Monday, May 19, 2008

Deddington Pudding-Pie, Oxfordshire

Earlier this month I was in Deddington, Oxfordshire. Deddington is a small market town with many interesting old buildings, houses and much history. I was there for a family get-together, so I had little time to explore - only enough for a short walk, and to take two scene-setting photos (taken with one hand whilst straddling a struggling toddler). During my walk I found a shop selling Banbury cakes as per my previous post. The picture below shows the town hall (front left) and the parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul. It also shows how, sadly, many old country towns have become overwhelmed by the motor car. Contrast this (carefully cropped) scene, with the second image. Spot the car park.

Deddington Market Place - image taken between 1860 and 1922

Historically, Deddington had two annual fairs. One on the 10th of August (St. Laurence's Day) and the other held in November. This latter fair was known as the 'Pudding-Pie Fair' after the pudding- or pudden-pies sold there, and was held principally for the sale of livestock and the hiring of servants/labourers. The date was originally the 11th of November (St. Martin's Day/Martinmas), changing to the 22nd (St. Cecilia's Day), and then reverting back to the 11th of November in more recent times. The Pudding-Pie Fair was still being held at the beginning of the 20th century, but by the 1930s it had diminished and since has evolved into a fun fair. The pudding-pie is now as rare as a Deddington parking space.

The Deddington pudding-pie appears to have been a hard pastry case (the pie) with a pre-cooked filling that included fruit (the pudding), the whole was then baked. Pudding-pies are known elsewhere in the country and often had an association with Lent.

An early mention of the Deddington Pudding-Pie is in 'Notes & Queries' (1869). This records that the pies 'are made by setting up a crust composed of flour mixed with milk or water, and mutton suet melted and poured into it hot. These crusts, which are set up like meat-pie crusts, are then placed in the sun for a day or two to stiffen. They vary in size from about three to four inches in diameter, and are about one inch deep. When thoroughly hard they are filled with the same materials as plum puddings are made of, and when baked are sold at twopence, threepence and fourpence each.'

In the archive of the Deddington News, November 1976, Monica Sansome writes of the Pudding-Pie Fair, drawing on the personal reminiscences of a Mr. Lewis.

From its early days the Martinmas Fair was known as the Pudding-Pie Fair because of the pies made specially for the occasion. Mr. Lewis bought these pies in the early 1900s. They were about the size of a small pork pie, consisting of plum pudding surrounded by pastry. The pastry was made with mutton fat and formed an extremely hard crust "like thick parchment" according to Mr. Lewis, who doesn't remember them as being outstandingly palatable! He thinks they were sold for 2d and 4d depending on size.

Just after 1900 the only bakers in the village to make these pies annually were Thomas and Ruth Fowler. The family had their bakery originally on the premises of Mr. Lewis' shop, then in the Old Bakery, New Street, finally moving to Mr. and Mrs. Beardsley's house next to the Crown and Tuns in New Street... Thomas and Ruth Fowler, like their family before them, guarded the pudding-pie recipe carefully and their recipe died with them.

However, a recipe IS then supplied in this same article, courtesy of Mrs. Ella Marshall who has provided a recipe from 'Traditional English Cooking' (pbl. Angus and Robertson Ltd. 1961) This recipe creates a shortcrust pastry case, but the filling is of cooked ground rice over jam or coconut, and the whole is dusted with ground cinnamon. Quite different to the description of the pudding-pie as a plum pudding in an hardy pastry piecrust.

Shortcrust pastry:
1/2 lb. flour
4 oz. mixed lard and butter
4 tablespoons cold water

To make the filling:
Heat 1 & either 1/2 or 1/4 cups milk (it is impossible to decipher the precise measurement from the original article), add 2 rounded tablespoons caster sugar. Mix 3 level tablespoons ground rice and 1/2 (? same problem) teaspoon salt with 3 tablespoons water. Stir this into the warm milk. Cook and keep stirring until it thickens. Continue cooking "pudden" mixture for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Beat two eggs in a bowl and stir into rice mixture. Flavour with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence. Roll out pastry and line greased saucers with the pastry. Cover pastry with jam or dessicated coconut, then pour gently a little of "pudden" mixture over. Bake 20 mins. in medium oven 325F until pastry is cooked underneath. Remove from oven and if liked dust very lightly with ground cinnamon. Nowadays these could be made in an 8" flan about 2"deep. Serve hot or cold.

Born in 1903, Fred Deely, a life-long resident of Deddington, had his boyhood memories recorded by Dorothy E Clarke:

Fred once saw the famous 'Pud', which featured at Deddington's Pudd'n & Pie Fayre, held in November and continued until shortly before the Second World War. It was about 9 inches across, fruit inside, and pastry outside. The lad next to the Three Tuns - Fowler was his name - used to be a baker. He had a sister, Ruth Fowler, she was a cripple, and it was common talk she had the recipe, and when she died nobody ever found it.

