the crusts), and cut into tiny cubes (less than 1 cm/½”)
- Couple of walnuts of butter
- 1¼cups/300ml single cream, or you can use a mix of full milk and double cream, plus more cream to serve with the pudding
- Zest of a lemon
- 150g/¾up/6 oz caster sugar plus 2 tbsp/30g caster sugar
- 160g/⅔cup fruit curd – or any fruit preserve.
- 100g 80% plus dark chocolate, kept at fridge temperature, if you are using lemon curd (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 150°C, or, if you have an aga, use the middle shelf of the simmering oven.
- Butter a baking dish – this looks particularly impressive in a glass pyrex dish with a dark fruit preserve layer – raspberry jam for example – as you can see the different layers.
- Sprinkle over the base the cubes of bread.
- Heat the cream (or cream and milk) and the butter until it is just warm.
- Beat in the egg yolks, the lemon rind and two tablespoons of golden caster sugar. You need to be quick about mixing in the egg yolks, you don’t want them to start cooking and become scrambled. If you don’t care about the extra washing up beat them first.
- Pour the mixture over the bread, and bake in the oven until firm – about twenty minutes.
- Cut the lemon you used for its zest and rub the cut edge around the inside of a large (preferably metal) bowl and leave it for about five minutes – this will remove any grease and help the whites to whisk up stiffly,
- If you are using the chocolate, break the cold bar into squares and distribute over the bread-custard base.
- Spread the fruit preserve or curd over the bread-custard base.
- Whisk the egg whites in your prepared bowl until stiff, and then fold in the sugar, until it’s glossy but still thick. Pile the meringue mixture onto the fruit-preserve covered base.
- Lower the oven temperature to 120°C (again, if you have an aga use the simmering oven, but this time put the pudding on the bottom of the aga) and bake until the meringue peaks are golden and crisp – about half an hour.
Listen to some appropriately royal music while you cook this: