From Too Many Chefs -

April 22, 2006
What's for Pud? Grown-up Bread and Butter Pudding

BandBfinished.jpgI hope that Sam and Monkey Gland will forgive me, but I prepared my entry for St. George's Day a bit outside the suggested time constraints. In fact, I knew the Critic would be in Canada on St. George's Day (visiting the Dominions, don't you know, old boy...) and so much of the point of making an English pudding would be lost without an English Critic. Instead, I prepared mine on Easter, for an all English group (myself and the half-breed Boy aside).

From the start, I had a bit of confusion about what exactly I was making. I told the Critic I was planning on making bread pudding. "Mmnh," he grunted. "It's okay. Why aren't you making Bread and Butter Pudding - I like it a lot better?" So I described what I intended to do - soft bread, soft custard, baking, raisins - and he told me that WAS bread and butter pudding. "What is bread pudding, then?" I asked. "I'm pretty sure that in the US, this is what we call bread pudding." He didn't know. All he knew was that it was stodgy and dense and not nearly as nice.

I turned to the Food Lover's Companion, which I bought at an exorbitant price some years ago at W.H. Smith's in Paris. (What a wasted extravagance THAT turned out to be, as the whole thing is available - and searchable - on for free.) FLC had the following information:

bread pudding
A simple, delicious baked dessert made with cubes or slices of bread saturated with a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices. Chopped fruit or nuts also can be added. Bread and butter pudding is made by buttering the bread slices before adding the liquid mixture. Both may be served hot or cold with cream or a dessert sauce.

Sounds very simple, no? However, every British person I consulted confirmed that there was a real difference between the two dishes and it didn't sound like a simple matter of butter/no butter. In the end, I found the solution to this conundrum at good old Wikipedia. Here is the entry for Bread Pudding:

"Bread pudding is a dessert popular in British cuisine and that of the Southeast U.S., made using stale (usually left-over) bread, suet, egg, sugar or golden syrup, spices, and dried fruit.
The bread is soaked (often overnight), squeezed dry, and mixed with the other ingredients. The mixture is transferred into a dish and baked.

It may be served with a sweet sauce of some sort, such as whiskey sauce, rum sauce, or caramel sauce, but is typically sprinkled with sugar and eaten cold in squares or slices.

Bread pudding should not be confused with Bread and butter pudding."

Stodge city. So now you know and so do we. I wisely opted for the rich, light Bread and Butter Pudding. And to make it a little more special, I added a grown-up ingredient: prunes l'Armagnac. The result was exactly what I wanted: sweet without being cloying, delicate and yet very satisfying. Comfort food of the highest order, with an adult alcohol edge.

Isn't this a lovely photo? Don't you love the glinting light?

Bread AND Butter Pudding

I adapted this recipe from the inimitable Mrs. Beeton's Cookery for All. Due to far too many hours of watching Ready Steady Cook, I knew that brioche would make a lovely substitution for plain white bread. Ainsley, et al., were correct: the brioche made a wonderfully light, sweet pudding. If you don't happen to have prunes in Armagnac hanging about your liquor cabinet or kitchen, you could double the raisins, soak them in rum for a few hours and drain them before using.

Butter for greasing and buttering (several tablespoons if you are generous like me)
4 thin slices of bread or brioche (mine used 6 thick-ish slices)
50 g (a small handful) of raisins
50 g (about a dozen) prunes, soaked in Armagnac
a grating of nutmeg (to taste)
400 ml milk
2 eggs
25 g sugar

Grease a 1 litre pie dish, or a small Corningware souffle dish. Do not cut the crusts off the brioche, as suggested by Mrs. B. Butter the slices and place a layer, butter side up, in the dish. Sprinkle raisins and/or prunes. Lay another level of buttered brioche or bread and repeat until you have used up the bread and fruit, ending with bread on the top. (As you can see in the photo, I didn't have enough bread for a complete layer on the last one, so instead I cubed the last bit of bread and scattered it over the top.) Beat the eggs and milk together, with half the sugar. Pour the mixture over the bread and fruit. Grate the nutmeg over the dish and then sprinkle it with the remaining sugar.

Let the pudding sit in a corner for anywhere from half an hour to two hours (if it's more than that, you really should put it in the refrigerator while waiting). Preheat the oven to 180C. Bake 30-40 minutes, until it is set but still soft and a bit browned in bits on top. Allow to cool for ten minutes or so before serving, with cream or custard if you like. Actually on its own it's just dandy: creamy and soft and exgremely satisfying.

After his second bite, the Critic said suspiciously, "Did you put ALCOHOL in this?" and I responded apologetically "No, but I used prunes in Armagnac - is it okay?" And he said, "It's GREAT."

Note: if you are super organised and want to include the prunes in Armagnac, you'll need to start this pudding at least a month in advance. Take a kilo of prunes from Agen (with the pits) and prick each one with a pin or a needle. Put them in a bowl and cover them with tea. Let the prunes steep for a few hours or even over night. Drain the prunes. Rinse out a couple of big jars (the one's with the rubber ring and a metal clasp are best) with boiling water. Fill the jars three quarters of the way with the prunes and cover with Armagnac. It doesn't have to be the best quality Armagnac. Over time, the liquor will become a thick, sweet, plum flavoured nectar. After a few weeks, you can start dipping into the prunes. Serve them over ice cream or simply in a small glass with a tot of the liquor. You'll undoubtedly find yourself finish the liquor more quickly than the prunes. And when you do, you can use up a dozen of the prunes in a lovely bread and butter pudding!

