Bread pudding is a classic dessert, it is found in some form across the globe. i grew up with my mother's bread pudding, simple yet full of childhood memories. Today's bread puddings have come a long way and have become quite complex. As I baked this pudding, I was intrigued by the origins of this dish.
Bread pudding can trace its origins back to 11th or 12th century Britain. It was a time of poverty and famine and this was a way to use stale bread. The oldest recipes are made up of stale bread, water, sugar and spices. The water is used to soften the old bread and baking it makes it into a sweet dessert. In the 13th century, you see recipes with eggs and milk giving us the richer and more complex bread puddings that you see today.
Bread puddings are seen all over Europe and the colonized countries in almost infinite variations. They have taken on local spices and herbs. Bread pudding is popular in many different nations. Capirotada, a bread pudding piled with cheese and soaked in a syrup prepared with piloncillo, a type of brown sugar, is popular in Mexico. Om Ali is an Egyptian pudding composed of puff pastry, milk or cream, raisins, and almonds. Eish es Serny is a Middle Eastern dessert prepared from dry bread (rusks) that has been cooked in sugar and honey syrup, scented with rosewater, and tinted with caramel. In India, there's shahi tukda, a bread-based meal with ghee, saffron, sugar, rosewater, and almonds (Source Slurrp.com ).
This is an Italian variation that is simple yet fabulous. It uses a combination of chocolate caramelized apples that set it apart from the crowd. Also, the texture is different, here the bread is completely mashed up giving a smoother pudding-like texture rather than the more chunky textures of other variations. This is a rich dessert, but one that is classic.
Marcella says is a follow-up book from the doyen of Italian cooking. Marcella started as a teacher of Italian cuisine in her New York apartment. She has published a number of cookbooks that have changed the way America, and the world, view Italian cuisine. Her books are filled with history, anecdotes and stories giving life to her dishes and their origins. This is a lovely book with a mix of contemporary and traditional recipes that are easy but flavourful.
For more recipes from this book click here.
12 oz. old bread, plain white or a brioche. If you have fresh bread, leave it out open overnight
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
A pinch of salt
8 tablespoons butter
4 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate
1-2 apples, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
2 eggs, well beaten
Flour, for dusting
Butter, for lining the dish
1-quart baking dish
Break up the bread into bits in a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the bread.
Heat the milk and sugar till warm and the sugar has completely melted. Do not boil the milk. Pour the warm milk over the bread and mix in with a fork or your hands if the mix is cool enough. Knead well till the bread is broken down completely into a paste.
Add the chocolate and butter to the top of a double boiler. Cook till the chocolate and butter are completely melted and mixed in well. Alternatively, you can melt the butter and chocolate on a very low flame on the stove taking care not to cook the chocolate and butter and allow it to bubble. I generally hold it on the flame and remove it off the flame after a few seconds to allow the ingredients to melt. Once melted, pour over the bread mix and using your hands mix in well.
Add the raisins and eggs and mix in well again. You want to make sure the eggs are evenly incorporated, or you will have parts that are set and other parts that are wet.
Line a baking dish with butter and sprinkle with flour. Pour the bread mix into the dish and even out.
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Toss the sliced apples with the superfine sugar to coat evenly. Layer the apple pieces on the top in a pattern.
Bake for 1 hour. The pudding should be well set and the apples browned on top.
Remove and cool for 3 minutes. serve alone or with ice cream if desired. This dessert is best served right out of the oven as the bread pudding is soft and fluffy.