Ancestral Food and Culture - Bread Pudding
Growing up outside of New Orleans food speaks to me, probably more than it should. Certain flavors and dishes become a part of who you are. I wish I could remember ½ the recipes and lesson my grandmother taught me in the kitchen. When it comes to cooking, more specially the old/traditional recipes, it becomes more of a process than a recipe.
Hummus is a great example of this. It’s an easy dish, right? Well, it’s easy to make, BUT hard to perfect. Why? It is all about the process. These processes are passed down from one line to another. I remember when I was learned to make hummus, the Egyptian man told me his “way of making it” had been passed down over the generations. Note: if you want to learn my process on how to make hummus call or email me.
Now, my grandmother is not an Egyptian man, but she did teach me to make one of my favorite desserts….Bread Pudding. Bread pudding is easy to get good, but once you get it perfect, you’ll always chase perfect. Yes, bread pudding is a process driven recipe. Walking out of Midsummer at Njordshof on Saturday night knowing there was most of a basket of sliced, toasted, going stale bread in the kitchen, I was excited for the next morning. If you have never made bread pudding before. Start simple! Also don’t fall for the gimmicky bread puddings, a simple, good, and well-balanced bread puddings tends to beat out all the gimmicky ones. Also, traditional speaking bread pudding contains alcohol in the liquid (all the alcohol cooks offs). Ok ill get off my soap box and get to the recipe/method.
Mead Bread Pudding
Set oven to 350
Bread (you want the two-day old stale stuff that is dry. The dryer the bread the more cream mixture it will absorb but the longer it will take to absorb it. It is a trade off on texture as well. The fresher the bread will give you more of a custardy finished product; whereas, stale bread, if not soaked to death, will give you a really neat layering of textures with a great crust. Remember this dish was created to find a use for bread that was cooked and going stale, not for fresh bread or crazy “bread like items” such as donuts or cinnamon rolls. Crud, soap box again) Your bread can be sliced, hand torn, or cubed. (I suggest French bread or something like a Baggett or Italian loaf. Yes use the crust.)
Liquid amounts depend on how much bread you have. You want to make enough liquid for the bread to be able to absorb most of it.
Mix together until it starts to kinda thicken.
Start with three eggs
Maybe a cup or two of heavy cream
Pinch or two of salt
Pinch or two of cinnamon and/or nutmeg
Cup? Of sugar
Cup or two? of (your favorite that is available) mead. (I suggest sweet mead but you will want to adjust your sugar to accommodate. You can use any hard sweet alcohol or liquor as long as it fits with the flavor you want.)
Yes, you can taste the liquid to see if it is to your liking.
Stir in the bread, wait a little bit, and stir the mixture again, wait a little bit and stir the mixture again. You are looking to make sure the bread absorbs most of the liquid. When you feel (not think) it is ready put it into a greased pan and bake it at 350. Baking time will differ based on the size of pans and amount. Pull when it is solid.
On the last stir I added in a small, chopped apple for pop of flavor and texture.
I was taught a valuable lesson years ago in regard to cooking: once you fully understand the rule, you will learn how to bend them. The more you cook and learn to create your own recipes like our ancestors did, the more you will learn that you can reuse recipes for similar things. This recipe can also be used to make French toast. You just wouldn’t soak the bread, just dip it. You will what to favor egg over cream.
Any questions on this recipe/process feel free to call or email me.
Folkbuilder Mike Joyner