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English Pudding?

When I visited England (Peterborough) back in 1997, my family and I stayed with friends in their home. One evening, our hostess served us--what I believe to be--English pudding. First, she plated what looked like bread pudding, then poured a custard over that, and then some sort of cream over that. (Is this a common tradition to add custard and cream on top of the pudding, or was it something she just felt like doing?) It was "smack the table" good! It was truly rich and indulgent, but worth it! I've been on the lookout for a recipe like this throughout the years and I would really love to know if someone out there can pinpoint a recipe for the pudding, plus the custard and cream served on top. Thanks!

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  1. It sounds like it might have been bread and butter pudding?


    1. What if you made your favorite bread pudding and then poured a custard sauce (creme anglaise) over each serving and added a side of whipped cream (or double cream if you can find some in a specialty store)? Most baking cookbooks would carry some kind of custard sauce.

      1 Reply
      1. re: petitgateau

        That is a great idea! I think I might do that.

      2. Last year, I had lunch with an English friend at The Settler's Inn, in Hawley, PA. This dessert, which she ordered just for nostalgia's sake, turned out to be spectacular - and not nearly as sweet as I feared it would be. The chef was very happy to share the recipe with us, but I've never tried to make it. Soon...

        English Toffee Pudding
        The Settler’s Inn

        Serves 8

        6 tablespoons soft, unsalted butter
        1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
        2 medium eggs
        1½ teaspoons vanilla
        1½ cups plus 1½ tablespoons, separated, all-purpose flour
        1½ teaspoons baking powder
        1 heaping cup of chopped dates
        1½ teaspoons baking soda
        2 cups boiling water

        Grease 16 muffin tin cups or a 10-inch deep pie pan. Preheat the oven to 350°.

        In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add 1½ cups of the flour and the baking powder and mix on medium speed until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

        In another bowl, combine the dates, the remaining 1½ tablespoons flour and the baking soda. Pour the 2 cups of boiling water over the top and quickly mix. Then add immediately to the creamed mixture in the first bowl and blend together until just mixed. The mixture will look very watery and will somewhat resemble pig slop. Do not worry. (NOTE: This is a direct quote from the chef, not my commentary!)

        Divide among 16 well-greased muffin tin cups or a 10-inch deep pie pan. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes, or until puffed and brown. (If using a deep pie pan, it will take about 30 minutes.)

        Serve warm with warm caramel sauce and whipped cream or ice cream.

        The pudding can be frozen and reheated.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Deenso

          That's more commonly known as sticky toffee pudding and was very popular a few years ago. It's one of those desserts that was done to death and no longer appears on many restaurant menus, even though people love it.

          1. re: Deenso

            Thank you for this recipe. I wonder if I can make this and use the custard in place of the caramel. Perhaps it might be TOO rich then?

          2. I grew up in England, and when I think of true English pudding I think of steamed sponge puddings made with suet (which is basically ground hard beef fat). These came in a variety of flavors, but my favorites were Apple and Cinnamon Layer Pudding and, of course, Spotted Dick. I don't even know if the Brits eat this stuff any more because I am sure the food police have cracked down on suit. I know it's bad for you, but it's not like anybody ate it every day and it made the most glorious stick-to-your ribs desert that you could ever imagine.

            Ahhh, what I would give for a good Spotted Dick drowning in custard.......

            1. I just love traveling to the UK and always track down Sticky Toffee Pudding, Banoffee Pie, Bread Pudding, Spotted Dick, etc. I regularly make them at home, too. Am making my husband Sticky Toffee Pudding for his birthday Thursday. Yum!

              1. it's always known as bread and butter pudding in England because if you Google bread pudding you will get recipes for something entirely different which is spicier (allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg etc) and non dairy and a bit of an acquired taste.

                English custard is NOT creme anglaise. English custard is yellow and always made from Bird's custard powder which can be bought in English departments of the supermarket if yours has one or online. It comes in a tin and you mix it with milk and sugar. Creme Anglaise is a French concoction and whilst nice is not the same thing.

