A while ago I was sitting at Mum’s, watching Masterchef reruns on the BBC, and I came across this recipe whereby the guest chef demonstrated a ‘Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding’. I thought this was such a nifty way to update an old recipe. Growing up I have had my fair share of bread pudding, from my mother’s version to badly done ones at hotel buffets, but never have I had one flecked with chocolatey goodness. I am fairly sure this is mostly due to my lack of exposure to western cooking at the time. But either way, I said to Mum, we have to make it! And we did. What came out was close to heaven, served with a side of custard sauce.
From what I have read, bread pudding has been around for hundreds of years. It had humble beginnings, as a means to sustain the poor who had very limited access to fresh food. Not wanting to waste stale bread, they revived it by steaming it along with some fruit or bits of meat (when available). There is a very interesting, and extensive, article on ‘ItalianDesserts.org’. Here is an excerpt …
Bread pudding dates back to prehistoric times and has had its place in every era and every country since that time. My research has revealed that bread pudding, both sweet and savory, was first developed by ancient peoples. It seems that there has always been a tendency for frugal cooks to avoid the waste of stale bread and so this confection came into being.
Good to know. I always like reading up about where certain foods come from. Must be all those years growing up watching Alton Brown on TV. Nothing like a bit of food anthropology to get me in the mood for, as he so eloquently put it, “Good Eats”! Alton Brown opened up my eyes to the history and science behind food and cooking, as I am sure he did to millions of people the world over. It lit up a fire within; a desire to pay closer attention to food and to understand the complexities behind them. Even though I was not aware of it at the time I learnt so much from him simply by watching weekend TV. I still watch his programmes today on YouTube, and I bought his book ‘I’m Just Here For The Food, Version 2.0′. Too bad I left it in Australia. Had I known our stay here in Amsterdam was going to be more permanent I would have packed it in an instant.
Fast forward to present day, and I found chocolate chip brioche in the store. Memories of that little slice of heaven came flooding back. Its not exactly pain aux choclat but I like the milkyness of this bun better. Ten in a bag … WIN!
I know that one day I will get around to making it with actual chocolate croissants, but for now I am happy to have my little milk buns on hand. Well sort of …
Okay, here is the issue ~ I cannot stop eating them! Everytime I go to the shops to buy a pack I always end up coming home and nibbling on one. Then I console myself by saying it’s okay, there is still 9 left. Plenty to make pudding with. Four days later there isn’t any left … so I find myself back in the store picking up yet another pack, swearing and making all sorts of promises to R that today is going to be the day I will make the bread pudding. That took a total of four tries over a period of 2 months. I can’t help it, they are so DELICIOUS! I wake up in the morning, pack R’s sandwiches for the office and then sit down to check my emails and Facebook updates with two rolls and a cup of coffee.
Today tho I managed to stop myself and I hid them in the kitchen cabinet. It worked! Okay fine, so I ate two … but hey, still eight left, right? Plus I was making a small portion, just in case I botched the recipe. I glossed over the ingredient list one last time and read the instructions carefully. Then I began the assembly.
Step 1 :
Butter or spray a baking dish. Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Now slice the bread either in cubes or lengthwise … whatever suits your fancy. Pack them in good, or layer them like I did. Don’t forget to butter them as I have.
Step 2 :
Heat up milk and some vanilla sugar in a pan to scalding point, but do not boil. In a separate bowl whisk eggs and sugar. Pour hot milk over the eggs and stir, being sure not to scramble them. Pour this egg and milk mixture over the bread. Set aside for all the liquid to be absorbed, at least 30 mins to an hour. Sometimes Mum chills it overnight in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap.
Step 3 :
Place some hot water into a deep roasting pan. Place the baking dish with the bread into the roasting pan and bake for 20 mins covered losely with foil. Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 mins to brown the top. If you like to spice it up a little you can sprinkle a dusting of cinnamon sugar on the top as well.
Step 4 :
Remove from oven and let the pudding cool down until just warm enough to handle. Personally I like it cold, so I tend to wrap everything back up and shove it in the fridge for another few hours. The bread and custard seems to set better and you can then cut nice slices of it when it is cold. Either way, it is a personal choice. Some like it hot.
So there you have it …. a yummy old English dessert that has been brought back from the brink of extinction and brought up to date. You cannot go far wrong by serving chunks of this stuff on a cold autumn evening with plenty of vanilla sauce to go around. Mmmmm ….
~ ENJOY ~