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Bakewell Pudding

Bakewell is famous for a particular delicacy which has got several bakeries battling for the rights over its invention! Bakewell pudding is a legend in its lifetime and tourists come from near or far to sample the strangest delicacy they have ever seen in their life! Its not a particulalrly pretty sight - think of a sort of squashed cowpat of no particular shape with it's only other distinguishing feature being pastry around the edge and there you have a Bakewell pudding. It sounds horrendous but once sampled, it is never forgotten. It is absolutely scrummy and a meal in itself if you want it to be - just make sure you're not on a diet before you partake!

There are several shops in Bakewell who bake and sell them in various shapes and sizes. Or if you like you can have a go and try to make one yourself, have a look at the Bakewell pudding recipe below - but be warned, it's not for the novice cook! This is just one version of the Bakewell pudding recipe and many cooks have attempted to add their own stamp over their years. It's a recipe that is a closely guarded secret because, after all, we wouldn't want everybody knowing how to make it would we?!

The Famous Bakewell Pudding

Lets get one thing clear from the start; the Bakewell tart has no place in Bakewell and any mention of it is not welcome on the streets, never mind inside the bakers’ shops.

The offending tart may have got its name from a kind of pun, in that someone remarked how it baked well; other than that, all it shares in common with the Bakewell Pudding is a flavour of almonds. It is the same with Cheshire cheese in France - that which the French call le Chester, made in France and famous throughout the land, bears no resemblance to the crumbly delicacy we know and love, and yet they are convinced it is somehow the produce of Cheshire.

No. A Bakewell pudding is a Bakewell pudding and the Bakewell version was always intended to be eaten as such, after your main course - which is why visitors are taken aback by what looks like a monstrous, over-inflated treacle tart.  It’s not for snacking on.

As with all local specialities, it’s origins need to be shrouded with a certain amount of mystery and legend and the exact, authentic, one-and-only recipe is in the possession of only one maker, to be passed-on, from the death-bed, to the true and rightful successor.  Oh, yes; of course there has to be a secret ingredient also, otherwise claims to unique authenticity are a bit pointless.  All of this can be taken with a pinch of salt, of course, (though strangely enough, the recipe below does not call for this).

What does seem certain is that the Bakewell Pudding had its origins, like so many great inventions, in somebody’s stupid mistake.  The story goes that sometime in the 1860 an inexperienced cook at the White Horse Inn (now the Rutland Arms Hotel) was asked to make some strawberry tarts.  Not having much of a clue and being left alone with a table-full of ingredients, she made a pastry without adding the eggs and almond paste and instead beat these two elements together and spread the resulting goo over the top of the jam. Then she popped them in a hot oven and hoped for the best.

How different history might have been. If Mrs Greaves, the landlady, had returned from shopping, thrown the Victorian equivalent of a wobbly and chucked the whole lot in the pig-swill… But she didn’t and the pigs never found out what delights they were missing.  It is at this point that the secret ingredient gets added and local historians start to come to blows over the succession issue; did Mrs Greaves leave the recipe in her will to Mr Radford?  Did Mr Radford pass it on to Mr Bloomer? Is it not just a little convenient that there is still a Bloomer's bakery selling puddings in the town to this day? Who cares?, The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.

Which might be a great excuse to go on a combined pudding-and-pub crawl round the town, to sample the different authentic versions on offer and clean the palate with a good ale from Peak Ales, Thornbridge or Hartington breweries.

Bakewell Pudding Recipe

The other way to investigate the secret ingredient conspiracy theory would be to bake a Bakewell pudding yourself.  The recipe below is based on one taken from Alison Uttley’s Recipes from an Old Farmhouse (and she should know what she is talking about here, she was born in the nearby village of Cromford, in 1884 and was a pupil at Bakewell’s Lady Manner’s School).  She says:-

Cover a wide shallow dish with thin puff paste. Put in it a layer of jam, preferably raspberry, but any kind will do. It should be half an inch thick. Take the yolks of eight eggs and beat the whites of two. Add half a pound of melted butter and half a pound each of sugar and ground bitter almonds. Mix all well together, and pour into the pastry case over the jam. Bake for half an hour and serve nearly cold.

For the Pastry
1/2 cup butter
2 egg whites
jam (enough for a layer)
3/4 cup caster/superfine sugar
6 egg yolks
a few drops of almond essence

- Line an oven proof dish with the puff pastry.
- Spread a layer of jam onto the base of the pastry.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan.
- Put the sugar, almond essence and the well beaten whites and yolks into a basin and pour the melted butter over them.
- Mix well and pour over the jam.
- Bake at about 220 degrees C.  for 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat and bake until the pastry is cooked and the filling is firm to the touch.

(Alison Uttley received a degree in physics from Manchester University in 1906, so I think we can trust her understanding of the processes going on in that oven!)

Now, enjoy alongside a bought Bakewell Pudding and judge for yourselves.