Wednesday, May 20, 2009

vanilla bread pudding with stone fruit

I used to be a little snot (used to be, you say?). One day during the course of my stage at Oleana, I told the pastry chef, Maura, that I wasn't a fan of bread pudding. I hadn't yet learned that you don't tell this to cooks; that claiming not to like something ends with you being prodded or strong-armed into trying their adaptation of it. Sometimes, when we say "don't like," what we mean is don't understand or aren't impressed by or, as my french chef used to say, "it is not very interesting."

I worked at the time at a bistro in Boston that served chocolate bread pudding with whipped cream (side note: it really irks me when people call it chantilly on's whipped cream people). We made four hotel pans of the stuff, using leftover house bread (baked by me & my boss) plus the supplementary bread we got on the weekends. The night guys usually cut the bread for us, two large fishtubs, but occasionally we'd have to top it off, then make the custard. I'd be up to my elbows in the stuff, tossing the bread, letting it soak. Then I'd have to portion it into the four hotel pans, bake them in barely-there hot water baths consisting of the 1/2-1 inch of water I could pour on the full sheet pan and, when baked, pull these same suckers out of the oven without spalashing hot water all over myself and burning the mitts. So I was usually pretty clumsy and usually made a mess (big surprise, right?). Suffice to say I'd had it with bread pudding and I felt that I was pretty well informed on the topic.

Well it only took a couple bites of Maura's bread pudding to change my mind. Hers was made with homemade brioche, pretty standard, and I had excellent results baking it with Acme pain de mie as well. Maura soaked her bread in a mixture of custard plus simple syrup; her theory was that the simple syrup prevented the bread from getting too heavy and resulted in a lighter final product. I'm not sure whether that's true but I know the results are certainly delicious.

This version below features stone fruits, with cherries just coming into season! We don't have peaches yet but we do have apricots, which are delicious baked or roasted. As promised a long time ago, here is the bread pudding recipe adapted from Maura's supremely wonderful brown butter bread pudding with mulberries and milk jam at Oleana.

vanilla bread pudding with stone fruit:
{makes 1 lg. deep dish pan (9x13) +/- a few extra ramekins}

custard base:
eggs 9
sugar 2.5c
cream 4c
milk 2.5c
vanilla bean 2, split and seeded

for soaking:
simple syrup: 1c
cubed bread: 8c
custard base above

fruit, to add:
pitted cherries: 2c
peeled, sliced peaches: 2c

Warm dairy with vanilla beans and infuse 30 minutes. Whisk eggs and sugar together. Add cream and milk. Place bread in large bowl, coat with simple syrup and then with custard base. Let soak 1 hr or until most of liquid is absorbed, tossing bread every so often. Add cut fruit to soaked bread and mix. Pour into baking pan, using ramekins for any overflow. Cover with foil and bake at 325 for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 more minutes or until top is lightly browned. Center should be set. If not, keep baking.*

*I worked somewhere where we baked bread pudding FOR THREE HOURS once.

in other notes:
*huge burn blister on my finger with goo bubble the diameter of a caper. it needs to go away.
*valrhona cocoa powder, how i have missed you.
*i should do a post on ways to infuse vanilla beans, maybe i will.
*i ate the second half of my burrito for dinner and now i have nothing to look forward to at work tomorrow.
*claudia fleming is still awesome.
*i've been reading a book a day, about.
*my car is not dead and gone forever. hell yeah! road trip seattle anyone?
*i'm contemplating a series of podcast essays. main problem: i'm not interested in the sound of my own voice, unless i'm pretending to be claudia gonson. second main problem: that just sounds gimmicky and slightly pretentious.
*i need to learn to say no, sometimes, and stop doing everyone a favor all the time.
*i chopped orange peel for a long time today and it was really theraputic and zenlike. i recommend it.

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