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The Batter Thickens: Christmas Bread Pudding(s)

Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Bread Pudding(s)

Have you ever tried bread pudding? I first did last year at Christmastime, when my mom made it for our Christmas dinner desert. I was surprised to find how much I liked it, given that it is basically just sweet, mushy bread. When we were deciding what to make for Christmas dinner desert this year, my mom concluded that - it being such a hit last year, and apparently a pretty traditional Christmastime dish - bread pudding should be given an encore performance. Audrey and I, of course, were commissioned to prepare it.

We started out planning to double a recipe (for the 10 people we would be feeding) by the traditional authority on all things pudding - the British. I have an awesome British baking cookbook by the founders of a chain of renowned London bakeries and tea rooms called Peyton & Byrne that I was given for Christmas last year that has yet to fail me; everything I've made from it has been exceptional. But then at the last minute - literally right before we started to put the pudding together - I was flipping through Joy the Baker's beautiful cookbook (as you do) when I stumbled on her recipe for Chocolate Malt Bread Pudding. 

There was no question that our second batch would be made Joy the Baker style.

Bread pudding does not look very appetizing before it's baked (above). Or after it's baked, for that matter (below). Baking blogging is all about judging on appearances, but if you haven't tried bread pudding before (and are thus unaware of how delectable it truly is), don't judge it based on its appearance in these pictures. I did my best...but as with people, in some cases photoshop can only go so far ;)

Bread pudding looks like an ooey-gooey blob of mushy bread and the occasional melty pocket of chocolate or butterscotch (if, as we did, you choose to mix in chocolate chips; I think I've said it before - it is my philosophy that everything is better with chocolate). And honestly? That's exactly what it is. If you haven't tried it before, that first bite might be something of a leap of faith. But trust. Trust the British, and the years of tradition they've put into perfecting their puddings. Trust Joy the Baker, who would never lead you astray where matters of the mouth are concerned. Trust me, because I am a firm believer in not wasting calories on anything less than delicious, especially desserts.

That pile of mushy carbohydrates and sugar? That's downright lick-your-spoon, lick-your-bowl, lick-your-chops delicious.

I promise.

What deserts graced your holiday tables?

- Molly

Traditional Bread Pudding
Adapted from British Baking
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

8-10 slices of white bread with the crusts removed
1 ½ tablespoons butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 ½ tablespoons caster sugar
1 cup and 1 ½ tablespoons milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate and Butterscotch chips to taste

1.     Preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 12x6 in pan.

2.     Spread slices of bread with butter and lay them facedown in the pan, overlapping them slightly to make at least 2 layers.

3.     To make custard, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and the sugar. Combine the milk and cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthways, then scrape the seeds into the milk mixture and add the empty pod. If you do not have a vanilla pod or do not want to buy one, simply add the teaspoon of vanilla extract.

4.     Heat the milk to the boiling point, then remove the empty vanilla pod and discard.

5.     Carefully pour the boiling milk over the eggs, whisking continuously until all is added.

6.     Pour this mixture over the slices of bread and add the chips before allowing it to soak for 30 minutes.

7.     Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the custard is set and the top is slightly golden. Serve hot.

Chocolate Malt Bread Pudding
From Joy the Baker Cookbook

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