Mary Van Turner, in researching 'The Story of Deddington' (1933) spoke with Ruth Fowler, holder of the secret recipe and by this date an elderly lady. From her we learn how the pies were made in the early twentieth century.

Pudding pies have not been made in Deddington for the past six years. Miss Ruth Fowler of 'the Old Bakery', whose family had the original recipe from the Bennetts, who were baking in 1852, undoubtedly made that historic delicacy just as it should be, for in sampling one I found it corresponded exactly with the jesting descriptions which every elder Deddingtonian, including Miss Fowler, delights to give.

'They say you could tie label to one and send it through the post a hundred miles - so hard it was.'

'Deddington folk were supposed to save up all the scrapings from the candle drippings in the lanterns and put them in the pudding pies.' This was also repeated to me by another baker, Mr. W. Course.

Miss Ruth Fowler, herself, quotes a story that gives a quaint, medieval flavour to their peculiar character - a King was journeying from Woodstock to Banbury through Deddington. At Woodstock they gave him gloves and at Banbury light cakes, but in Deddington something between the two, like leather but to be eaten.

Actually they contain a sort of glorified bread pudding in a very hard case. Miss Fowler told me that the outer crust has suet as an ingredient, this is filled with boiled plum pudding, the whole being afterwards baked. Once all the bakers here made them and they were sold at the Stalls. Boiled and baked like Simnel cakes, but with what a different result!

So, according to Mary Vane Turner's account, Deddington pudding-pies have not been made by local bakers since 1927. In the 1970s a version of the 'pudden pie' was baked for the Deddington Festival, held in late summer. In an archived piece from the Deddington News from June 2007, recalling an item from the Deddington Society's Newsletter dated September 1973 and focusing on the Deddington Festival held that month, it was reported that:

The highlight for gourmets at the Festival was the sale of Deddington Pudden pies specially made from a centuries-old recipe by the local baker. The pies, which were made in saucers and sold at the annual Deddington Fair many years ago, have a sweet filling of nuts, ground rice, chopped fruit and eggs and are served with cream. The baker, Mr. B. Wallin, figured in the Festival and a bread book used by his forefathers in the baking trade was displayed in the history exhibition at the parish church.

The pies described here are clearly very different to the robust pies created by the Fowlers and other Deddington bakers at the turn of the twentieth century. They certainly sound more appertising. Curiously, the only other recipe I could find for the pudding-pies is pretty close to the the description of the saucer-baked puddings. I have a sneaky suspicion that the local baker may have seen a copy of Florence White's 'Good Things in England', which is where the recipe I cooked is from. It is here called Deddington Pudden Pie, and although the 'pie' is made of puff pastry, the filling is first boiled and then baked. Perhaps the inedible pastry crust was done away with for the purpose encouraging bakers to revive the pudding.

'A Deddington Pudden Pie was.. made by Miss R. F. Fowler and exhibited at the first English Folk Cookery Exhibition... on January 16th, 1931. The following recipe was published in the Daily News in 1930.

Ingredients: Puff pastry: ground rice 4 oz. [110g]; milk 1 quart [2pints]; eggs 3; lump sugar 6 oz. [175g]; lemon 1; currants 4 oz. [110g]
I baked with half of this quantity of ingredients.

Time: 10 to 15 minutes to boil and 15 to 25 minutes to bake in a moderate oven [180C/350F/Gas 4].

1. Grease some large saucers and line them with puff pastry.
2. Make the rice into a cream with 6 tablespoons of the milk.
3. Add the eggs well beaten to it.
4. Boil up the remainder of the milk with the lump sugar, and the thinly pared rind of a washed lemon.

5. When this boils add the rice mixture and keep stirring for 10 to 15 minutes; then
6. Lift out the lemon peel, and add the currants.
7. Pour into the lined saucers to within one inch and a half of the edge of the crust.
8. Bake in a moderate oven until the pastry is nicely coloured and the mixture set. They can be eaten hot or cold.

Although Florence White does not say whether she has managed to get Ruth Fowler to divulge her family recipe, I wonder if the recipe she gives, leaving aside the pastry element, is close to it. A 19th century recipe for Folkestone Pudding Pies given by Mrs. Beeton in her 'Book of Household Management'(1861) is so very close to the Deddington Pudden Pie recipe in 'Good Things in England', that I would like to think that Florence White's recipe is authentic. My theory on the rock hard pudding-pie casing is that it was not designed to be eaten, but was to transport the filling home from the fair where it could be consumed. I believe that the pastry casing on the Scottish Black Bun served a similar purpose, keeping the cake from going stale, but intended to be discarded.

