Thursday, July 10, 2008

Red Berry Pudding with Vanilla Sauce (Rote Grütze mit Vanillesoße)

In the second part of our German berry feast, Nadia not only provides the recipe for one of the most scrumptious German summer desserts, but she also tells us why Red Berry Pudding is like German cuisine – a rediscovered culinary treasure.

When I was a child growing up in Germany, I could not get enough of this dessert, and I was never sure what I liked more: the fruity pudding, or the smooth vanilla sauce. It was not a popular dish. One of the reasons, I always thought, was the ugly name. “Grütze” means porridge in German, and the word sounds unappealing even to German ears. Because it was my grandmother who always made it, and because it was so hopelessly old-fashioned, I simply renamed it “Nostalgiepudding” (“nostalgia pudding”).

My first inkling how delicious Red Fruit Pudding was not only for my own taste buds but also for others' dates back to my 17th birthday party. I watched one of my classmates, a guy with the reputation for coolness and great intellect, standing next to the buffet and scratching the last little bit of Red Fruit Pudding right out of the large glass bowl! It was around that time that Red Fruit Pudding became a culinary blockbuster in Germany. It made a comeback, just like German cuisine did, and nowadays it’s everywhere. Despite its unappealing name, Rote Grütze has made it to Germany’s culinary hall of fame.

Redcurrants are much more popular in Germany than in North America, where they are nearly impossible to find. Actually, my craving for this dish was one of the main reasons I started my own garden. But I shall leave that topic for my next blog entry.

It is up to your personal taste what other fruits you use: raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or blueberries. However, but there is one rule of thumb: you should include at least one tart fruit. Cherries are a great addition too. If you use fruits that do not yield much juice, or if you prefer a softer consistency, you might want to reduce the amount of cornstarch. Likewise, the amount of sugar you use depends on the ripeness of the fruit. Taste the fruit before cooking and let your instinct be the judge.

There are also several possibilities for toppings: vanilla sauce made from scratch, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. My American husband likes Red Fruit Pudding plain. First I kept telling him that he is committing a culinary faux pas but then I realized that I prefer it that way – it leaves more vanilla sauce for me.

6 to 8 servings

For the pudding:
2 pounds mixed berries (fresh or frozen) and pitted cherries, washed and picked over
¼ cup bottled fruit syrup or a good fruit juice (raspberry, strawberry, or any other of the fruit you are using)
Sugar to taste
½ cup cornstarch

1. For the pudding, bring the blueberries and cherries to a boil in a large saucepan until they pop or release their juice. Hull the strawberries and cut very large ones into quarters. Add the more delicate fruit like strawberries and raspberries last. Stir in the syrup and sugar to taste.

2. Dissolve the cornstarch in at least ¼ cup cold water. Remove the pan from the heat, stir the cornstarch into the fruit mixture, and cook briefly over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Make sure not to undercook the pudding, otherwise it will taste chalky. When the pudding turns clear and thickens, remove the pan from the heat immediately. Continue stirring for another 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Pour the hot pudding into a glass serving bowl or individual dessert bowls. To prevent the glass from cracking when you pour the hot pudding into it, put a damp dishtowel underneath the bowl (that’s an old trick my grandmother taught me). Refrigerate for several hours until set. Serve the pudding cold, but take it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving, so it can develop its full flavor.

For the vanilla sauce:
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ cups milk
1 vanilla bean, or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and cornstarch. Add the milk and the vanilla. If using a vanilla bean, slit it lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with a sharp knife, and add the bean and the seeds to the mixture. Cook over low heat until the sauce thickens, whisking constantly. Make sure that the sauce does not boil, or the egg will curd. Remove the vanilla bean, if using. Refrigerate. Stir the sauce well before serving.

Pictures courtesy of Nadia Hassani and Wikimedia Commons.

1 comment:

Haily said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.