Monday, February 15, 2016

Cherry Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce

Company was coming for dinner and I wanted something different for dessert.  I also had a lot of several-days-old bread that needed to be used up before it went moldy.  My taste buds decided that a bread pudding would be just the thing!

My experience in eating bread pudding has primarily been from friends who took slightly stale bread, tore it up into chunks, piled them into a pan, soaked them with a custard of eggs, milk, sugar, and flavorings, and then baked them.  The key was a long soak so the bread chunks got damp all the way into the middle.

These were always good!

So I went looking for that sort of recipe and was amazed to find out that all the old recipes did not ask for bread chunks but for dried crumbs.

The recipe I chose was from Hearthside Cooking by Nancy Carter Crump.

ISBN 0-914440-94-2
This is a fun book because Ms. Crump took recipes "from a variety of primary 18th- and 19th-century sources both published and unpublished" from "archives, libraries, and private collections throughout Virginia and North Carolina."  Her goal for the book was to interpret those recipes both for modern kitchens and for fireplace, "hearthside", cooking.

While I was tempted to cook this on a hearth fire, I recognized that the time and effort involved were not compatible with the time I had allotted to prepare the dessert.  I'll save that for another day.

An Ordinary Bread Pudding (page 256)

Original recipe from the Virginia Gearhart Gray Collection:

Quarter of a pound of grated stale bread.  One quart of milk boiled with two or three sticks of cinnamon slightly broken.  Eight eggs Quarter of a pound of mace & little grated lemonpeel.  Two ounces butter.  Boil the milk with the cinnamon strain it and set it away till quite cold. Mix the butter and sugar.  Grate as much crumb of the bread as will weigh a quarter of a pound.  Beat the eggs and when the milk is cold stir them into it in turn with the bread and sugar.  Add the lemonpeel and if you choose a tablespoonful of rose-water.  Bake it in a buttered dish and grate nutmeg over it when done.  Do not send it to the table hot.  Baked puddings should never be eaten till they have become cold or at least cool.

Ms. Crump's redaction:

1 cup milk
1 cup cream
2 sticks cinnamon, broken in 3 or 4 pieces
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups coarse bread crumbs
2 teaspoons rose water (optional)

1. Scald milk and cream with cinnamon sticks and lemon peel on trivet over hot coals.  Add butter and set aside to cool.  When cool, strain into eggs, combining well.

2. Add sugar and nutmeg to bread crumbs.  Pour in milk and egg mixture.  Add rose water, if desired, and stir mixture well.

3. Pour mixture into 1 1/2-quart buttered casserole in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 to 60 minutes "until knife inserted in middle comes out clean."

4.  Serve at room temperature or cold with cream, Vanilla Sauce, or Wine Sauce.

Cherries are in the bowl.
My Notes

I dried my bread crumbs in the oven just to make sure they were stale enough. They weren't crispy but stiff.

"Scalding" milk is not something I do often.  It requires heating the milk mixture gently until bubbles start forming around the edges of the pan.  What this does is allow the flavors of cinnamon and lemon to infuse the liquid.  I let it cool for a while on the counter to get that infusion but then got impatient and put the pan into the refrigerator.

Pre-scalding shot
I used rose water (love the stuff!) but only 1 teaspoon since I wasn't sure how my guests would react to it.  It was strong enough for me in the batter and subtle enough in the finished product for my guests.

Adding the custard to the crumbs
I wanted to use dried fruit to make it a little more "fancy" and happened to have some dried bing cherries handy. I covered them with boiling water for 15 minutes to soften them and then drained off the water. (Ms. Crump has a note at the end of the recipe:  "1/2 cup raisins or currants may be added."  My cherries measured out to about 3/4 cup after soaking.)

About half of the cherries went into the batter and were stirred in.  The other half I sprinkled on top of the batter just in case the first half decided to sink to the bottom of the pan.

Half the cherries here
Ready for the oven!
While the pudding was baking, I made the Vanilla Sauce.  I didn't use the recipe in Ms. Crump's book but a recipe I had copied from somewhere else and left as a note and a place marker at the bread pudding recipe.  Circa 1997.

Vanilla Sauce

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash salt

Mix sugar and cornstarch.  Add boiling water, stirring constantly.  Boil 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt.

My Notes

I followed this recipe as directed.  Boiling the mixture for 5 minutes made the sauce very thick. (Where were you when I needed you for the Lemon Cream Pie???)  I put the container of sauce into the refrigerator until it was time to serve it with the bread pudding.

You really do need to stir it constantly.
The Verdict

The baked pudding was beautiful.  We forgot to take a picture of the whole dish but here is one of what was left after serving.

The five of us ate nearly the whole thing!
It baked for the entire 60 minutes before a knife came out clean but I think it could have come out at 45 minutes and been a little moister.  Not a problem, though.

The texture was dense, moist, and the cherries made it a bit chewy.  The flavor was very slightly sweet.  It was hard to detect the spices and lemon but I think, as background flavors, they added depth.  The rosewater was very subtle and complimented the cherries well.

Everyone liked it.  The leftovers made a good breakfast treat.  I warmed them up and liked the flavor a lot.  I tasted more of the cinnamon.


The vanilla sauce was too solid coming right out of the refrigerator so I warmed it up in the microwave.  This caused it to bubble but it really didn't thin out to a pouring consistency.  Still, it was tasty with the pudding, adding more sweet and a vanilla counterpoint to the cherries and bread.  We just had to spread it around with a spoon.

So success with reservations.  Next time I won't refrigerate it in advance.

Pre-chilling consistency.  Perfect.
Reviewing this book reminded me how much I like to cook over fire and how I need more experience than what I get a few times a year at demonstrations.  Fortunately the weather has been cold enough to inspire me to build fires in the fireplace.  Perhaps I can get some cooking done there!

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