So bright and delicate - the Daring Bakers challenge


I cannot remember what day of the week it was or if it was cold and rainy when I went to see the film Bright Star a few months back. On free afternoons, there's nothing I love more than going to the cinema when everyone else is working and I have the impression I'm missing school. I remember though that the auditorium was almost empty in that large multiplex cinema I don't normally go to because the independent art one is nicer and cheaper. But from the moment it started, I was completely transfixed by the stunning images, the exquisite details of Fanny Brawne's needlework and by the all too brief but intense love affair between her and the poet John Keats. It made me long for the freshness of an English summer, the crispness of the frost in winter and to see the flowers in bloom. Afterwards, the impressions lingered in my mind and I found it hard to forget the intensity of this experience.

image from

The day when I discovered the blossom, I walked a short distance to the Burgerpark in Pankow where I used to go jogging and sat close to a large children's playground to eat the leek and goats' cheese tart and raspberry muffin I had brought with me. It was warm with just the gentlest of breezes and I opened the slim volume of Keats' letters to Fanny Brawne and once again found myself hearing that fresh, modern voice which had so captivated me. There are just 17 letters written by Keats and sadly none of hers survived but reading them is truly one the most moving and inspiring experiences ever for me.

"My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again - my Life seems to stop there - I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as if I was dissolving - I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit to my love."

I hope to find this too when I visit Keats' house in Hampstead this summer and walk in their footsteps on the heath where Fanny spent so many unhappy days grieving for him after his death in Italy.

The Daring Bakers' challenge for this month also made me think of the best of England and feel nostalgia for those harsh winter days when you can only be revived by a pudding. The English term "pudding" is sometimes confusingly used as a synonym for dessert but in its original meaning it refers rather to a heavy, solid mass which was steamed or boiled.

The Daring Bakers' challenge was chosen this month by Esther of "The Lilac Kitchen" who asked us all to prepare one of these original puddings, either sweet or savoury, using a traditional ingredient called suet. This is something that comes from innards of animals and I have to admit, I couldn't face using the non-vegetarian version for my pudding but for the recipe, below, you can also skip it altogether if you prefer. I decided upon a syrup pudding since it brings back memories of my childhood when my mother used to make it for us with fresh custard. Traditional puddings require a special form which I've only been able to find in Britain and take 2-3 hours to cook because they have to be steamed. During that time though you can be doing other things though and the result is a light and fluffy sponge with a rich and sweet flavour. I made this for some friends late at night which is why I could once again only photograph the leftovers the next day but I promise to do better next time! For inspiring variations, check out Rosa's stunning My Fair Lady pudding and Sasa's Sticky Date pudding.

Golden syrup pudding

You will need a special 2 pint pudding basin which can be steamed

175g soft unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
175g plain flour
4 eggs, beaten
50g shredded suet or substitute
Grated rind of 2 unwaxed lemons, plus juice of one
2-4 tablespoons milk
200g golden syrup

1. Grease the pudding basin with a little butter. Pour the golden syrup into the bottom of it.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, lemon zest and juice, suet and milk with a hand held mixer. If it's too liquid, add a little more flour or a drop more milk if it's too dry.
3. Pour the mixture ont the syrup and seal with the plastic lid which you should also remember to butter first. Steam over a pan of boiling water for around 2 hours or until it's risen and feels firm. Keep some extra boiling water handy in case it boils dry. When it's ready, remove carefully from the pan with two spatulas and leave a rest a couple of minutes. Serve with custard and ice cream.


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