Bread Pudding with a Semolina Bread from Old Dog Baking Company and fresh, crisp apples, is an update of an old stand-by. I love what’s old is new again, much like the cocktail scene that keeps reinventing the wheel, so can bread pudding. Plus it’s been a sweet/savory staple for centuries. How’s that for staying power? Ready for an update?
Origins of the Bread Pudding.
Dating as far back as the 11th C, food did not go to waste and stale bread needed to be used. Tossed and soaked with eggs, milk, cream, oil, suet, sweets, and/or savory flavorings, the bread was repurposed. Over time it became a staple dessert in high end restaurants to home kitchens as a comfort food. In cuisines around the world some form of bread pudding exists. Most are familiar with the English version which is based on bread layered with raisins and a sweet egg custard. It is hearty, rich, and dense. When the Romans were making their variation on the theme, custard had not yet come to be, and it was probably pretty dry. Thankfully the egg/cream version of custard hit the kitchen scene.
Today’s versions can include brioche, muffins, cornbread, or a wide variety of sweet and savory breads as the base. The key is that the base bread is stale or has been oven-dried, hence it absorbs the custard and binds to hold its shape when cut into or set in a form. Fruits, raisins, mushroom and bleu cheese, nuts, spices and seasonings in any creative combination can be added. Top the mixture with custard. There is a little sitting and pressing in between, as it takes a bit of time for the bread to absorb the liquid. Once the bread is moist and most of the custard is soaked in, it is ready to be baked.
The inspiration and an aside…
I bought a loaf of bread with a flavoring, coriander and raisin, that would directly coordinate with the dinner theme I was serving. It was an all out early, autumn Indian dinner. Indian food is a love and a specialty of mine. My mentor is Julie Sahni, a well-known Indian chef based in NY. If Indian cuisine is something that you enjoy, then I highly recommend taking an intensive course to learn more about it. It is one of the best cooking experiences I have ever had. Can’t make it too NYC? Try Julie’s book on Classic Indian Cooking – (this is an affiliate link through Amazon and a portion of the sale goes to Bleuberet)
A note on apples:
It is apple season in New England and other northern parts of the world. The cooldays are perfect for apple picking, eating and baking. As we bake a lot of apple goodies at this time of year, we have this old-fashioned gadget from Victorio™️ that does a ton of the work. With a little manual motivation, the mechanical peeler peels, cores, and slices the apples. We save the peels as they offer the highest level of anti-inflammatory properties in the apple, and are the pectin source for our homemade jams. After slicing the apples, store the leftover peels in baggies in the freezer and use them in place of pectin the next time you whip up a batch of fresh jam. We have two of course – one that suctions onto the counter and the other that grips around a table top (these are affiliate links through Amazon and a portion of the sale goes to Bleuberet).
The importance of weighting and waiting.
Read the recipe thoroughly, there is a process to follow. Make sure to allow for the time needed to let the bread absorb the liquid. This is critical to a moist bread pudding. The purpose in weighting something is to keep the solid submerged in the liquid. If your baking dish is not heavy enough, place something heavy in it such as a cast iron pan. Just make sure it is stable.
Apple & Semolina Raisin Bread Pudding
This scrumptious recipe makes use of a solid loaf of bread. It should be a day old, or slice and dry out a bit in the oven before layering in the baking dish.
- 1 loaf bread, sliced in 1/2"/1.25cm thick (2 lb/900g loaf)
- 8 apples, cored, peeled and sliced
- 6 TBSP butter (2 to coat the baking dish and the remaining to melt and drizzle over the top when baking)
- 2 cups heavy cream (organic cream
- 6 fl.oz/170 maple syrup or 8oz/225g raw sugar
- .5 tsp cinnamon
- .5 tsp cloves
- .25 tsp nutmeg
Butter a 9x13 baking dish with a thick layer of butter.
Place a third of the slices of bread into the prepared baking dish in a single layer.
Top with half of the apples.
Repeat the bread layer with a third of the bread slices and the remaining apples. Layer with the remaining bread.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar or syrup, cream, and seasonings until fully combined.
Gently pour the mixture over the bread and apples.
Cover with plastic wrap and weight down (see pictures above).
Place in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. (Remove from fridge about 30 minutes before baking.)
When ready to bake - preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the top is set and a knife comes out clean when inserted (this indicates that the custard is set).
Server warm or at room temperature with cream or ice cream.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
VEGAN VERSION: To make this dairy free, soy or coconut milk can be used in place of cream. As a butter substitute, a light tasting olive oil works well. Soft or silk tofu can substitute for eggs. Please note it will not bind in the same way, but will replace some of the dense texture in the pudding.