For those of us who love to cook, even recipes we have mastered remain works in progress. Or at least, that’s the way it should be.
A perfect example of this is bread and butter pudding – a dessert I adore, but one that can take forever to conquer. Unless you happen to be reading this, in which case…
Recently, I saw a recipe for B&B pud from one of our most celebrated chefs, and it was a stinker. His approach, I deduced, would deliver a mediocre pudding with a sandy, not silky, texture. How do I know this?
Well, two people unwittingly joined forces to teach me to how make a ripper bread and butter pudding. The first was London-based Swiss chef Anton Mossiman who visited Australia in the late 1980s and demonstrated the dish he had put back on the culinary map.
The second was a character in that gloriously food-obsessed British detective series Pie in the Sky – a mischievous woman who revealed the secret of her perfect B&B pudding’s glaze.
Mossiman, you see, always used an apricot jam glaze, which worked well. But the character in the TV series reckoned cumquat marmalade was even better. And she was quite right.
And so, by combining these two pieces of intelligence, and adding a couple of tweaks of my own, I arrived at what I regard as the perfect B&B pud. And now, you can make it too. Try this – at least until you stumble upon something that will make it even better:
Set your oven to 160 C. Butter an ovenproof dish. Slice a sweet brioche loaf (panettone also works rather well) and trim the slices. The amount you need will be dictated by the size of your dish, so experiment. Trim the slices to squares, then triangles.
Butter the slices on one side and position, butter side down and overlapping slightly, in the dish. Scatter a handful of sultanas (unless you are using panettone, or even sliced, stale escargot which also work) you have plumped up in boiling water and then drained, over the bread.
Now make a custard: bring 250ml of full cream milk, 250ml of double cream, a pinch of salt and a split vanilla pod just to a boil. Take off the heat. Beat 3 eggs with 125g of caster sugar until pale and fluffy, add a little of the cream mixture, still beating, and then slowly add the rest as you continue to beat. Strain this over the brioche slices, which it should almost cover.
Fold most of yesterday’s Age, or a comparable, up-market tabloid, if one still exists at the time you are reading this, in half and place in the bottom of a baking dish. Sit the ovenproof dish on top and add hot water to come half way up the sides of the dish. Bake for about 45-50 minutes until set, but still wobbly in the middle. Cool slightly and then brush the top with a glaze made by heating and straining cumquat marmalade and thinning with a little hot water.
Let the pudding cool slightly and set, spoon portions onto serving plates and sprinkle with icing sugar.
And if a top chef should happen to ask you why your B&B pud is so much better than his, ignore him. Or ask for money.