How I love this Bread And Butter Pudding! It is dappled with dried sour sweet cranberries, sultanas, sugar frosted tangerine peel and almonds. Already very good on its own, it is made so much better served with a pool of unctuous Vanilla Sauce. I recently embarked on a kulich baking spree. Well, not a spree but on a mission to reproduce the best looking kulich -a tall and sturdy looking Russian Easter bread rich with egg yolks, sugar, fruit, nuts and butter.

The efforts of my maniacal obsession. Click here, to view blog post.

I had seen it over 10 years ago – a centrefold spread in an already then out of print food travelogue on what was still the USSR. It was a great picture.  I recall a darkened backdrop -I like to think the photograph was taken in a quiet innermost corner of a huge old church somewhere in Russia. Illuminated by an orbit of candles was a huge dark crusted kulich and a plate of neatly moulded off-white paskha – a home made cheese studded with fruits and nuts similar to cream cheese. I can still see the picture vividly in my mind.

In my quest to replicate the kulich I had seen, I ended up baking 10 kulichi in 2 weeks.The only sensible thing to do with 10 kulichi (after eating many slices slathered with paskha, butter, labneh, jelly, jam and giving away many loaves to family and friends), was to make bread and butter pudding. It was a great opportunity to try out as many bread and butter pudding recipes as possible and decide the best way to assemble one myself. My reward is finally having a recipe that delivers a bread and butter pudding that is so satisfying to eat, it is about the only dessert my health conscious diners are quite happy to eat all by themselves without splitting it. Scroll down to ‘Tips’ to read what I discovered after all my test bakes. If you love bread and butter pudding, it will be an interesting read.  

The recipe below is an adaptation of BBC Food’s recipe.  I sometimes serve this with a Mixed Berries Coulis which is a thick sauce made from raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. It is simmered briefly with orange juice and zest with a stick of cinnamon, pureed and strained. The sweet tart sauce accentuates the rich Bread and Butter Pudding. 

This went down really well over the Easter weekend.

The only drawback after all those test bakes is that this recipe does nothing to help you keep your waistline!

Bread And Butter Pudding With Vanilla Sauce

Prep:  ~20 minutes 
Cook: ~30-35 minutes
Inactive: ~30 minutes
Level: Moderately easy
Serves: ~6
Oven Temperature: 355F (180C) -oven rack middle
Can recipe be doubled? Yes in 2 baking vessels
Make ahead? Keeps up to 2 days. Warm through and bring to room temperature before eating.

Ingredients

The pudding
8 thin slices (1 lb)(450g) kulich or brioche*
1oz (25g) for buttering slices
1oz (25g) for dotting on top of assembled pudding before baking
Extra butter for greasing the baking vessel
1 and 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Custard Sauce
1 and 1/2 cups (12 fl oz)(350ml) whole milk**
1/4 cup (2 fl oz)(50ml) double/thickened cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon (4.23oz)(120g) caster sugar
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla essence
If you are using brioche (and not using my kulich recipe) you will need:
3/8 cup to 1/2 cup (2-2.6oz)(55-75g) mix of dried
cranberries, sultanas, Sugar Frosted Tangerine***
2 Tablespoons slivered almonds
The vanilla sauce
5 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
200 ml whipping cream
200 ml whole milk*
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence
* This is the weight of my kulich and not brioche before crust is trim off. My kulich is ladden with dried fruits and 8 slices will weigh more than a regular store bought brioche. So take that into account when weighing brioche -8 slices of brioche will weigh less than 8 slices of my kulich. Bread slices should measure 3/8″ (1cm) thick. You do need a rich, eggy and buttery bread to make a bread and butter pudding worth eating. White bread just will not do. My home baked kulich (Russian Easter Bread) is the perfect bread.  It is not only egg and butter rich, it is freckled with the wonderful flavours of cranberries, sultanas, sugar frosted tangerine peels and almonds. If you use it for Bread And Butter Pudding, you would not need to add any additional dried fruits or nuts. If you would like to try baking kulich, I have posted my recipe. Half that recipe and bake it in a loaf pan or pat into an oblong and bake for ~30-35 minutes and you won’t go wrong. Click, Kulich Russian Easter Bread. Alternatively, get some good quality brioche.
**  Do not use skim or low fat milk.
***  Traditional Chinese Medicine shops always stock these. It comes in the shape of a flattened tangerine. Refer to image below. You should find them in an Asian grocery store. One fruit would give you about 5 Tablespoons of diced tangerine peel. They are delicious and can be eaten as candy. To use, cut into wedges like I did and remove any seeds or hard pith. Sometimes there will be none of these, other times plenty! Then, cut into smaller pieces .I also use them in my Hot Cross Buns and Kulich – Russian Easter Bread. They are traditionally used to make a soothing hot tea with chrysanthemum flowers in addition to a few other herbs.
* Do not use skim or low fat milk. 


