The Musette: spiced apple bread & butter pudding

My beloved believes every meal should end with something sweet. I try to oblige, often crafting puddings out of odds and ends. One of my regular standbys is that Victorian favourite, Bread & Butter Pudding. I’ll generally use brioche or panettone that is past its best. You cannot make a decent bread and butter pudding with fresh bread.

It’s not a quick dessert as the stale bread has to be fully immersed in the rich custard before it’s baked otherwise it’s not unctuous enough. I like to heat the milk and any flavourings beforehand, leaving them to infuse the milk (or cream) with their heady perfume before pouring it over the beaten eggs and sugar.

At this stage, I’ll often add some dried fruit, such as raisins soaked in rum, if I’m using a plain brioche. Or, as in this case, some chopped apple and raisins gently poached this time in a mixture of rum, cinnamon and honey.

However, I always bake the pudding in a bain marie to ensure  a smoother texured custard, plus it keeps the temperature more uniform and gives a softer, silkier set to the finished dish.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 50g (1/3 cup) raisins or sultanas
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • 400ml (1 2/3 cups) whole milk, single cream or plant-based milk
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 crushed cardamon pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 6 fat slices of stale brioche, fruit bread or panettone, cut into small chunks
  • 3 large organic eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp raw cane sugar or honey
  • 2 medium sized eating apples
  • 1 tbsp raw cane sugar
  • nutmeg to grate

Method

1. If you’re using panettone or fruit bread, you can skip this step if you like. Put the dried fruit into a small cup, pour over the rum, cover tightly and leave to soak overnight.

2. Peel, core, slice and chop the apple and cook with the raw sugar/honey, adding the rehydrated dried fruit and any of the remaining rum, plus the powdered cinnamon. Cook until still al dente.

3. When you’re ready to make the pudding, put the milk into a small pan with the spices (except ground cinnamon). Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat, and allow to cool and infuse.

4. Meanwhile, chop up your bread of choice. Beat the eggs together until well mixed, and then remove the spices from the milk and discard before beating it into the egg mixture. (Usually, you’d beat the eggs and sugar together but I’ve not done this as there’s enough sweetness with the honey cooked apples). Put the chopped bread and fruit into the eggy mixture and leave to soak at least 20 minutes, ideally a couple of hours.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan). Pour the bread mixture into a 1 litre (4-cup) baking dish, scatter with 1 tbsp raw cane sugar and grate some fresh nutmeg over the top.

6. Place the baking dish in a roasting tin and and fill halfway with hot water to make a bain marie. Cook for 35 – 45 minutes until golden brown on top but the custard should still have a slight wobble. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving as is or with cream.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Conventionally, the bread in bread & butter pudding is sliced and buttered. By using a bread which includes butter, I eliminate this step. Plus cubing the bread makes it easier to arrange in the baking dish, but that’s just my preference.

2. Typically, I’ll make bread & butter pudding with an enriched fruit bread so there’s no need to add butter or further fruit.

3. You can, of course, make a more traditional bread & butter pudding flavoured with the seeds from a vanilla pod.

4. I’ve also made the pudding with apricot jam filled brioche, substituting dried apricots for the sultanas.

5. You can also make a decious dessert with left over pain au chocolat (or croissants), even melting some dark chocolate into the custard before baking.

6. The finished dessert is not overly sweet, you may need to add more sweetner of choice for your taste.