mercredi 28 avril 2010

So bright and delicate - the Daring Bakers challenge

I cannot remember what day of the week it was or if it was cold and rainy when I went to see the film Bright Star a few months back. On free afternoons, there's nothing I love more than going to the cinema when everyone else is working and I have the impression I'm missing school. I remember though that the auditorium was almost empty in that large multiplex cinema I don't normally go to because the independent art one is nicer and cheaper. But from the moment it started, I was completely transfixed by the stunning images, the exquisite details of Fanny Brawne's needlework and by the all too brief but intense love affair between her and the poet John Keats. It made me long for the freshness of an English summer, the crispness of the frost in winter and to see the flowers in bloom. Afterwards, the impressions lingered in my mind and I found it hard to forget the intensity of this experience.

image from

The day when I discovered the blossom, I walked a short distance to the Burgerpark in Pankow where I used to go jogging and sat close to a large children's playground to eat the leek and goats' cheese tart and raspberry muffin I had brought with me. It was warm with just the gentlest of breezes and I opened the slim volume of Keats' letters to Fanny Brawne and once again found myself hearing that fresh, modern voice which had so captivated me. There are just 17 letters written by Keats and sadly none of hers survived but reading them is truly one the most moving and inspiring experiences ever for me.

"My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again - my Life seems to stop there - I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as if I was dissolving - I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit to my love."

I hope to find this too when I visit Keats' house in Hampstead this summer and walk in their footsteps on the heath where Fanny spent so many unhappy days grieving for him after his death in Italy.

The Daring Bakers' challenge for this month also made me think of the best of England and feel nostalgia for those harsh winter days when you can only be revived by a pudding. The English term "pudding" is sometimes confusingly used as a synonym for dessert but in its original meaning it refers rather to a heavy, solid mass which was steamed or boiled.

The Daring Bakers' challenge was chosen this month by Esther of "The Lilac Kitchen" who asked us all to prepare one of these original puddings, either sweet or savoury, using a traditional ingredient called suet. This is something that comes from innards of animals and I have to admit, I couldn't face using the non-vegetarian version for my pudding but for the recipe, below, you can also skip it altogether if you prefer. I decided upon a syrup pudding since it brings back memories of my childhood when my mother used to make it for us with fresh custard. Traditional puddings require a special form which I've only been able to find in Britain and take 2-3 hours to cook because they have to be steamed. During that time though you can be doing other things though and the result is a light and fluffy sponge with a rich and sweet flavour. I made this for some friends late at night which is why I could once again only photograph the leftovers the next day but I promise to do better next time! For inspiring variations, check out Rosa's stunning My Fair Lady pudding and Sasa's Sticky Date pudding.

Golden syrup pudding

You will need a special 2 pint pudding basin which can be steamed

175g soft unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
175g plain flour
4 eggs, beaten
50g shredded suet or substitute
Grated rind of 2 unwaxed lemons, plus juice of one
2-4 tablespoons milk
200g golden syrup

1. Grease the pudding basin with a little butter. Pour the golden syrup into the bottom of it.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, lemon zest and juice, suet and milk with a hand held mixer. If it's too liquid, add a little more flour or a drop more milk if it's too dry.
3. Pour the mixture ont the syrup and seal with the plastic lid which you should also remember to butter first. Steam over a pan of boiling water for around 2 hours or until it's risen and feels firm. Keep some extra boiling water handy in case it boils dry. When it's ready, remove carefully from the pan with two spatulas and leave a rest a couple of minutes. Serve with custard and ice cream.

22 commentaires:

  1. Keats letter had me swooning. Pudding is tea dinner? I could have read miles more of this post. Wish you had kept writing.

  2. A beautiful post! Your take on the recipe is great! I'd love some of that pudding with ice cream, please...



  3. Whoa, this looks so delicious. It sounds like a great combination of flavors.

  4. Looks delicious... as usual ! but I'll confess I'm more attracted to that muffin you mentioned than to the pudding... For a weird reason dating back to my teenage years in Scotland, I tend to associate pudding and haggis - and still can't really get myself to eat them...

