I am a bread pudding aficionado. If there is bread pudding on a dessert menu, I will order it without hesitation: it even trumps chocolate. Apparently bread pudding was one of those dessert staples in The New World, because there is at least one recipe in every heritage cookbook. My fiancé and I consider ourselves to be bread pudding connoisseurs – my ideal bread pudding is dense, but still fluffy, with discernable bread chunks, and a smattering of crunchy bread pieces on top. I like a hint of brandy in either the sauce or the pudding itself. Not picky at all.
I studied and compared over 15 different recipes before I settled on the recipe for the pudding and sauce below. I chose a recipe for the pudding from “American Cookery” by Amelia Simmons, the first American Cookbook. Up until Mrs. Simmons published “American Cookery” American housewives used English cookbooks, which didn’t include practical uses for the native flora and fauna of the New World. Mrs. Simmons book included “receipts”, or recipes, for this new civilization and recorded our fledgling culture for posterity.
Most of the recipes suggested that bread pudding be accompanied by a “Hard Sauce”. It is basically icing with liquor. Yum. I made the recipe from The Joy of Cooking (First Edition).
This is a surprisingly easy dish to pull together! You will love the rich, creamy texture of the pudding and the crunchy sweet topping! Top it with brandy hard sauce and you have yourself a new favorite dessert!
(1 gill rosewater – I could not find this at my local farmer’s market)
½ cup cream
½ lb raisins (I used ½ cup tart cherries, which added a nice tart balance to the sweetness of the dish)
For the Topping:
1 cup bread, cut into ½” cubes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
For the Hard Sauce:
¼ cup butter (unsalted)
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 large pinch salt
1 tablespoon (or more to taste) brandy
1 egg (optional – I left this off because it is eaten raw)
For the Bread Pudding:
Preheat oven to 325°. Adjust rack to the middle of the bottom half of oven.
Butter an 8 x 8 baking dish. Distribute bread chunks evenly in the dish and sprinkle cherries evenly throughout the bread. Add Mix all ingredients after bread. Once completely incorporated, pour mixture over the bread & cherries.
Cover dish and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Mix ingredients for topping and sprinkle over the top of the custard, pressing down slightly.
Bake at 325° for 40-50 minutes or until custard is set. The top will brown and it will only jiggle slightly in the very center.
For the Hard Sauce:
Cream the butter until it is very soft.
Add the sugar gradually, then the salt and beat these ingredients until they have a smooth, soft consistency. I could not get my sugar to the desired consistency, so I used the back of a wooden spoon to press the butter and sugar together until they were smooth and soft. Beat in the brandy (and optional egg) and chill the sauce thoroughly. Or serve warm 🙂
Pudding: I halved the original recipe and converted the measurements to current standards.
Hard Sauce: I used 2 tablespoons of brandy, which had a definite alcohol flavor. Every recipe I read said to chill “Hard Sauce” and serve it cold, but my fiancé and I found it unpleasant to eat chilled, so I warmed it up and drizzled it over the pudding. Much better.
It took every ounce of will power within me not to soak the cherries in brandy before adding them to the pudding. If you are not trying to follow a heritage recipe to the letter, then I highly recommend doing this. Divine! I would then do a nice caramel sauce or a Hard Sauce made with 1 teaspoon of vanilla in place of the brandy.