Monday, December 15, 2008
Not your grandmother's bread pudding
warm gingerbread pudding with meyer lemon chantilly
It's not that I forgot to blog for the last two weeks. It's just that my stoopid computer caught one of those trojan virus thingys and was at the computer doctor for a week. Then I was lazy for a few days.
It's fixed and life/my blog may return to it's regularly scheduled programming.
Let's talk bread pudding, shall we? I first developed my geriatric-like obsession for this dessert (because, lets face it. The vast majority of those who ordered this dessert were of The Greatest Generation) while I was working at this little bakery in high school. It was a simple affair, made from the leftover cinnamon, orange, and pecan rolls. The combination of flavors from each roll was amazing. Caramel, cinnamon, and orange. All bound together with a very gently sweetened custard. The occasional pecan or golden raisin would pop up every other bite or so- but never obtrusively, for as a general rule, I am anti-raisin in bread pudding.
I have since eaten many other forms of this dessert made with brioche, cake, croissants, and plain old white sandwich bread. Some have been lovely (I once worked with a pastry chef that made a version using dried chocolate cake and a caramel custard. Holeee shit. That was a tasty 'un), and some have been downright despicable. There is a reputable restaurant in this city (who shall remain nameless) that prides itself on it's bread pudding. It is mushy, overly sweet and cloying. Nothing short of a travesty.
I think it comes down to the fact that there are two schools of thought on bread pudding. Those who allow the bread to completely soak up the custard before baking, creating a solid unit of indiscernible mush. And those who use a little restraint with that step, creating a pudding with more depth. I prefer the latter.
This gingerbread pudding is probably my second favorite incarnation of the dessert. The first being the one from my high school days. Sadly, I pretty much never have leftover cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, and orange rolls sitting around. And unless we're visiting my in-laws, I avoid my hometown of Issaquah like the plague. That first taste of bread pudding will probably have to remain romanticized in my memory.
Okay- the recipe. I know it seems foolish to bake a perfectly good batch of gingerbread, only to cut it up and dry it out like croutons in the oven. Never will this seem more idiotic than with this recipe. It is that good. I took David Lebovitz's gingerbread recipe and tinkered with it. I replaced the oil with brown butter, and added the spices right in the pot with the butter as it browned to help their flavors bloom a little more. The result is a really tender, extra spicy (it almost tastes "hot") ginger cake. You may want to double the recipe so you have some fresh cake to snack on while the bread pudding bakes.
I garnish this dessert with meyer lemon chantilly, which is just a simple meyer lemon curd with a little whipped cream folded in....good enough to eat with a spoon, standing in front of the fridge with the door still open. But not that I've done that.
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
2 T minced candied ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a sheet pan with baking release (like pam), line with parchment paper, and spray again. Sift the flour and salt together and set aside. Place a pot of water in the stove to boil. Combine the butter and the spices in a pot and melt over medium heat. Allow the butter to brown a little (this takes a minute or two, and will be difficult to tell when it has browned, as the spices are in there. Go by smell- it should begin to smell nutty.) Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk the molasses, sugar, and egg together. Add the butter/spice mixture and whisk to combine.
Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.Measure out the 1/2 cup of boiling water and quickly stir the baking soda into it. Add to cake batter and stir gently until combined. Finally, add the minced ginger and stir. Pour the batter out onto the prepared sheet pan and bake for approximately 14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
Cut the cooled gingerbread into 1/2" cubes and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 325 for about 10 minutes. After the gingerbread has cooled, it will be somewhat crisp, like croutons.
8 cups loosely packed cubed gingerbread
3 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T calvados, or brandy
Whisk the eggs, sugars, and spices together in a large bowl. Bring the milk and cream to a boil, the gradually whisk into the eggs. Strain the custard, then stir in the calvados and vanilla.
Butter a large souffle dish. Place the dried gingerbread in the dish and slowly pour the custard over the gingerbread. Place in a large roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with hot water, until the souffle dish is about halfway submerged. Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes. The custard will be set, but slightly wobbly in the center.
Cool to room temperature and serve.