I imagined that the 'pudding' would be solid, but it was a cross between a wet cheesecake and a stodgy custard tart (hmm, that will get you all rushing for the kitchen). Maybe I needed to cook the filling for longer, or maybe that was the desired consistency. I baked my pudding-pie for 35 minutes, with another 10 minutes in the oven whilst it cooled - plenty long enough to get a 'set'. Whilst baking the filling rose like a plump Chesterfield, but became the cushion favoured by the dog when it hit cold air. It wasn't unpleasant to eat, just a tad bland and a little too mealy in the mouth for my liking. On the positive side, the currants were nice and juicy and had imbibed the lemon flavouring. Maybe mid Lent or after a hard day flogging cattle it would hit the mark.

Deddington has the most comprehensive and exhaustive website of local information that I have ever come across during my web research. If you have any interest in learning more about the town and its history, then I do urge you to take a good look at


Katie said...

Thanks for this post I found it really interesting. The modern version looks and sounds a bit like a Yorkshire Curd Tart.

Perhaphs you were never supposed to eat the hard crust of the traditional pie, and it was just a way of carrying it around and then you had to break the crust away and eat the plum pudding filling - a bit like when you bake things in salt crusts etc.

Would love to know what the tradiotnal pie pudding tasted like - what a shame it was lost.

isabella said...

What do you think if I'll translate into Italian and try to cook it ?

AnnaW said...

Katie, I shall have to next have a go at a Yorkshire Curd Tart so that I can compare them! Yes, I agree about the pastry. From reading the descriptions of the pastry, I really can't believe it was consumed, but it would have made perfect disposable packaging. Sensible really.

Isabella - go for it!

K said...

I think your theory about the pastry is on the mark. I've heard that the pastry on the original Cornish pasties was also essentially a throwaway wrapper for the meat inside (and that early versions had savoury filling at one end and jam at the other - main course and pudding in one! This may be apocryphal.)

The version you cooked sounds a bit like an English version of a clafoutis, only with dried fruit instead of cherries. I have never found the custard on those to be set enough for my tastes, either (I've never cooked it myself, only had it served to me).

Camille said...

I adore your research! I find the history of food almost as exciting as cooking and baking. I really enjoyed your post and will be checking back to see what is new.

Anonymous said...

looks lovely, great comfort food!

Paula said...

I find your little histories so interesting. Such a lot of these recipes get lost.

Anonymous said...

Anna - I looked at the English heritage site with all the old views of england - it was wonderful.
We have been visiting a wonderful place in Abinger Hammer -the site of some old watercress beds...

Dewi said...

I was so happy when I found your blog. I must say that I love anything "British" and particularly interested to learn more about Welsh culture and cooking. I will definitely try Deddington Pudding and will get back to you with the result. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Je m'aime beaucoup sa publication, recevez une forte embrassade, merci beaucoup.

Anonymous said...

the texture of this looks divine!! your blog is new to me, but i'm like elra, a brit fanatic, and will be back, thank you!

David Hall said...

Wish you would Blog more Anna - I love reading your stories. Absolutely delicious recipe!


Stephy said...

you REALLY NEED to blog again!
you got the most delicious little buns, cookies and cakes i've seen and i love your recipes!

AnnaW said...

Thanks for all the positive comments. I wish I could blog more, but I confess that it is really difficult to squeeze out enough time for research, cooking, photography and writing. Next time there is a lull I will endeavour to head kitchenwards. Promise!

Dee said...

Great post! Just discovered your blog and it's brilliant :)

The Caked Crusader said...

Great post! I have just discovered your site.
The tart looks very interesting and I think it could be given some extra flavour by mour vanilla and nutmeg perhaps?

Martini said...

Firstly may I congratulate you on your excellent Blog which I have read with great enjoyment and fears for my waste line.
Your piece on Deddington Pudding-Pie (Monday May 19th 2008) made very interesting reading for a number of people in the Village of Deddington and specifically to the group who manage the Deddington online web site ( )
I am a member of this group and we would like to post all of or part of or a link to your piece on the Deddington on Line site.

We are aware we need your permission for this so as I can’t find an email address for you I am using this medium to ask for your permission.

If you wish to take this off line then please email me at
Best Regards
Martin Ince

Anonymous said...

I love your site, even though I can never make most of it. Regional food is fascinating. Good for you.

Unknown said...

That looks amazing! I love currants in anything. It doesn't seem that popular here in the US, at least that I've seen.

Anonymous said...

I want to see you eat that hot piece of pie. ok, i experimented in making some kind of soft bread too

Lorna Yee said...

