Adventures In Bread Pudding: An Easter-Themed Hot Cross Bun Bread Pudding


If you have a sweet tooth, like I do, Easter is heaven. While Christmas is traditionally savoury, with its emphasis on a wide variety of roast animals, Easter is all about chocolate and hot cross buns (spiritual considerations aside, of course).

Well known in Australia and the United Kingdom, hot cross buns might not be as traditional a fare in the United States so I’ll fall back on Wikipedia and describe them as sweet buns spiced with cinnamon and containing raisins, currants or mixed fruit. I have them toasted with marmalade jam which only points out just how recklessly I red-line my sweet zone. The traditional buns have been supplemented in recent years by such variations as chocolate chip, white chocolate and cranberry and even non-fruit (presumably washed down with a weak decaf non-dairy lattè with Equal).

This Easter, I was a little more careful than usual (maintaining my 20 kilogram weight loss from last year) but couldn’t entirely neglect my chocolate and hot cross bun habit. But once the Easter festival drags on and you’ve served them fresh, toasted, over easy, on horseback and every other which way, what else is there to do?

Try them in a bread pudding, of course. This recipe uses the traditional New Orleans-style Bread Pudding found in the Silver Palate Cookbook (Doubleday, 1981). The original recipe calls for one loaf of stale French bread or baguette but works equally well with ordinary stale sliced white bread or even brioche. Just about any bread or bakery item is fair game although maybe Cinnabon is going a bit far. There’s also a whisky sauce that comes with the original recipe but it’s your call as to whether it would be too much with the compounded richness of the hot cross buns. I say – you’ve gone this far, why not!

Oh, and before I forget, like all desserts, a scoop or two of ice cream is the perfect accompaniment.

Ingredients:

8 Hot Cross Buns

3 ½ cups milk

160 grams butter, softened

7 eggs

1 ½ cups sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 cup icing sugar

4 tablespoons whiskey

For the PUDDING, in a large mixing bowl, tear buns into small pieces. Pour milk over and let stand for one hour.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Grease a baking dish (ceramic or Pyrex is fine – dimensions of about 30cm x 18cm x 7cm).

In another bowl, beat 6 eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. Stir this into bread mixture.

Pour into baking dish, place on the middle rack of the oven and bake until browned and set. It should take about 70 minutes. It’s better if it’s moist in the middle. Cool to room temperature.

For the WHISKEY SAUCE, blend the softened butter with the icing sugar in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot. Remove from heat. Beat remaining egg well and whisk it into sugar mixture. Remove pan from base and continue beating until sauce has cooled to room temperature. Add whisky to taste.

To serve, preheat griller. Cut pudding into squares and transfer to a heatproof serving dish. Spoon whiskey sauce over the pudding and place under the griller until bubbling.

Words and photo © David Latta

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A Sweet-Toothed Opiate: New Orleans’ White Chocolate Bread Pudding


New Orleans can be highly addictive and no more so than with its distinctive cuisine. For someone who considers that all the major food groups are best encompassed on the dessert menu, it’s as close to heaven as it’s possible to get.

Bread pudding is something I’ll always associate with New Orleans. It’s a staple on most Creole restaurant menus and variations abound. The traditional bread pudding is usually accompanied with a piquant bourbon sauce and is made from stale French bread although, in truth, any kind of bread will do, even common or garden variety sliced white. For something a little different, try croissants.

The chefs of New Orleans are nothing if not adventurous. I first visited the wonderful Palace Café on Canal Street soon after it opened in 1991. It is co-owned by Dickie Brennan, whose family lives and breathes great restaurants. He trained in the kitchen of the family’s landmark Commander’s Palace in the Garden District under Chef Paul Prudhomme; Dickie’s other great restaurants are Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse and the Bourbon House Seafood and Oyster Bar.

But whenever I’m in New Orleans, I always end up at the Palace Café, even just to pull up a stool at the bar late in the evening and pay my respects to a staggeringly luscious variation on the bread pudding – the White Chocolate Bread Pudding.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

6 cups heavy whipping cream

2 cups milk

1 cup sugar

20 ounces (570 grams) white chocolate, broken into small pieces

4 eggs

15 egg yolks

1 (24-inch – 60cm) loaf stale French bread or fresh French bread that has been sliced and dried in a 275-degree Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius) oven

White Chocolate Ganache

½ cup heavy whipping cream

8 ounces (225 grams) white chocolate, broken into small pieces

Serves 12

For the PUDDING, combine the whipping cream, milk and sugar in a large heavy saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat. Add the white chocolate pieces and let stand for several minutes or until the chocolate melts; stir till smooth

Whisk the eggs and egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture in a slow steady stream; scrape the saucepan with a rubber spatula to remove all the chocolate.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Cut the French bread into thin slices and place in a 9 x 12-inch (23cm x 30cm) baking pan. Pour half the chocolate mixture over the bread and let stand for 5 minutes. Press the bread into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula or fingers to saturate well. Pour the remaining chocolate mixture over the bread and stir to mix well.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes longer or until golden brown. Cool to room temperature and chill, covered, in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours or until set.

