Recipe: Bread and butter pudding


The economic downturn has spurred a resurgence of interest in "peasant dishes" based on inexpensive ingredients or representing creative ways of using up leftovers. Admittedly, this bread and butter pudding is step up the ladder from its peasant antecedent, but it is guaranteed to take your mind off any economic woes as you surrender to its vanilla-perfumed embrace.

Serves 4-5.

25 g (1 oz) melted butter
50 g (2 oz) sultanas
1 tbsp brandy, whisky or orange juice
275 ml (10 fl oz) milk
225 ml (8 fl oz) double cream
1 vanilla pod
3 eggs
140 g (4 ½ oz) vanilla sugar (see below) 90 g (3 1/2 oz) light buttering kuchen or soft bread rolls
1 heaped tbsp apricot jam

● Use some of the melted butter to grease a pie dish 5cm (2 in) deep.
● Select another oven-proof dish large enough to hold the pie dish to act as a bain marie and line this with a thick wad of newspaper. Place the buttered pie dish on top.
● Put the sultanas in a small basin, sprinkle with the spirit or juice, cover and microwave on 100 per cent power for 30-45 seconds. Alternatively simmer the fruit and liquid in a small pan on top of the stove for a few minutes.
● Bring the milk, cream, vanilla pod and a pinch of salt slowly to the boil in a medium saucepan, preferably non-stick.
● Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl or large food processor until creamy.
● Remove the vanilla pod from the milk mixture then gradually whisk this liquid into the eggs and sugar, stirring constantly if by hand or pouring it through the feed tube with the motor running if using a food processor.
● Slice the kuchen or rolls and brush with the melted butter. Arrange them in the buttered pie dish and sprinkle with the sultanas.
● Gently pour in the egg and milk mixture: the bread will float to the top - don't panic! The dish can now be left for an hour or so, or cooked right away. It is at its best 10 to 20 minutes after baking, so if you can, time the cooking so it will be ready to take out of the oven just before you serve the main course.
● To cook: Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F, gas 3). Pour enough boiling water into the bain marie to come half-way up the sides of the pie dish.
● Cook for 45 minutes or until the pudding trembles very slightly. If it is not crisp on top, turn up to heat to 200°C (400°F, gas 6) and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, then remove from the oven.
● Heat the jam until liquid (most easily done for 20-40 seconds on 100% power in the microwave), then brush this over the pudding so it is glossy and evenly glazed.
● Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve plain or dusted with icing sugar.
● Cook's tip: To make your own vanilla sugar, bury a couple of vanilla pods in caster sugar for few days. Otherwise use one small packet of vanilla sugar and 125g (4 oz) of regular caster sugar.

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