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Posted by Meg in Sussex at April 22, 2006 6:27 AM

as far as I have always believed (and it happens that sometimes [quite often?] I am wrong), bread pudding is also known as "chester cake" - see if the criitic has ever heard of that. No need to waste a long distance phone call on it though, we can wait til he gets home ;)

good job with the prunes.

Posted by sam on April 23, 2006 at 2:30 AM

Good heavens, Sam, you are quick off the mark! I'm still correcting typos on this post...!

Thanks for hosting the event - a fun idea! And HAPPY ST. GEORGE'S DAY!!! (Seen any dragons??)

Posted by Meg in Paris on April 23, 2006 at 2:52 AM

Very interesting.This is the recipe I was looking for.Thanks for the same.

too many .?????

Posted by Ramya on April 23, 2006 at 6:18 AM

That wikipedia entry was written by a Brit. I've never seen bread pudding like that. Suet?

Posted by Barrett on April 23, 2006 at 6:46 AM

As one who lives in a former Dominion (Canada) and still appreciates our ties with Her Royal Highness, I'm glad to see you taking part!

Gorgeous pudding ...

Posted by Ivonne on April 23, 2006 at 10:26 AM

I'm with Barrett on this. My grandmother never put suet in bread pudding. In fact I can't really figure out what it would _do_. The baking isn't really long or hot enough to render the suet much, so you just wind up with bread pudding studded with little fatty gristly bits.

Sure, it may be stodgy, but you need that as a buffer because the whole purpose of bread pudding is as a medium for eating hard sauce: butter, sugar, and whiskey heated together and mixed into a thick syrup. If the alcohol all boils off you're heating it too long. Pour it on the bread pudding and watch the party get jolly.

It's important _not_ to use any supermarket sliced bread as they all turn to disgusting slime in bread pudding. French bread pieces, failed home baking projects, and country loaves work better. I discovered that leftover fruitcake also makes a killer bread pudding.


Posted by Cambias on April 23, 2006 at 2:22 PM

Barrett, my Fannie Farmer only has a recipe for Bread and Butter pudding, and it resembles the British one. In any case, this post was supposed to be about English desserts!

Cambias, a friend recently send me a message about an article she saw that called for using stale hot cross buns for a bread and butter pudding - I thought that sounded like a great idea but was already tied to my brioche version! (Plus, making the dessert on Easter day, the buns were still fresh and lovely and it would have been a waste!) Still, it's a great idea!

Posted by Meg on April 23, 2006 at 4:01 PM

And JLC - on another note it's great to see confirmation you're kicking around. Say hi to the dino-specialist for me.

Posted by barrett on April 23, 2006 at 7:03 PM

I can confirm the bread pudding vs. bread and butter pudding impressions. I got bread pudding here in the U.K. and it was horrid. Dry, dense, and not very sweet. No sauce either.

Bread and butter pudding is more like the U.S. version, but more runny and not as alcoholic as you'd find in New Orleans bread puddings.

But they have other puddings that make up for the lack. Sticky toffee pudding puts bread pudding in its place, and I had a sticky figgy pudding once that I'm desperate to duplicate.

Posted by KathyF on May 1, 2006 at 2:56 AM

So does anyone have the recipe for the UK type pudding then? I don't like overly sweet desserts(most American desserts) and I tried the dry UK version and liked it, it's kind of like cake isn't it?

Posted by Anni on January 25, 2007 at 11:05 AM

So does anyone have the recipe for the UK type pudding then? I don't like overly sweet desserts(most American desserts) and I tried the dry UK version and liked it, it's kind of like cake isn't it?

Posted by Anni on January 25, 2007 at 11:05 AM

Suet in bread pudding - of course!

You have to use ready grated suet (brand name of Atora in the UK) or you can use 'vegetable suet'. It does cook through the finished product but firms up again if eaten cold. You can use any kind of fat (margarine, etc) so trial and error will identify the best sort for you. It doesn't have to be stodgy though - it might be heavier than a mousse but I have had Bread pudding that is almost cake-like. If only I had the recipe . . .

Oh, and it is lovely hot with custard!

Posted by DaveD on February 23, 2007 at 5:02 AM

Has anyone got a recipe for bread and butter pudding but made with hot cross buns, apricots. alcohol and a baked custard?

Posted by G A Morgan on April 12, 2007 at 10:51 AM

Has anyone got a recipe for bread and butter pudding but made with hot cross buns, apricots. alcohol and a baked custard?

Posted by G A Morgan on April 12, 2007 at 10:51 AM

Bread and butter pudding is a British dessert, but I have never heard of it being dry or containing suet. The standard one uses bread (slightly stale is best), milk, sugar, Eggs and raisins. I find it is better to remove the crusts and sprinkle the top with sugar too. The result is a delicious moist dessert with a crispy top!

I have also made a variation of it using apple and cinnamon, where I first made an apple cinnamon sauce that was spread between the buttered bread. Then poured over the sugar, milk, egg mix and sprinkled top with more cinnamon and brown sugar.

If Bread and butter pudding is dried out then it is either over cooked or the bread has not had a good covering from the egg, milk and sugar mix.

Other variations of it add a bit of beer or try breaking up chocolate instead of using raisins.

Posted by Barry on April 1, 2009 at 1:47 PM

What you're referring to and asking the recipe for is also known as Christmas pudding, suet pudding, or boiled pudding. I think it may also be called Scottish Clottie or something to that effect. My grandmother made it every year for the holidays.
It's very rich and very, very good. Although I recommend steaming vs. boiling.
Variations: Plum pudding, figgy pudding

Posted by Mums on December 17, 2010 at 4:38 AM