Oh my--I've never had a dessert like this, but it looks lovely!

Web Designing said...

"Deddington Pudding-Pie, Oxfordshire" This one really looks good.. never tried this before.

John said...

Looks so delicious!
Thanks for sharing

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Indu said...

Thanks for this post! It is a great read full of very interesting information and pictures. I must try this recipe soon.

vanillasugarblog said...

interesting read. I must try this.

Garden, Travel, Food Blogs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garden, Travel, Food Blogs said...

Wanting a good gingerbread recipe. Try this. Wanting to use oatmeal? Try substituting it for the rye flour!


From Ginger Cheer by Philippa Davonport Country Living 428 12/1999, 126-134.

Like all the best gingerbreads, it is so rich that it sinks a little in the centre
• 100g rye flour plus 200g plain white flour, sifted together
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 slightly heaped tbsp ground ginger
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp ground allspice
• 1 tsp each coarsely ground coriander & fennel seeds
• 100g stem ginger, diced / thinly sliced
• 75g fresh dates, stoned and chopped small
• 150gbutterand 150gdark muscovado sugar
• 150g black treacle
• 100g golden syrup
• 3 medium eggs lightly forked with 2 tbsp syrup taken from the jar of stem ginger
• 2 tbsp milk and 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Stand the jars of treacle and syrup in a pan of hot water to warm the contents and make them runny enough to measure easily. Heat the oven to 190°C (375°F) gas mark 5. Grease, line and grease again the base and sides of a deep 19-20cm square cake tin, letting the paper overlap the tin generously on two sides so the cake can be lifted out easily. Prepare the stem ginger and dates, mix them together with 1 tablespoon of flour and reserve. Stir together in a separate bowl the remaining flours, baking powder, spices and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Rinse a large bowl with hot water to warm it. Dice the butter into it, add the sugar and cream together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg mixture, adding alternate spoonfuls of the flour mixture. Add the rest of the flour mixture and pour in the carefully measured warm treacle and syrup. Mix until smooth and glossy, sprinkling on and incorporating evenly the bits of stem ginger and date as you go. Warm the milk, dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in it, and work it smoothly into the cake mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, tapping and shaking to check the corners are well filled. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 170°C (325°F) gas mark 3 and bake for 40 minutes more. Reduce temperature to 150°C (300°F) gas mark 2 and complete baking (about 35 minutes in my oven). Leave the cake in the tin for 15 minutes, then lift it onto a cooling rack. Peel back the papers and gild the cake while it is still warm using a little rich sugar syrup to stick down the gilding if necessary. When the cake is cold, remove the baking papers, wrap tightly in clean greaseproof paper, over-wrap with foil and store for at least 4 days (14 days is not too long) before eating. "

square dinnnerware said...

Deddington is a beautiful looking town....might have to check that out in the next year! (nice looking pudding-pie, too!)

Elizeth said...

Hi.. These look good.Great presentation and your Photography is also good

Myriem said...

great work, Excellent Post !

Al said...

good posting. I love this. thank you for sharing

christmas gift ideas said...

nice post...
Keep posting with more new information....

ATHELIEN... said...

I've discovered your blog while searching for food blogs. I've just skimmed some of your posts and this one excited me since I want to visit England in summer. Yet, I'm not done with my plans.

Your post helps me to know about the country. I prefer visiting historical places, old towns in England. You give some details about Deddington and mention life stories of people which are very good information for me.

I'm going back to read the posts again. To tell the truth, I'm an apprentice, considering that my mother is a gourmet- chef like woman. I'm on the beginning level in the kitchen. That's why I can't criticise your receipt or suggest a new thing. I just want to THANK YOU for such lovely posts.

Ladyhihi said...

Thanks for this post I found it really interesting. The modern version looks and sounds a bit like a Yorkshire Curd Tart.

Perhaphs you were never supposed to eat the hard crust of the traditional pie, and it was just a way of carrying it around and then you had to break the crust away and eat the plum pudding filling - a bit like when you bake things in salt crusts etc.

Would love to know what the tradiotnal pie pudding tasted like - what a shame it was lost.

dining guide said...

i read this post first time its really intersting and i found the historical information.... i like your post...your post is too goob...

Unknown said...

Love the recipe, will try it soon, it looks so homely.

Unknown said...

Would love to know what the tradiotnal pie pudding tasted like - what a shame it was lost.

sylvie said...

so beautiful Pictures,
I love England ♫♪♫♪
have a nice day,
Sylvie from France ♫♪♫♪

Cooking Craze said...

Great to come across your site. i love cooking thanks for sharing this delicious recipe. will try the pudding this weekend.