This bread & butter pudding is not one of the prettiest or the most elegant dessert, but there is something very comforting and heart-warming about it. The simplicity and ease of preparation only makes it better.
If any of you are related to anybody in the defense forces in India, you would be familiar with the Army/Navy/Air Force Wives Welfare Associations, their cultural and philanthropic activities, and the food that is so typical of the ingredients available on the base canteen. My mom-in-law is one such defense wife and loves easy, quick recipes, using minimum ingredients with fantastic results.
Inspired by her “quick-fix” ways, I decided to revive the Bread Pudding in my home – a staple in these ladies’ repertoire and also one of my earliest experiments from my first cook book ever.
Here’s what I used for 10-12 helpings:
10 slices of store-bought regular white bread
2-3 tbsp softened butter, to spread on the bread (little extra to grease the baking dish)
3-1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 tbsp sugar (plus a few pinches for sprinkling)
2-3 tbsp Apricot Jam, to brush on the bread (you can also use other jams – I would suggest delicately flavoured ones like apricot/ peach/pear – or handful of raisins/ other dried berries, or even chocolate chips)
Handful of walnuts
Here’s how I made it:
I greased an 8×8 glass baking dish with a little butter and put it aside. Then I cut the crusts off the bread slices and cut them into 4 squares each.
Then I laid out half of the squares to cover the base of the baking dish. Brushed them with half each of the butter, apricot jam and sprinkled half of the the roughly crumbled walnuts over the bread.
Then I repeated another layer with the other half of the bread squares, butter and jam, sprinkling the rest of the walnuts on top.
Keeping this aside, I placed the milk on the stove at high heat to warm it up. Turning off the heat as soon as could see bubbles forming on the sides of the saucepan, I cracked the eggs into a mixing bowl. Adding the sugar and vanilla, I whisked them with a fork till foamy.
Slowly and gradually, I added the warm milk to the egg mix, whisking all the time to avoid setting/ curdling of the egg.
Once all the ingredients were well mixed and incorporated, I carefully poured the egg-milk mixture it over the arranged bread layers. Within a few minutes they swelled to double the size and filled up the dish.
This is supposed to soak for about 20-30 minutes so it would be a good time to pre-heat the oven to 180 C. I was going to serve this for dessert with friends and I wanted it to be fresh and warm, so I did the prep till this stage and baked it 2 hours later.
Once the oven was pre-heated, I sprinkled a little sugar over the top of the prepared pudding and baked it for 45 minutes at 180 C. Checking it, I thought it was still a little soggy so I reduced the heat to 150 C and baked it for another 15 minutes.
It should be set (like caramel cremes/ custard) and golden on top. I allowed it to cool slightly for about 15 minutes, before serving. I usually find that cutting and lifting along the bread squares makes it much easier…
You can enjoy the bread-y, custard-y goodness by itself or, if you need more of a sugar kick, you can drizzle some maple syrup/ warmed honey/ warmed jam over it. Predictably, I chose “by-itself” and AK had it with a generous drizzle of maple!
That’s it. Easy, few ingredients, few steps but delicious and comforting!