MALVA CRÈME CARAMEL WITH HONEYED APPLES & GOOSEBERRIES

I’ve always believed that, no matter what shape or form, malva pudding must ooze with syrupy sweetness. Otherwise, what’s the point? It must melt in your mouth, and be accompanied by a great custard. But I’ve often wondered how to elevate the humble malva pudding to greater festive heights - the kind that will bring even the most discerning malva pudding connoisseur to a standstill. In a merry reimagining of this classic combination, a beautiful yellow crème caramel loaf rests on top of a classic malva pudding base, decorated with sticky, honeyed apple rings and sugared gooseberries. Your festive table just got a lot merrier.

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It might look like the sugar rush of the season but this decadent dessert is surprisingly light. Without syrup, crème caramel is actually more creamy than it is sweet, and by reducing the sugar in the sauce for the malva pudding, it loses any potential sickly sweetness.

Malva pudding is a cultural institution, and as South African as koeksisters or milk tart. I expected its origins to go all the way back to the 1600s, but malva pudding as we know it today was only invented in 1979 at the wine estate, Boschendal’s restaurant. Before that, it was infused with geranium leaves, pink pelargonium, brandy, or even wine, depending on the baker.

At a glance, its ingredients seem heavy and rich, but it always makes for easy comfort eating. But what I love most about malva pudding is that it’s one of the least expensive desserts to make, and most of us usually have these ingredients hiding somewhere in our kitchens anyway.

Caramelising the apple rings in honey adds a whole new flavour dimension to the dish that is so much more interesting than plain white sugar - and with all the different types of honey available, you can really get creative. I used fynbos honey in this recipe, but orange blossom honey could add a fascinating floral note. And to me, it’s almost as though the honey brings out the tartness of the apple more than its sweetness.

Apart from looking like the perfect edible festive decorations, the combination of gooseberry and rosemary works so well as a garnish for this dessert. We tend to reserve rosemary strictly for savoury dishes but its bushy fragrance complements the bitterness of the gooseberry so well, leaving the berry’s sourness to engage with the piquancy of the apple rings.

But in the end, you want a showstopper, and for that you need it to have a great shape. I used a rounded, 30 cm Zenker Loaf Tin. It also divides the dessert up into perfect portions, and there’s nothing stopping anyone from going for seconds.

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MALVA CRÈME CARAMEL WITH HONEYED APPLES & GOOSEBERRIES

prep 1 hour + overnight / serves 10

 

CRèME CARAMEL

INGREDIENTS

  • 100 g (120 ml) caster sugar

  • 400 ml milk

  • 250 ml cream

  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

  • 125 g (150 ml) caster sugar

  • 3 eggs

  • 3 egg yolks

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Over medium heat, melt 100 g caster sugar in a saucepan. Once melted, stir the melted sugar (or swirl the sauce pan) until golden brown. Pour the caramel into a 30 cm Zenker Loaf Tin, remembering to coat the sides of the tin. Refrigerate.

  2. Heat the milk, cream, vanilla pod and seeds in a saucepan, taking care not to boil the mixture.

  3. Beat 125 g caster sugar, eggs and egg yolks until the sugar has blended with the eggs.

  4. Remove the vanilla pod from the heated milk mixture, then add the mixture to the eggs and sugar. Mix well.

  5. Pour into a prepared tin. Place the tin in a shallow pan of water. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour.

  6. Remove from the oven and let it cool. Refrigerate overnight.

MALVA PUDDING

INGREDIENTS

For the batter

  • 15 ml soft butter

  • 100 g (125 ml) sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 180 g (320 ml) cake flour, sieved

  • 5 ml bicarbonate of soda

  • 95 ml milk

  • 15 ml smooth apricot jam

  • 15 ml brown vinegar 

For the sauce

  • 125 ml ideal milk

  • 125 ml warm water

  • 100 g (125 ml) sugar

  • 15 ml butter

  • 2 ml vanilla extract

METHOD 

For the batter

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C. Cream the butter and sugar together until creamy and soft. Add the egg and beat until well mixed.

  2. Gently fold in the sieved flour. Mix the bicarbonate of soda and milk, add to the mixture and mix.

  3. Add the jam and vinegar and mix through.

  4. Line a shallow 30 cm x 10 cm tin with baking paper and spray with cooking spray. Pour in the mixture and place in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

For the sauce

  1. Heat the ideal milk, milk and sugar in a saucepan. Stir until the sugar has melted. Remove from the heat just before boiling point.

  2. Add butter and vanilla and stir until the butter has melted.

  3. Pour the sauce little by little over the warm pudding. Leave it to cool.

HONEYED APPLES

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 small red apples (pink lady apples also work really well)

  • juice of ½ lemon

  • 125 ml honey

METHOD

  1. Slice the apples into thin rings. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

  2. Heat the honey in a saucepan. Add a single layer of apples and fry until the caramel is golden brown. Place the apples on baking paper and fry the rest. 

SUGARED GOOSEBERRIES

INGREDIENTS

  • rosemary stalks

  • fresh gooseberries

  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten

  • caster sugar

METHOD

  1. Spear a small rosemary stalk into each gooseberry.

  2. Dip the gooseberries in the egg white and roll in caster sugar, covering it.

  3. Place on baking paper and leave until the sugar has hardened. Do not place them in the fridge, as the sugar will melt.

To assemble

  1. Turn the malva pudding out on a serving tray and remove the baking paper.

  2. Carefully turn the crème caramel out onto of the malva pudding base.

  3. Decorate with the honeyed apples and festive gooseberries.