Ready-prepared cake and bread mixes weren't the only things I picked up at the Real Food Festival early this year; I also picked up some ready-made puddings. Three, to be precise, all from the amazing Burtree Puddings. Being gastronaut of the strictly amateur variety, I had never heard of Burtree, but their puddings are Guild of Fine Foods award winners.
This is where I admit I'd never heard of the Guild of Fine Foods either. Ahem.
Then again, when it comes to desserts, awards rarely figure into my thinking. All I really want is something tasty, sweet and filling. Three cheers, then, for Burtree.
Of course, I've taken so darned long to write up these puddings, I've decided to group them together, rather than giving them their own separate entries, as they truly deserve, but I hope to adequately convey how great these things are.
Since there's a grand tradition of fail in this blog, I shall start by mentioning that my first portion of this saucy-cakey delight was somewhat overdone in the microwave. The instructions say "heat for 1-2 minutes (individual portions 20-40 seconds) until the sauce bubbles". Muggins here didn't notice the parentheses, and blasted an individual portion (about a third - have I mentioned I like my puddings?) for the full two minutes.
It's testament to the quality of this dessert, then, that the net result of this excessive irradiation was that the sauce pretty much boiled away, but the sponge pudding itself was utterly unaffected. It remained moist, smooth and incredibly chocolaty.
My second helping (NOT the same day, honest) went better, and so I was then surprised by how generous the topping of sauce turned out to be. In its semi-solid form, it seems like a fairly slim portion but, once heated and fully liquid, the topping goes a long way - not a single spoonful of sponge entered my eager gob without an ample coating of the rich tasty sauce.
Worth noting also is that the sauce is a simple-but-effective mixture of double cream, sugar, butter and Belgian chocolate with a 60.4% cocoa solids content... Truly extravagant, but much appreciated by this particular chocophile.
Confession time: I really like ginger cakes. I have many fond memories from my youth of gobbling up slice after slice (after slice, etc, etc) of ginger cake, savouring its spiciness and, for whatever reason, particularly enjoying the stickiness of its 'crust'. Burtree's Ginger Pudding is just like that, but with a sweet ginger sauce containing pieces of crystallised ginger. The label mentions 'ginger pieces', but I wasn't expecting them to be crystallised, so they provide an interesting, crunchy counterpoint to the soft sponge and the smooth, hot sauce.
The ginger flavour is probably a little stronger than the average ginger cake - comparable more to the Wrights version - but the sponge is more moist, even without the addition of the sauce.
Like the chocolate version, the layer of sauce doesn't look like much but, once molten, a little goes a very long way, and it adds immeasurably to the overall experiece of chomping through a portion of the pudding.
I'd actually bought a third pudding from the Burtree stand - the Sticky Toffee Pudding - but I ended up taking that over to my folks, and not staying for dinner that day or, indeed, anytime soon enough to have sampled it myself before it was guzzled.
Both of these, as mentioned at the start, are Guild of Fine Foods award winners - the latter received the gold award in 2006, the former achieving a '1 Star Gold' in 2009. I believe the Sticky Toffee won something as well, but no longer have the packaging to confirm this.
On the subject of the packagaing, it's very much functional - none of the extravagance you'd find in supermarket products. Each one comes in a foil tray with a foiled cardboard lid, and are wrapped in cellophane. The labelling is of the stick-on variety, with the basic label being a 2-colour print, and the details added by laser printer. Heating instructions cover both microwave and traditional ovens, and the ingredients list helpfully highlights potential allergens, such as Wheat Gluten. Peculiarly, the Chocolate pudding also notes that it 'may contain date stones', though a closer inspection of the ingredients reveals that dates are present in the sponge.
As a final couple of notes, when I bought these puddings, the guy on the stall told me they keep for quite a while - the Best Before date suggests about a month - but the chances of any of these surviving long enough to meet their BB date are very, very slim. I think the longest either of these lasted (once opened) was about a week. Since they start out in plastic-wrapped foil containers, as long as they're kept according to the storage instructions, I'd guess that a month is a conservative estimate on their lifespan - literally just 'at its best before this date', but still perfectly edible long after
Burtree's products aren't available in the supermarkets, but their website does carry a list of stockists (several in London, thankfully!) and, while they don't (currently) have an online shop, they will accept orders by email, and then phone to take payment (ie. credit card) details. Their website suggests that their products are available at the Virtual Farmers Market, but I couldn't find them today... They are, however, available from Love Your Larder's market.