Buttermilk pudding with apple and pomegranate crumble

05 January 2018

Buttermilk pudding with apple and pomegranate crumble

The panna cotta has become one of the staple desserts over recent years. It’s a vanilla-infused cream that has been set with gelatine. I’ve seen disagreements as to how set it should be, with most panna cottas I’ve seen being fully set and holding their shape, but with the most informed chefs and food writers insisting it should be barely holding together - the “jiggle” is a key part of the concept. 

I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten a panna cotta that meets the ‘jiggle’ criteria, although I’m intrigued to seek it out. However, my fancy was attracted recently by a chef’s description of buttermilk pudding - basically a panna cotta made with more buttermilk than cream - as being superior in taste to the more conventional article. So I thought I would give it a go.

The buttermilk pudding in question makes no concessions to its jiggly cousin - it uses enough gelatine to ensure a firm set, although it’s not chewy or unpleasant in any way. Basically, it’s like the panna cottas I’ve had from restaurants and cafes where they didn’t know, or at least care, about the obligations for jiggle.

It does taste great. Preference is a personal thing, so there’s no point in debating whether or not it tastes ‘better’. But I can certainly see myself making this again.

For the buttermilk pudding I used the recipe shared by Neil of Cafe St Honore. The mini apple and pomegranate crumbles I made up as I went along, inspired as they were by Neil’s use of plum crumble.

All in all, the dish worked well. My only hiccup was discovering that my original plan for a brand new bottle of pomegranate molasses - which was to drizzle a little on the dish at the end - was not going to deliver the good results I’d expected.

I’d never used pomegranate molasses before. I decided I should get some during my recent visit to Lebanon, where I saw that it was a commonly used ingredient there and it piqued my curiosity. But from the description, I was expecting it to be a sweet syrup, the sort of thing you could just drizzle with delightful results. And it is indeed a syrup, but with a much more complex flavour profile than just sweet - and it is consequently used quite a lot in savoury dishes and apparently not often just to drizzle. A rookie error. But then most of us are rookies in some aspect of cuisine or another. I’m looking forward to exploring what to do with this particular newcomer to my cupboard - expect to see an appearance here in due course.

So if I was doing this again, I’d come up with a better accompaniment, almost certainly using some of the juice from the pomegranate I was using. In this case, I was using up a leftover half pomegranate and the fleshy part was, shall I say, showing its age although most of the seeds were perfectly fine. Let’s just say I felt a little safer eating the parts that had been heated to a good temperature.

I might also try adding a teaspoon of the pomegranate molasses to the apple and pomegranate crumble filling. But I didn’t yet do that, so I would hesitate to recommend it here, as it could all go horribly wrong …

Buttermilk pudding with apple and pomegranate crumble

I went a little fancy and used little individual crumbles, but obviously if you’re just making supper you would probably be perfectly happy to make one big crumble and portion it out. In which case, don’t cut the apple up so fine, and give it a good 25-30 minutes in the oven.

Serves: 2

For the buttermilk pudding

250ml buttermilk
100ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds removed
3 leaves of gelatine
75g caster sugar

For the apple and pomegranate crumble

25g porridge oats
25g plain flour
25g dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon oil
15g whole almonds, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 Bramley cooking apple
Handful of seeds from pomegranate


You need to make the pudding well in advance, as it takes time to set. Soak the gelatine in cold water until soft. While that’s softening, bring the buttermilk, cream, sugar and the vanilla to the boil in a pan. Once it’s boiled, turn off the heat and leave it for a couple of minutes for the vanilla flavour to infuse.

While the buttermilk is still quite hot, squeeze out excess water from the gelatine and add it to the pot, stirring well until it has all dissolved. Then pass the buttermilk through a sieve into a jug, which should handily remove the vanilla pods. Allow to cool for a few minutes, before placing the jug in the fridge, removing every ten minutes or so to stir. This is to keep the vanilla seeds evenly distributed through the cream as it’s thickening, although to be honest I didn’t see any tendency for them to settle in mine, although I’ve had that happen before in panna cotta.

Once properly cool, pour the cream into dariole moulds or similar and chill in the fridge for a good 5 to 6 hours or overnight. Some recipes advise you to lightly oil the moulds - others say it should be enough just to lightly heat the moulds to unmould them at the end. I didn’t fancy a film of oil on this pudding, so I opted for the latter. It was a little bit of a faff, but it nevertheless came out fine.

Half an hour or so before you’re ready to eat, it’s time to do the crumbles. Heat the oven to 180ºC.

Mix the porridge oats, flour, brown sugar, and the chopped whole almonds. I add to that a tablespoon of neutral flavoured vegetable oil, although you can use melted butter. Stir it until the fat has been incorporated. 

Peel, and chop the apple into small enough pieces that they will go happily into the individual moulds. Place 4 small cooking rings (a couple of inches wide) on a baking tray. Spoon in a layer of apple, half of the brown sugar, a few pomegranate seeds, then repeat. Finally, top with the cinnamon and then the crumble topping, pushing it down gently with the rounded part of a spoon. Put into the oven for 15 minutes. 

To serve, remove the crumbles with a fish slice and place on the plate, and then carefully slide the ring off (you may need to push the crumble top down to stop it from catching). Heat the outside of the buttermilk pudding moulds briefly with a blowtorch, or by placing them in hot water that comes two-thirds of the way up the mould. Don’t overdo this, as you don’t want a big puddle of vanilla on the plate. Drizzle a little pomegranate juice and scatter a few of the seeds onto the plate and serve.

Food waste

I was using up pomegranate I’d used for another dish, so this was my food waste solution. But obviously, if that’s not the case, then you will probably have half a pomegranate to use up (unless you’ve scaled up for 4 people, in which case no problem).

You should do what I didn’t - separate out all the seeds and put them in the fridge. Like this, they will keep for up to 5 days. That’s about how long I kept them - not in the fridge, and still in the pomegranate. Separating them from the unhappy flesh of the fruit was an act of faith, and not to be repeated if you’re actually cooking for another human being other than yourself.

You can freeze the pomegranate seeds and keep them for up to 6 months - they may well lose their shape once thawed, so better for using in a dish or for juice than as decoration.

The quantity of buttermilk used here is about the same as a carton of buttermilk bought from the supermarket (officially 284ml). So just use it all. If you have a different size and end up with some left over, my inclination would be to make scones - the best ones have buttermilk in them!

The double cream is a different matter. With only 100ml used, you’ll have some left over for sure. If it’s British double cream (which has a fat content of 48%) then you can freeze it soon after opening. The basic rule is that any cream with a fat content over 35%, which should include British whipping cream as well - just. Freeze it in the pot it came with (the amount you’ve used will mean it has room to expand as it freezes) or, if you prefer, put it into ice cube trays and then store the cream cubes in a bag once frozen. Then you have tablespoon-sized cream cubes you can add to soups or sauces.

But it’s best if you can just keep it in the fridge and use it within a couple of days. That’s why it’s worth planning ahead and including what you’ll do with the excess cream into your plan.