Monday, April 12, 2010
Can you picture your your first dessert memory? The anticipation of that tiny frame of time after being made to eat "just three more mouthfuls" of grey-hued beans, but before being sent off to bed to let the grown ups talk? For me, that short amount of time was all about bread and butter pudding. Even now, the salivary glands kick into gear, the eyes glaze over and I can feel the firm squidginess that was essentially stale bread in custard. Twenty something years on and it's a regular in my own home, for my own family.
Mum's old recipe was designed to be filling, economical and somewhat healthy. The bread was always (at best) 'day old' from the local bakery which was given away to whoever wanted it. Whatever was leftover from the weeks school and work lunches would be used for pudding. The eggs came from our own free ranging, happy girls (who also ate the day old bread and kitchen scraps). The custard was always made with milk, imitation vanilla essence, and the most exotic ingredient by far was the nutmeg sprinkled over the top. But it was wonderful, and boy, did we eat it by the oversized family-of-sixteen-children-style pyrex casserole dish.
But times have changed, it's cheap to use heavy cream, real vanilla, rich brioche or spicy fruit toast to tart up this old fashioned classic. God knows it's well worth the extra dollar or so. If you go to the extent of using a whole vanilla bean, after using it in this recipe, put it in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar. Replace the sugar (not the bean) as you use it. I'm sure even mother would approve of using a $5 bean to get that kind of longevity out of it! Use the sugar for meringues, hot drinks, biscuits etc.
So, if you're in the need for a comforting, warming, groan worthy (and who isn't?) dessert - give it a go!
Tarted Up Bread & Butter Pudding
4 cups torn up bread/brioche/fruit toast
60g butter, melted
1 cup milk
4 eggs (free range please!)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 3/4 cups cream
Toast bread in a moderate oven until crisp but not coloured. Pour melted butter over the bread and mix up to coat evenly, and transfer to a casserole dish. Whisk up remaining ingredients and pour over the bread. Chill for an hour. Bake at 180c until *just* set - about 50 minutes.
I usually have mine hot from the oven, drowned in cold milk (old family tradition), but cream or icecream are great choices.
Tart it up further: infuse the milk with citrus zest or the whole vanilla pod, dip the bread into marmalade or apricot jam, add chocolate chips, sprinkle the top with nutmeg or mixed spice, use donuts in place of the bread... you get the idea.