For the GANACHE, bring the whipping cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the white chocolate pieces. Let stand until the chocolate melts and stir until smooth.

Loosen the pudding from the sides of the pan with a knife and invert onto a work surface. Cut into squares, then cut the squares diagonally into triangles. Place the triangles on a baking sheet and reheat at 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius) for 15 minutes or until warm.

To serve, place the pudding triangles on serving plates and top with the ganache. Garnish with dark chocolate shavings.

The Palace Café can be found at 605 Canal Street, on the edge of the French Quarter. For reservations, phone (504) 523 1661.

Many thanks to the Palace Café for this recipe and photo.

Lost In Transliteration


The first time it happened to me, it was quite amusing. But it continued, in varying ways, and years down the track it was sadly apparent that many Americans don’t have a clue about the outside world. And as much as we Australians think we’re internationally renowned, the sad truth is we’re often mistaken for other nations.

On the first night of my very first visit to the United States, I was staying at the Hyatt at Los Angeles Airport (now the Four Points by Sheraton). In the coffee shop, a waitress remarked on my “cute” accent and asked where I was from. When I replied “Australia”, she immediately became excited. “That’s such a coincidence”, she replied in awe. “My favourite movie is the Sound of Music.”

By the time I’d fashioned a reply about kangaroos being in short supply as they continually fell to their deaths from the Alps, she was long gone.

Years later, in New Orleans, my wife and I were browsing a department store when, in the perfume department, we were served by a well-dressed and presumably well-educated young man who remarked on our accents and asked where we were from. When we said “Australia”, he started telling us how much he enjoyed our country on a recent visit, how beautiful it was and how friendly the people were.

We asked which city he enjoyed the most. He hesitated for a moment, staring into the middle distance to summon his thoughts while adjusting the impeccably-arranged double Windsor knot of his tie. Then he looked me straight in the eye and without, I surmised, any hint of irony, said, “Salzburg”. Not wanting to be rude, I wandered off to an adjoining department before I started choking from laughter.

In a mid-town deli in New York, we were seated next to an elderly local couple who, it seemed, had been avidly listening to our conversation. As our desserts arrived, the woman leaned across to us and asked whether we were enjoying our stay. So ensued a long chat. After several minutes, she remarked to her companion, sotto voce, so that barely half the room could hear, “They speak very good English, don’t they?”

We played it as straight as we could without spilling our beverages. As we were preparing to leave, there was one more question that our friend was obviously burning to ask. “When you’re at home in your own country,” she asked, wide-eyed and completely innocent, “do you wear clothes like we do?”

Later, of course, far too late to make any difference, I came up with the perfect rejoinder. If I had been more quick-witted, I would have replied, “If I’m going somewhere special, I’ll wear an Armani jacket over my lap-lap.”

A regular visitor to the United States will know that, despite their vast news-gathering ambitions, most Americans only know other countries from wars and natural disasters. There’s so much happening within their own borders, even 24-hour news channels like CNN have difficulty keeping up.

Instead, it seems, Americans gather their world-view from the movies. This wasn’t a bad thing when Crocodile Dundee was current. Australians, they might have surmised, were sturdy outdoor types who wrestled crocodiles for entertainment. Later, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert confused things entirely: did Australian men dress crocodiles in women’s clothes before wrestling them or did they themselves don frocks before wading into the nearest billabong in search of reptilian adventure?

As a postscript, it’s worth mentioning that the Australia-Austria confusion is something of a two-way strasse. In the old town district of Salzburg, I once came across a souvenir stand that sold T-shirts emblazoned with the outline of a kangaroo, much like the old Qantas logo, within a circle with a diagonal slash across it. Austria, the T-shirt warned, We Don’t Have Kangaroos.

I can only wonder whether the occasional American tourist passes up the Sound of Music tour and instead spends his time searching for Steve Irwin.

Words and photos © David Latta