                People often offer both custard and cream but you wouldn't normally put them both on your dessert. It would be thick pouring cream (known as double cream and not duplicated in the USA) never whipped cream in England unless used for meringues or eclairs or profiterole fillings etc.

                10 Replies
                1. re: smartie

                  Smartie thank you for this. Now that I think about it, I think I poured both on when they were offered to me, what a faux pas! I was younger then...live and learn. Well, now I'm on the quest for bread and butter pudding and Bird's custard powder. Could I substitute heavy cream for double cream?

                  1. re: smartie

                    How odd to say English custard is always made from Birds Custard powder. That is just a short cut was of doing You can make fresh custard yourself. Recipes abound out there. You can even buy fresh custard in the refrigerated sections of British supermarkets now, and they are quite often made with Madagascan vanilla.

                    The word pudding is often used by people just to describe a dessert. Otherwise they can be steamed as mentioned above, or things like bread and butter pudding, or bread pudding. A Bailey's bread pudding is also worth trying if you have the chance.

                    Did you ever find what you were looking for?

                    Sticky toffee pudding is very delicious, and I wouldn't serve it with both cream and custard. Either or, but not both.

                    1. re: cathodetube

                      You may find it odd but making custard from Bird's powder is what most of us do. It's what most of us regard as custard. We have occasionally bought ready made custard from the supermarket - Birds make one.

                      1. re: Harters

                        Well, it's certainly not 'always' made with Bird's custard, which is what I was commenting on. Commonly would have been a better word to use. My grandmother used to make her own and so did my mother. Maybe school dinners were made with it, but that was no doubt for keeping the price down. Sainsbury have several different types, all of which I have had. I think Bird's is tasteless.

                        1. re: cathodetube

                          Sainsbury (my usual supermarket) stocks own label readymade, as well as the Birds I mentioned and a version from Ambrosia.

                          Nothing is ever "always". It only takes one person doing something different to make it "not always". But that hardly detracts from what is usual. Maybe we should start a poll on the UK/Ireland board and ask British contributors who uses Birds and who makes their own from scratch. Even taking into account that contributors are more likely to be foodies than the general population, I'd still be reasonably confident of the result.

                          1. re: Harters

                            This was English person telling an American that Birds was always used and I wanted to make sure that other Americans as well as the OP knew this wasn't the case. Sainsbury do a Taste the Difference one which is very nice. I also like M&S and Waitrose's version. Oh, and of course there are also the tinned versions of custard.......which I have been known to buy.

                            My mother (English) frequently made trifle and always made her own custard.

                            1. re: Harters

                              Or, the wonderful fresh readymade (chilled) custard M&S used to do. Haven't had that for years! Wonder if they still make it? Guess I will investigate tomorrow. Yum!

                              1. re: Londonlinda

                                Haven't been in an M&S for a good few months now. At Christmastime a lot of the supermarkets bring out a lot of boozy sauces including custard.

                                Wanted to add that there is a tradition of putting cream on top of custard, and that is with a trifle.

                          2. re: Harters

                            It is mostly bought ready made from supermarkets now in cartons or fresh pots and it rarely made from powder to be honest.

                            1. re: Harters

                              I've read that Bird's was developed by a chemist seeking an alternative for his wife who was allergic to eggs. So the goal was to make something similar to creme anglaise.

                              Creme anglaise is a stove top egg custard. Without other thickeners it remains pourable. Creme Patissiere adds some starch to make a stiffer and more stable custard, one that is suitable for filling pastries.

                              Bird's is mainly corn starch (corn flour in UK parlance), with some color (from annato) and flavor. The American equivalent is vanilla pudding from a mix. Instance vanilla pudding is more common, and uses a modified starch which thickens without further heat. Homemade vanilla pudding uses cornstarch and milk, and maybe some egg yolks to add richness.


                              The German equivalent is Dr. Oetker brand.

                        2. Custard (a soft runny custard sauce) is commonly poured over puddings and pies in England. You may have noticed, in a store that stocks imported groceries, Bird's Custard Powder---that is a shortcut to this custard (sauce) that a lot of people take, although of course you can use eggs and milk to make your own custard.