Custard Bread Pudding

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I don't want to brag (yes I do), but I have figured out why people always talk about buying bread and milk when bad weather rolls in, and the answer is simple: bread pudding.

I know it's technically March and we all thought spring was on the way, but if you're stuck under a blanket of snow dealing with the Beast from the East, then this is the perfect thing for you to make today. I mean, I literally got out of bed this morning with no intention of making it, and half an hour later I had a heaping serving for breakfast with a cup of tea, and 10 minutes after that, I'm here telling you about it. If you did any kind of prep for this snow storm, you have the ingredients for this bread pudding. It makes as good of a dessert as it does a luxurious breakfast, and why are you even still here when you could be in your (ahem, warm) kitchen whipping this up?

This is a custard-heavy bread pudding, meaning that the finished product is basically a crisped, toasty layer of bread atop a thick, sweet custard you can sink your spoon into, which is why it doesn't require much bread. If you prefer a 'breadier', more rustic pudding similar to a baked french toast, you can amp up the bread by cutting it into chunks and filling your pan.

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If your cupboard is not bare, you can dress this up with a spoonful of vanilla, almond extract, or orange blossom water. Add texture with ½ of an orange's worth of zest, or a small handful of dried cherries or even some toasted chopped pecans for crunch. Sprinkle the finished dish with cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom for a hint of spice, or just go for broke and have it plain- you won't regret it.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. Nothing this easy to make on a frigid day should receive anything less.

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One year ago: Mocha Cake with Caramel Frosting
two years ago: Western Swiss Steak
three years ago (new!): Crepes

the recipe:

Custard Bread Pudding

the directions:

Preheat the oven to 175C/350F.
Butter your baking dish.
Toast the bread until just crisp but not yet browned.
Butter the toast, then brush with the 3 tbsp of milk and press into the bottom of your baking dish, slicing to fit if necessary.
Meanwhile beat eggs until foamy, then add sugar and beat until smooth and uniform.
Add milk and beat until well-blended.
If using vanilla or any other extracts, add them now.
Pour egg mixture over toast in baking dish and press bread back down, making sure it's fully saturated (it will float, but as long as it's saturated, you're good to go).
Bake 20-25 minutes until centre of dish just jiggles when you nudge it.
Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired, and serve warm.

the ingredients:

Butter
2-3 slices of bread (3 slices of standard sandwich bread will neatly fill a 9-inch square baking dish, use less according to your plate size)
2 c + 3 tbsp milk, divided
3 eggs
1 c sugar
Optional garnishes according to your taste (see above for suggestions)

Pope Ladies, or, Sour Cream Yeasted Rolls

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When I first found the recipe for Pope Ladies in the Recipe Box, I giggled at the name, then I read the description: 'traditional fare for New Year's Day,' and I couldn't stop giggling because obviously these were some kind of joke made up by Betty Crocker, right? Wrong. I know it's too late for you to make your own Pope Ladies for THIS New Year's Day, but since they are also traditionally served on Lady Day (March 25, the day Mary found out she was pregnant), I figured I'd give you a head start on all your Lady Day preparations.

Pope Ladies, as it turns out, originate from St Albans, a small town in Hertfordshire, England. Apparently, ever since medieval times, people in St Albans have been eating these buns each year on 1 January and 25 March. There are conflicting stories as to how they came about: one legend says that a noblewoman and her group of attendants were lost in the forest when they came upon a monastery in St Albans- by way of thanks to the monks who saved her, the noblewoman gave them a substantial monetary reward, which they used to bake lady-shaped rolls to feed the poor. Since they were monks, the rolls became known as 'pope ladies.'

This is literally the diagram I had to follow along with the directions. For once i think mine came out better than the picture!

This is literally the diagram I had to follow along with the directions. For once i think mine came out better than the picture!

An ok story, but it doesn't really do much to explain the name, which is why I prefer to believe the other story (though I'm quite sure Eleanor, a devout Catholic, would probably not). The second version of the story states that the rolls are named for Pope Joan, an apocryphal and (probably) mythical female pope born in 818AD. Although it's now thought that Joan was a myth, the legend said that she was only discovered to be a women when she stopped in the middle of a parade to give birth, and was shortly thereafter murdered because of it. This legend first gained traction in the 1200s, roughly the same time as Pope Ladies came about, so it's also thought they might have Joan to thank for their name.

Either way, this particular batch of Pope Ladies is not quite made in the traditional manner- usually they would be made with scalded milk, not sour cream and usually they would have eyes made from currants and a tiny dough nose. But I was making these while drinking a prosecco cocktail last night shortly before heading out to a pub with Judson and friends and I completely forgot the faces until they were in the oven. Oops.