  5. Beautiful story - you're so...literary, and I do mean that in the most admiring way. Actally I'm reading Thackeray's Vanity Fair at the moment and am often in fits at the hilariously old-fashioned language but at times also impressed by the craft and care involved with writing such long and involved sentences. I couldn't find a pud form here either but improvised with a ramen bowl, hehe. The leftovers photo is rather lovely too.

  6. Bright Star was a great movie. I'm currently in the process of watching all of Jane Campion's movies and her work is quite astonishing.
    This pudding looks.. wonderful! I could cope with the long steaming process because I adore this kind of spongy texture..

  7. I have been wanting to see bright star..OH I must purchase that book, love that you put a little in the post..oh what wonderful love..your pudding looks great..lovely post..just lovely


  8. @Tracy - So glad you felt inspired by what I wrote. I would have loved to have written more actually but time was short and I was already late posting with the Daring Bakers. I'm thinking of doing a post though on all the funny linguistic things about food like pudding for dessert. In some parts of Britain (including mine) we do say tea for dinner if it's something a little bit lighter and dinner for lunch if it's the cooked meal. Confusing, eh?
    @Rosa - Thanks so much dear friend. That's a big compliment coming from you because your pudding was just incredible. hope I'll find time to make it before it gets too hot.
    @Des - It was and all of my friends liked it too. Can't wait to try new puddings.
    @Julie - Sadly, that muffin was one a bought in a local bakery and was a huge disappointment despite looking delicious. Never mind, I'll just have to make my own. Haggis is for me something gross which I'd never eat and there are some puddings like steak and kidey which are pretty heavy and fatty. I guess if you've been traumatised, it's hard to change ;-)
    @Sasa - Oh thanks but I don't really feel literary. I've always loved reading and feel that books are my friends so it's more of a passion. Whenever I write about them though, it walways seems a bit clumsy and dry to me and others do it so much better. I read Vanity Fair last year and absolutely loved it. Becky Sharp's an amazing character and I agree with you about Thackeray's writing. I loved your pudding idea and it looked fantastic.
    @Pia - I actually thought Bright Star was even better than the Piano. Jane Campion's an amazing director and it must be great to see more of her work; apart from those two films, I only know An Angel at my Table. The pudding is defintely worth it and I'm glad you're a fan - maybe we could even persuade Julie to join us for some one afternoon!
    @Sweetlife - You defintely have to see Bright Star and the book is truly exquisite. I like poetry but often feel I don't really understand it but both of these make Keats seem so fresh and accessible. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. Voilà, je me doutais que cette publication n'avait pu t'échapper ! Quant aux lettres de Fanny, c'est une question que je me posais ; il me semble que dans le film on en entend quelques unes, elles sont poétiques aussi et je me demandais si elles avaient été conservées (enfin peut-être que c'est un faux souvenir, il faudra que je revois le film !).

  10. I loved your story and lovely revelations about fanny and keats... I read those letters a thousand years ago and your post reminded me yet again to see Bright Star! Lovely blog and I agree about Campion.. she is a great director especially when the subject is artistic obsessions!

  11. Very beautiful post. I did not go to see the film because many friends of mine told me it was a bit cheesy. Now I regret it, because the same friends liked "L'Arnacoeur"... which I find incredibly cheesy. I will follow your advice and watch that film instead.

    Puddings always remember me of my aunt's Christmas dinners in Devonshire. Once, my sister got so sick with the whiskey cream that she threw up in the hall of the beautiful house. We laughed a lot. She cannot see a pudding anymore, but I still love it and never have a chance to actually eat one. Maybe you'll bake one for me once?

    By the way, I brought real non-German chocolate from France and I hope I can bake my specialty for you, if you haven't tasted it at my birthday party?

