It's that time of month again. Time to put my thinking cap on and dream something up for, 'Go Ahead Honey it's Gluten Free!' - the gluten free online blogging event for everyone who fancies a challenge and doesn't mind leaving the gluten out. Of course, my entries are also grain free, lactose free and sugar free (if you don't count a little drizzle of honey here and there).
This month our theme was Food From Your Childhood, hosted by Nooshin of For The Love Of Food. We were asked to look back to food that comforted and conjoured up that nourishing feeling of being at home - whether it came directly from your childhood, or a dish that you make now to soothe away furrowed brows, or tears or simply long to sit down to after a hard day or a windy walk.
I chose Magic Lemon Pudding, a secret delight from my childhood and one that inspired me to make these Magic Lemon Bars a while ago. Magic Lemon Pudding is one of those desserts that separates in the oven to create an airy sponge above and creamy custard sauce below - magic see? In my investigations I also found that it can be called, Lemon Delicious Pudding (a fair description) or Self-Saucing Lemon Dessert - a very unromantic and pedestrian description for something thoroughly mystical. Magic Lemon it is then.
When I was little and understood nothing of the science behind batters and dough, I could not imagine how something that looked so unpromising when it went into our Pyrex pudding dish, could come out of the oven like a triumph of hope over adversity. Although it tasted fabulous before it went in the oven, I had to admit - without wanting to spoil the whole wonder of a rare event - that it looked rather gloopy.
The making of this pudding was an event in itself. Zesting lemons was an amazing journey into olfactory heaven, separating eggs - a test of courage and ingenuity. Whipping egg whites produced a miracle that we marveled at each and every time, holding it over our heads and shouting, 'look!' whilst secretly hoping we didn't end up with an egg white wig. There was a hand held rotary whisk that my sister and I took turns to struggle with, clunking the wooden handle bravely with a mixture of hope and pain on our faces and eventually relief - when mum would offer up her henna stained hands to the beast and swiftly beat the whites into submission with uncharacteristic efficiency.
Then she eased the batter carefully into its dish and popped it in the state of the art smokey-glass fronted oven and we waited, returning to look at the pudding's progress through the dark window, squinting and putting our faces as close as we dared, hoping to observe the miracle happening. When did the gloop separate to form those two distinct layers? One moment we would look at the pudding and it was just batter, when we returned next, the fairies had been and waved a magic sponge maker over the thing and we'd missed it again.
When it was time to eat the pudding she would open the oven with a flourish and set the wondrous golden sponge on the table. The kitchen was filled with a rich scent of lemon, butter and eggs - all sweet and cosy. Each bite offered a choice between sharp, sweet lemony sponge or soothing creamy lemon custard, or both on the same spoon?
I have often wanted to make that dessert and stopped myself, wondering was the memory too precious to disturb? And yet, when Nooshin suggested the theme I knew exactly what I wanted to make, so I took the plunge and tried to recreate that pudding for myself - without the flour, sugar and milk of my childhood, hoping that I could still capture the magic anyway.
Without gluten to hold the sponge, or milk to soothe the custard, or sugar to provide a sweet platform for other flavours, I knew that my pudding would be denser than I remembered, with a definite taste of honey. I chose coconut milk to take the edge off the lemon and blanched almond flour for the super-sifted white flour of old.
The result was delicious, almondy sponge above and a delicate lemony custard below. Like souffles - the puddings fell almost as soon as they left the protective heat of the oven, but baking each in a coffee cup meant that I didn't have to worry about serving the delicate dessert myself. I simply placed each hot cup on the table and instructed Finley and Nick to dig in without ceremony.
There were four puddings and only three of us. The forth went into the fridge - but I have to admit that later that evening I went back and polished it off, not minding at all that the sponge was deflated.
In the morning Finley opened the fridge expectantly and gasped in horror.
'Where is that pudding?' he demanded breathlessly.
I suddenly realised that Fin and I had made plans for the same pudding. He wailed loudly, that I shouldn't have eaten it and fixed me with a look of pure puddinglessness.
'Make six next time ok?'
Magic Lemon Pudding (SCD) serves 4 (or a family of three and a greedy mummy)
3 Large Eggs - separated 1/4-1/3 cup of honey (1/4 makes a just sweet pudding 1/3 makes a sweet one) Zest of 1 1/2 lemons 90ml lemon juice (1 1/2 lemons) 50g (2oz) Butter - melted 200ml Full Fat Coconut Milk (check for stabilisers - no xanthan gum for SCD) 80g (3oz) Ground Blanched Almonds pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 150C fan assisted 160C if not. Place four mugs in the tray and fill it with water to come 3/4 of the way up the cups. Take the cups out, set aside and put the water filled tray into the oven to heat through.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks, lemon zest, juice and honey until smooth.
Whisk in the melted butter in a thin stream and then pour in the coconut milk and whisk again.
Beat in the almonds and set aside.
In a scrupulously clean bowl with a clean whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt to stiff peaks.
Fold half the egg whites into the lemon mixture to loosen, mix until no blobs of white are visible. Fold in the rest very gently, trying to knock as little air as possible out of the whites.
Spoon evenly into the waiting mugs until they are nearly full and place carefully into the hot tray of water in the oven.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the tops are risen, puffy and golden brown. Under cook rather than overcook. Serve immediately, but warn people that the cups are hot. A spoonful of creme fraiche or strained yogurt would be delicious, or a little extra coconut milk poured into the hole made after the first spoonful.
Check out the round up at For The Love of Food around the middle of December, or just before. If you'd like to enter, email the link to your entry to Nooshin by the 5th of December: nooshins @ gmail . com