One rainy summer day, unable to build blanket forts on the climbing bars or soar through the sprinkler on a tire swing, I decided my younger sister and I should do some baking. “Baking” meant raiding Mom’s pantry and dumping everything within reach into a bowl. Raisins, nuts, vinegar, flour, icing sugar, food colouring… There was no final dish in mind, just some frenzied sort of let’s-see-what-will-happen culinary experiment. If it looked interesting, we threw it onto the heap. Then stirred.
Mom arrived just as I was emptying a bottle of rainbow sprinkles. For some reason she was angry. Mom Mad. Mad enough to scold us. Mad enough to snatch the wooden spoon from my hand. Maybe even mad enough to break that spoon. Banished from the kitchen, my sister was in tears and sheepish. Me? I was right royally miffed. If I’d been given more time I could have made something good. Something really good.
Today, scarred by the incident, my sister would rather scoop kitty litter than cookies. As ringleader, I blame myself. This recipe is my attempt to make amends. When I saw Faith Durand, executive editor of The Kitchn, wrote an entire cookbook about bakeless sweets, I got a copy thinking her innovative, well-tested recipes would lure my baking-hating sister back to the stove. In my enthusiasm, I forgot she’s temporarily off dairy. And gluten.
But no worries, Faith has me covered. The book has more than 100 recipes that just happen to be gluten-free. Many also skip the dairy. Her Scarlet Rose and Berry Pudding does both. Drawing from many international inspirations, this dessert is a cross between a traditional Danish pudding and the classic British flummery, with a Middle Eastern aromatic stirred into the mix. But without cream or butter did the recipe deliver? In spades.
My sister, itching for a real dessert, loved the full-on flavour and creamy texture. My raspberry-fiend of a father was thrilled with what wasn’t there —pesky seeds. Mom love the colour. I was so pleased with the pudding I decided it deserved more than $5 factory-end prop dishes. For the first time since they came into my possession, I dusted off my grandmother’s wedding crystal. There are only 5 glasses left in the set. Afraid of breaking them, I keep them hidden in the back of a cupboard. Out of harm’s way. Safe.
It was time to use them.
What would my grandmother have thought of all this? I believe she would have taken one bite and asked for the pudding recipe. Then she would have looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Why on earth haven’t you been using these lovely glasses? Why have nice things when you don’t use them?” I ask myself, “Why let cheap, replaceable dishes serve my best memories?”
My turn to be sheepish. I promise to use them more often. Cross my heart.
But in my defence, I was waiting until I’d made something good. Something really good.
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 10 ounces strawberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
- 10 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon rosewater (I used orange blossom water)
- Whipped cream, to serve (optional)
- Make a cornstarch and egg yolk slurry: Put the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl and whisk out any lumps. Slowly pour in 1 cup (240 mL) water, whisking constantly. Whisk in the egg yolks. (To be really sure, reach into the bowl and gently rub out any lumps between your fingers.)
- Blend and warm the berries: Purée the strawberries and raspberries with the sugar and lemon juice in a blender until smooth and liquefied. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a 3-quart (2.8-L) saucepan. Turn the heat on to high and bring the fruit mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat.
- Temper the slurry: Pour 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot fruit into the bowl with the slurry. Whisk them together. Pour the tempered slurry slowly back into the pan, counting to 10 as you do and whisking vigorously.
- Thicken the pudding: Turn the heat back on to the medium. Bring the pudding to a full boil, whisking frequently; this will take 2 to 5 minutes. Large bubbles will rise up very slowly, making a noise like "gloop" or "plop."
- Simmer for 2 minutes, whisking frequently. Turn off the heat and whisk in the rosewater.
- Chill the pudding: Immediately pour the hot pudding into a shallow container. (If you notice lumps, you can pour the pudding through a fine-mesh sieve to make it smoother.) Place plastic wrap or buttered wax paper directly on the surface of the pudding to cover it. Put a lid on the dish and refrigerate. Chill for 2 hours, or until completely cold, before eating. Best eaten within 3 days.
- Serve in dessert cups with a dollop of whipped cream on top.
My note: Like rosewater, orange-blossom water, sometimes called orange-flower water, is a floral distillate. Made from the petals of bitter-orange blossoms, it is used in many Middle Eastern dishes, both sweet and savory. It's usually found in gourmet or specialty shops.
This recipe is excerpted with permission from Bakeless Sweets: Pudding, Panna Cotta,Fluff, Icebox Cake and More No-Bake Desserts by Faith Durand. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Change ©2013.