  12. @Rose - C'est drôle, j'avais aussi la même impression que toi mais peut-être je me trompe ou ils ont écrit ces quelques lignes pour de la continuité dans le film? Quoi qu'il en soit, j'ai envie de le revoir! Apparemment les lettres qu'elle a envoyées en Italie étaient enterrées avec lui. J'espère que la lecture te plaira aussi.
    @Lostpastremembered - You really must see Bright Star, it's one of the loveliest and most moving films I've ever seen. I'm a huge admirer of your blog so thanks for the nice comments! The letters are amazing and I think it won't be the last time I open this little book.
    @Magda - Oh no, I don't think the film is at all cheesy. Some people might find it too perfect or pretty but every scene is (in my opinion) perfectly framed and reflects the fragility and beauty of their time together.
    I didn't know you had an aunt in Devon - your poor sister though! I'd be happy to make one for you, although summer cakes and fruit seem more appropriate for the season right now. Hmm, now I'm dying to try this special cake of yours. I remember that your boyfriend really loves it so it must be great. Hope we can meet up soon.

  13. mmmmm en voilà une délicieuse recette Vanessa! J'adoooore le pudding!! Passe une bonne semaine ma belle!

  14. A lovely post, Vanessa. And I read those letters years ago, so romantic...I really must find a copy and reread them. I have never seen Bright Star, but just added it to my Netflix queue.

    And I just noticed on your sidebar P. G. Wodehouse. I think I have read everything he has ever written. Bertie is such fun. There was also a series on (probably British) TV and Bertie was played by Hugh Laurie, now famous as House on contemporary American TV. And if memory serves, Stephen Fry played Jeeves.

    Back to DBrs. Nothing better than a steamed pudding and I take my hat off to you for actually using suet, which seems to have put the other DB's off a bit. All that lovely golden syrup and then vanilla ice cream?? Delicious. *(Can you get Berthillon?)

  15. @Sarah - Merci chère Sarah et bonne semaine à toi aussi!
    @Barbara - So it seems like everyone has read those letters before. They really are inspiring though and well worth coming back to I imagine. I think you'd love Bright Star and hope you get around to seeing it soon.
    Regarding P.G wodehouse, I'm a total addict. You often have the impression, the stories are fairly light but they're so funny and delicious to read. Yes, you're right about the TV series - I'd forgotten that Hugh Laurie is so famous now in the U.S. Sadly Berthillon isn't available here so I took the next best thing from the supermarket, although I really should make my own!

  16. This is a wonderful post it reminds me when a few years back, when the Love letter's from Napolean to Josephine were on tour in the United States. I attended with a friend and the women not a clear eye in sight! mascara running down their faces resembling Alice Cooper.

    with Affectation: Ahhh! what I would do for a fine pudding such as this! the question the question!

  17. I rented Bright Star recently, but really wish I'd been able to see it on the big screen. Such beautiful imagery. I'm looking forward to reading the letters. As always, your pudding photograph is making me desperately want a bowl of Golden syrup pudding w/ ice cream. Wait, I see your recipe calls for custard AND ice cream. Oh my. Lovely.

  18. mmmm that photo of the syrup is soo lovely

  19. @Natural selection - I've never read Napoleon's love letters so that's another one to add to my list. As for puddings, I can only recommend them.
    @Denise - I'm dying to see Bright Star again soon but I agree, it's definitely worth watching it on the big screen because the photography is truly exquisite. Ice cream, custard, bring it on! No seriously, just one normally suffices!

  20. Shirin - Thanks a lot. I have a weakness for syrup as may have noticed.

  21. Ah, Bright Star ! Je suis amoureuse de leur histoire et je suis éblouie par les images de ce film...
    Il me tarde le 19 mai pour sa sortie dvd.

    Moi-même je me suis posée la question sur les lettres de Fanny pour Keats, d'après ce que j'ai lu, il semble qu'elles étaient disparues (perdues ? brulées ? enterrées ?)...

  22. Merci de ta visite, moi aussi, j'ai tellement hâte de revoir le film en DVD. En ce moment je lis aussi une très belle biographie de Keats par Andrew Motion. Ça m'aide à comprendre sa poésie. C'est bien dommage pour les lettres de Fanny mais je suis quand même contente qu'il nous en reste celles de lui.