Thursday, August 11, 2011

mummy's bread pudding

When we were little, my mother used to bake often - and within a couple of days, her three little piggies would devour everything! My childhood was a food orgy of sheet cakes with lovely buttercream frosting, vanilla cupcakes, and bread pudding. I don't understand why we loved this pudding, because let's face it - as far as dessert goes, bread is a humble addition. A very humble one indeed. Also, there's nothing glorious about it, except it tastes like home to me. Rustic. A super easy, un-fussy, something-grandma-would-make dessert. Serve it with a dollop of mascarpone, or creamy vanilla custard, and you have the perfect Ramadaan and winter dessert. Light sweetness, not heavy or super-rich, comfort-food at its best.

Mum's Bread Pudding

5-6 slices normal white bread or French bread
6 large eggs
1 litre milk
1/2 a cup sugar
1/2 a tin sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon elachi (cardamom) powder

For the top:

1-2 tablespoons butter
Flaked almonds
Roasted pistachios, chopped (optional)

Grease the bottom and sides of a large rectangular stainless steal, or other, baking dish with butter.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius (350 F).
Cut bread with a serrated knife into small cubes or pulse chunks in a food processor until broken into small pieces. If your processor is large enough - mine isn't - you can just add all the ingredients to it and process everything together. If not, use a large mixing bowl and an electric hand mixer, or the bowl of your electric mixer, to beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, milk, condensed milk and cardamom. Add the bread and perhaps let it soak till softened, beat to combine - my mixture wasn't smooth, since I used French bread, but that is fine too. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for about 45minutes to an hour, checking from 40 minutes for doneness, by inserting a knife, which should come out fairly clean. Halfway through, sprinkle flaked almonds and chopped pistachio on the setting surface of the pudding, and dot the surface with a scattering of butter. The top of the pudding should be golden brown, but not too brown - careful not to overbake. Can be served warm, or stored in the refrigerator and served cold.

White Chocolate Custard
Gladly taken from here

100 g white cooking chocolate, chopped

1 cup (250 ml) milk

300 ml cream

4 egg yolks

2 tablespoons cornflour (maizena)
1/2 cup castor sugar

Place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside.

Combine milk and cream in a medium saucepan and stir
over a medium heat until hot but do not allow the mixture to boil.
Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a medium bowl until the mixture is smooth and thick and whisk hot milk mixture, slowly at first, into egg yolk mixture - so as not to scramble the eggs.

Return mixture to saucepan and whisk constantly, over a low heat for about four minutes, or until custard thickens.
Pour custard over the chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted.
Custard can be served warm or cold.

I made three quarters of the recipe as I had only three eggs. It was super easy, and much to my surprise, also to my liking. I had a serious aversion to custard growing up. In hindsight, it must have been the powdered and instant variations I was familiar with. I was so pleased with this custard, it was smooth and silky and just completed the bread pudding. I was tempted to scrape a vanilla bean and add the seeds to the milk/cream mixture but the past few weeks, have been vanilla bean overload. Lutfiya, the pioneer chef of Three and a Half Chefs, bought me a pack of vanilla beans from Mauritius and I think there are only two left. Amazing flavour. So that's an option for you to try if you decide to make the custard. Besides flavour, the custard will be flecked with tiny black dots - which looks lovely.

Do comment if you have a bread pudding recipe you love! I'd love to try more.
It's my new thing. Humble desserts, the underdog of the culinary world :)