Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oh happy day: 'The proof is in the pudding'

My father - who considered sandwiches an opportunity to express one's creativity – loved bread pudding. He used to make it from scratch, following a recipe loaded with sultanas (golden) raisins, currants and brown sugar that he inherited from my grandmother.

If you've never tried it, than today is the day to do it, as it is British pudding day. 

Really. The tradition dates back to the early 20th century, when, according to British folklore, a generous lady, seeing undernourished gypsy children playing in local fields, decided to feed them. She had nothing more than a pie crust, evaporated milk and brown sugar, but she used it all to make them a batch of sweet tarts. Here in the United States pudding characteristically denotes a sweet milk-based dessert similar in consistency to egg-based custard, but in Britain pudding refers to rich, starch- or dairy-based desserts such as tarts and bread pudding. Henceforth, pudding has become a British tradition, present in many bakeries and often on school dinner menus at this time of year, according to Florence Sandeman of Recipes 4 Us, which provided the following recipes to try:

The Gypsy Tart
Cook time: 30 minutes plus cooling
Servings: 4

9 ounces of pie crust pastry
Icing sugar or plain flour
1 6-ounce can of evaporated milk (chilled)
5 1/2-ounces of soft dark brown sugar
Cocoa powder or grated chocolate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly dust a work surface with icing sugar or plain flour, roll the pastry out thinly and place it in an 8-inch flan tin (tart and quiche pan).
Using a butter knife, trim off the excess pastry at the pan's edge. Then, after pricking the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork, line the case with parchment or greaseproof paper and fill it with baking beans (also known as pie or baking weights).
Important: Turn the oven down to 350 F. Then bake the crust for 10 minutes.
Once the time is up, pull the crust out of the oven and remove the baking beans/weights and paper. Then return the crust to the oven and bake it for another 10 minutes.
While it is cooking, place the chilled evaporated milk and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat it for 10 minutes. The mixture will thicken and become light, fluffy and toffee-colored.
After 10 minutes, pull the crust out and set it aside to cool, while you continue to beat the evaporated milk mixture for 5 more minutes. Do not skimp on this timing as it makes a big difference.
Once it has the desired thickness, pour the mixture into the crust and bake it for another 8 to 10 minutes. Do not over bake. The filling still will be very soft and tacky but will firm up as it cools. Cool at room temperature, not in the fridge.
Serve as it is with whipped cream or ice cream or lightly dust with cocoa powder or sprinkle with grated chocolate.

English Bread Pudding
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Servings: 4

6 slices well-buttered bread
2 ounces of sultanas (golden raisins)
4 eggs
1 ounce of sugar
20 ounces of milk
A dab of freshly grated nutmeg (or from the spice rack)
A little extra sugar

Preheat oven to 325 F and grease a 3-inch deep casserole pan.
Cut off the crust from the buttered bread and cut into bread into quarters (triangles or squares). Set aside four quarters for the top and arrange the rest in layers in the dish, sprinkling the raisins between each layer. Top with the reserved quarters.
Heat the milk in a saucepan but not to the point of a boil. In a large bowl, mix the eggs and sugar then (while constantly stirring) add the hot milk and freshly grated nutmeg.
Pour the mixture slowly over the bread and fruit, being careful not to dislodge the top layer of bread. Then set the dish aside for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the bread and butter pudding with a little extra sugar and bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and crispy.

Busy Persons Pudding
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4   

3 tablespoons of your favorite jam
4 ounces of butter
4 ounces of sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 ounces of self-rising flour

Lightly grease a 30 ounce microwavable bowl. Then place the jam in the bowl, spreading it evenly to cover the base, and set it aside.
Using a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy.
Then stir in the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk the ingredients together.
Add the flour and mix it well before transferring the mixture into the bowl containing the jam.
Before placing the bowl into the microwave, cover it with a microwaveable plate. Then cook the mixture on high for 3 1/2 minutes. If it's still gooey, give it another minute.

To truly celebrate British Pudding Day, serve either dish with a dollop of creamy custard and a cup of tea.

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