Thursday, March 17, 2005

Segue from a Cook (part 4)

Bread Pudding
(As in Christmas Plum, not "Jello Chocolate")

Often, in the restaraunt business, we're left with large amounts of bread when the day's done. This comes from a variety of sources. There's the loaves we bought to give to guests that weren't even cut (thrown out, what a waste, so we can get fresh ones tomorrow), there's the bread left over from trimming croutons, and the pre-cut bread baskets that were never served. What this means is that we lose money. Bread is not a 100% profit item for two reasons. 1) We give it away for free (on the assumption that our guests will be buying food), and 2) because a lot of it is left over.

Because of these factors, its a bit surprising that you don't see more recipes, and menu items, for bread pudding floating around. When prepared properly, this dish has a wonderful, subtle flavor that is wonderfully accented by ice cream with chocolate and caramel sauce. The dish has three great benefits:
1) it uses leftover bread and turns it into profit
2) you can make it in 15 minutes, throw it in the oven for 20, haul it out, cover it, and forget about it
3) it's virtually impossible to fuck up (it is so fantastically simple)

At Cognito's we used to serve a killer bread pudding. The chef made them in huge rectangular pans normally reserved for lasagna or scalloped potatoes. The bread was cut into huge cubes, and came out wonderfully fluffy (some places you get it its soggy...which blows, but is the side effect of serving it cold). Sadly, Cognito's has been closed for over a year now, so I've had to come up with my own recipe.

The most notable change with this recipe from most you'll find is that it uses apples rather than raisins (which are standard in most other bread pudding recipes). The reason for this is simpler than you'd think: I made up the recipe at work tonight (seriously, this came out of my head as a rough idea of what Cognito's bread pudding tasted like), and we didn't have raisins, so I used an old apple. It came out just fine. The apple works into the texture of the pudding quite nicely, and adds a nice contrasting flavor to the rest of the dish.

Bread Pudding (per individual ramikin)
-60g bread, sliced into thin strips, crust removed
-1 egg, beaten
-2 spoonfulls of liquid honey
-1/2 spoonfull of icing sugar
-a pinch of cinnamon or 5 spice
-a pinch of nutmeg
-1/2 tea spoon of vanilla extract
-1/2 apple (preferably something a bit tart), small dice
-1 spoonfull whipping cream (possibly more)
-a knob of butter

1. Grease the ramikin with some of the butter. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 375F.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the bread, egg, honey, icing sugar, spices, and whipping cream. Stir well until everything's incorporated, and let it sit and soak for about 10 or 15 minutes.
4. In a frying pan or sauce pan melt down the butter and throw in the apples. Add a pinch of salt and sautee them until they're just starting to go soft.
5. Combine the apples with the bread mixture, mix well, and clump it all into the ramikin. Smush it but good.
6. Cover the ramikin with tin foil, and put in the oven for 10 minutes. At the end of that time, remove the tin foil and let bake for another 10 minutes. The pudding WILL rise, rather a lot, but that's ok. You want to get it nice and golden brown on top.

For service, gently slide a knife around the inside edge of the ramikin to dislodge the pudding, tap it gently into your hand (careful, the ramikin will be VERY hot), and put it right side up on a plate. Garnish with some nice streaks of chocolate sauce and caramel sauce, and put a nice big scoop or two of vanilla ice cream beside the pudding. Sprinkle everything with a bit of chocolate sauce. Eat immediatly.

Alternativly, the pudding can probably (not 100% sure) be refridgerated for a couple days, and you can probably microwave it for a couple minutes to heat it up again (if covered with saran wrap).

Some variations on this dish include using raisins rather than apples, putting some lemon or orange zest in, and perhaps adding chocolate. Brown sugar could also be included, especially if its melted when you sautee the apples.

And remember: Eat good food. Enjoy good food. And at some point, cook good food.


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