Thursday, February 10, 2011
Bread and Butter Pudding
We spent last Saturday looking at houses in Oxford.
It was one of those winter days that is much better spent inside -- what with the wind and the rain and bone-chilling damp.
No house is going to look its best on such a day, even if it is filled with vases of red tulips and wood-burning fireplaces in every room. But that fantasy scenario was far off the mark. In reality, we were looking at run-down houses that were still horrendously expensive. Is there anything more depressing than looking at houses that have come on the market because their elderly occupants have recently died? They have a forlorn quality like nothing else in the world. The howling wind just magnified the flaws of inadequate heating systems and ancient wooden sash windows which creaked in their frames.
On the drive home from this grim outing, I caught part of a Radio 4 program about bread and butter pudding. There is definitely a good reason why this solid old English pudding falls under the heading of "comfort food." By the time we got home, I was so desperately hungry that I went straight into the kitchen to make myself one. There was a rather virtuous minestrone soup for dinner, but I filled up on bread and butter pudding. What is that saying? Life is uncertain; eat dessert first.
This version is my own experiment, based on what I could remember from the radio program -- mainly, to "heat milk, cream and eggs until they were the temperature of blood." It is creamier and more custardy than the English version, which can be a bit dry, but not as rich and decadent as American bread pudding.
I highly recommend it -- best just warm from the oven, but still quite good cold for breakfast the next morning.
It's vegetarian, although not as low-fat or high-fiber as the lentils that Julochka has been eating. On the other hand, it has a pleasingly frugal quality that seems right for February. It is the perfect use for stale bread, and I was also able to empty out two jars of orange marmalade that contained about two tablespoons each.
8 slices white bread
approximately two ounces of butter, plus a bit more to grease the pan
32 ounces (or 800 ml) of milk and cream combined -- I used two-thirds semi-skimmed milk and one-third single cream. I think this is a fairly flexible arrangement, though.
2 ounces of caster sugar, plus extra sugar (demerara would be good) to sprinkle on the top
3 large eggs
enough orange marmalade -- maybe 4 tablespoons -- to cover four slices of bread
a large handful or raisins soaked in a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier
freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to a moderate heat -- about 350F.
Start soaking a generous handful of raisins in a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier (or Cointreau; or orange juice if you are teetotal).
Generously butter 8 slices of white bread.
Spread 4 slices with orange marmalade -- again, quantities need not be too specific and can depend somewhat on your liking for marmalade (or how much you have left in a jar you want to empty).
Make "sandwiches" from the bread, and then cut them into triangles.
Whisk the eggs into the cream, milk and sugar until thoroughly combined, and then carefully heat over a low flame until barely warm.
Arrange the bread triangles in an oven-proof dish. I like to use my oval two-quart Pyrex.
Throw the raisins over the bread, and then pour the liquid mixture over the top.
Leave to soak for about ten minutes -- and then, as a final touch, dust with freshly grated nutmeg and some coarse demerara sugar.
It will need about 35 minutes in the oven, and maybe 5 minutes before you can plunge in with a big spoon.