Before you get the wrong idea, I’m talking about the kind encased in pastry…
Everyone’s heard of the Bakewell tart. Shortcrust pastry, filled with strawberry jam and a sweet almond, eggy mixture. Firm on the outside, crumbly on the inside, topped with thick white icing (I love the satisfying crack as you bite into it) and half a glace cherry. Lovely. The stuff of my childhood. Mr Kipling does make exceedingly good cakes and all that.
But in Bakewell it’s pudding not tart that reigns supreme. Spotty and Dag (you can read more about them here – The Best Laid Plans….. ) lived quite near Bakewell (well, a forty minute drive, but that’s nothing to a sweet freak) so off we went to the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. The pudding, it turns out, is a mixture of eggs, sugar and almonds on top of the jam in flaky pastry – served warm with custard or ice cream. It looks a bit of a mess, flat, boring and brown – unfinished – as if the cook forgot something and shoved it in the oven at the half way stage.
Indeed the original pudding was a botch-up. Around 1860, so the story goes, a Mrs Graves, Mistress of the White Horse Inn, asked her cook to bake a strawberry tart for some VIP guests. Cook spread the almonds and sugar on top of the jam instead of stirring them into the pastry. Luckily, the guests loved it. The recipe was snapped up by an amazingly on-the-ball Mrs Wilson, the wife of a tallow chandler but a trend spotter if ever there was one. She began to sell the puddings from her cottage – which the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop would have us believe is the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop.
It’s a great story but there are a lot of buts. Recipes for the dish had already been published by the 1830’s and the White Horse was probably demolished around 1803. Ah well, it brings the tourists in. In one record-breaking week, the Old Original sold eleven thousand puddings!
The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating. For me, the pudding was too sweet – and too ugly. The tart wins hands down.