Method

Bread and butter pudding
1. Grease a 1 litre/2 pint pie dish with butter. An 11″ (28cm) glass pie dish works very well.
2. Cut the crusts off the bread. Soften 1oz(25g) of butter and spread one side of each slice of bread with butter.
3. Arrange an overlapping single layer of bread, buttered-side up in the baking vessel.If you are using brioche, embed the cranberries, sultanas and nuts evenly between the slices of buttered bread.


4. Sprinkle with orange zest, nutmeg and cinnamon. Set aside.

Make the custard sauce for the bread slices
1. Gently warm the milk and cream in a pot over low heat until you see little bubbles around the circumference. Don’t let it boil. Turn off the heat and remove from the burner.
2. Crack the eggs into a medium size bowl (large enough to hold the cream/milk as you will be adding it in later). Add the sugar and stir with a spoon/spatula until it dissolves.
3. Take this eggs and sugar mixture to the warmed milk/cream. Set the bowl of eggs and sugar mixture securely on your work surface. Put a kitchen towel under it if necessary so that the bowl is secure and does not shift.
4. Gradually pour the warmed milk/cream into the eggs and sugar mixture, stirring the mix continuously as you do so.
5. Transfer this mix, now almost a custard, back to the pot. Take the pot back to the burner and turn heat up to medium. Stir continuously for ~5 minutes until the custard thickens slightly. You must stir or you might over cook the mixture and end up with scramble eggs. At any point, if you think your sauce is thickening too fast for you to manage, take it off the heat and continue stirring. Put it back on the burner if it needs to thicken further.
6. We are aiming for a thin custard as opposed to a thick custard sauce. Aim for a flow similar to full fat milk. If you overcook the sauce and it gets too thick, dilute with a little milk. If you pour a custard sauce that is too thick over the bread slices, it will not seep completely through. You will end up with a pudding that is dry at the bottom.  If you overcook it too much and it starts turning into scramble eggs, then it’s too late. Start over again.
7. To check if the custard is ready, trace a line on the back of the spoon/spatula. You should be able to see a distinct trail mark. A silicon utensil will not leave such a distinct mark. Use metal or wooden spoons to do the trail mark test.
8. Remove immediately from the burner. Do not leave custard in the pot or on the burner. It will scramble!

Assembling and baking
1. Pour custard over the prepared bread layers, pat it down gently to help bread soak in the sauce.  Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes. I had previously left mine sitting in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

2. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 355F (180C).  Oven rack positioned at middle.
3. Just before baking, dot the remaining 1oz (25g) of butter on top of the bread slices.

4. Place the baking vessel into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the custard has set and the top is golden-brown. Test with a skewer or tooth pick. It should come out clean.
5. Check the pudding half way through the cooking time. If it is browning too much, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil.
6. Remove and cool on cooling rack.

To serve

Vanilla Custard Sauce
For instructions, please click, Creme Anglaise, Custard Sauce.

Mixed Berries Coulis
Recipe will be featured in my next post. Image below. It is an uncomplicated recipe.

Tips

What I have learnt from testing various bread and butter pudding recipes

(1) Use an eggy, butter rich, preferably sweet bread such as a brioche or kulich or tsoureki (a Greek Easter Bread, recipe here). White bread will not do. Whole wheat bread is out of the question. It bakes pretty boring and bland puddings.
(2) Remove bread crusts and slice them thinly, 3/8″ (1cm). This helps it to absorb the custard evenly and easily and you can put it in the oven in quicker time.
(3) Butter the bread slices. Buttering not only provides flavour. It provides moisture to areas of the bread that the custard sauce might not have had the chance to seep into.
(4) Keep the cream in the recipe and do not replace it with milk. You need that extra fat for richness and it helps to thicken the custard sauce.
(5) Prepare a custard sauce to soak the bread slices. It helps hold the pudding together and gives a distinctively richer taste and a firm yet moist texture. A mix of cream/milk, eggs and sugar that has not been cooked into a custard before it is poured over the bread slices, will bake a pudding that definitely lacks the rich mouthfeel of a custard. The texture of the pudding tends to be soggy and loose.
(6) Dot the pudding with butter before baking. It keeps the top of the pudding moist as the tops does have a tendency to dry out in the oven.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

I recommend you have a little jug of my tart yet sweet Mixed Berries Coulis to serve with the Bread And Butter Pudding. It goes really well with the rich pudding.

 

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