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These are best straight from the oven, when the outside is crusty and firm and the interior is soft and plush, but they reheat well and are pretty good at treating a hangover as well. The dough is forgiving and easy to work with, and if, for some reason, you have the willpower to make food in your kitchen today, I'd recommend you whip yourself up a batch of Pope Ladies and then call all your hungover friends to come eat them with you while you tell them stories about medieval feminist popes. If your friends are anything like mine, they... probably won't be too surprised.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. They're absolutely perfect when fresh from the oven, but not quite as good when reheated so I'm knocking off a spoon because they need to be eaten promptly.

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one year ago: crazy crust apple pie
two years ago: happy new year!

The recipe:

Pope Ladies

the directions:

Dissolve yeast in water in mixing bowl, then set aside.
Heat sour cream over very low heat just until it melts and is lukewarm.
Add warm sour cream, butter, sugar, salt, ONLY ONE egg and 1 cup of flour to yeast mixture.
Beat until smooth.
Add remaining 2 cups of flour and mix until dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Knead dough on a well-floured surface until smooth, about 10 minutes (alternatively, if you have a dough hook for your mixer, beat on very low speed for approximately 3 minutes).
Grease the mixing bowl, put dough back into it and turn once so greased side is facing up.
Cover tightly and put in a very warm place to rise 1 hour (or if you live in a drafty Scottish flat, up to overnight).
When dough has doubled in size, punch down and form your Pope Ladies:
Preheat oven to 190C/375F and grease 2 baking sheets.
Divide dough into 12 pieces.
Form half of each piece into an oval-shaped body approximately 4 inches long, lay on baking sheet.
Divide remaining piece of dough in half again and roll one piece into a long thin snake approximately 4 inches long.
Lay this piece in a U-shape around one end of the 'body' to form arms.
Take remaining piece of dough and form into a ball for the head.
Place head ahove arms body on your baking sheet (they'll rise enough in the oven to attach as long as they are touching).
Repeat until you are out of dough, keeping Pope Ladies spaced apart at least 3 inches on your baking sheet.
Beat remaining egg with a fork and brush over the ladies, taking care to avoid large drips.
Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
 

Serve warm, best straight from the oven.

the ingredients:

2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
¼ c warm water
1 c sour cream
2 tbsp butter
8 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
3 c flour, divided

Battle of the Coffee Cakes

We’ve been on a bit of a coffee cake kick over here in the Recipe Box Project kitchen lately. Whether it’s for friends in town visiting, hosting a weekend brunch, or just for ourselves as a weekday morning treat, coffee cake is one of those things that takes a normal morning from ho-hum to spectacular… something that’s particularly important when you’re starting month four of Extremely Early Mornings thanks to a Puppy Who Sleeps All Day and Wakes Up at the Crack of Dawn.*

coffee cake #1

coffee cake #1

I’ve made three coffee cakes in the last month, but I’m gonna try to drop them on you gradually so I don’t overwhelm you with too many breakfast options at once. So here are two lovely ones to start with: The first one is an easy recipe—one bowl, no weird ingredients (unless you’re like me and realise halfway through making it that you don’t have enough milk. Facepalm.), and best of all, no fruit to prep. The crumb on this one was spectacular—dense but still fluffy, soft and pillowy but still crumbly, the perfect combination of cake and breakfast bread. But that description does nothing to prepare you for the amazing crust. You guys, the crust on this is so spectacular. I mean, you’ve got cake batter, you’ve covered it in melted butter, and then you sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon and just enough flour to make it come together and cook it on high? It’s perfect. Crispy and spicy with just enough crunch to make you excited for that top layer, even a day after it’s made.

coffee cake #1

coffee cake #1

Coffee cake #1

Coffee cake #1

The other one involves prepping some apples (peeling and chopping very finely), but otherwise also nice and simple, one bowl, and a sticky-sweet, toasty topping bursting with apple flavour. This one looks perfect in its pan but even better popped out of it; it stands tall and fluffy and looks amazing on a cake stand served up at a brunch. Best on the first day, when the topping is still that perfect balance of crispy and sticky, but it still tastes great on day two or three.

Coffee cake #2

Coffee cake #2

Judson and I have been passing an irritatingly long-lasting summer cold back and forth for awhile, so I didn’t feel comfortable sharing these cakes with anyone, just in case… which ended up being even better because, well, more for us! Plus, what better motivation is there for getting out of bed on a morning when you’re still battling the world’s most lingering cold than the promise of a warm slice of coffee cake, a hot cup of coffee, and a sunshine-filled Scotland day? Also, they freeze beautifully, so make one of each and pop half in the freezer for your next busy week.

*This time of year, the sun literally rises in Edinburgh around 4:30am, so when I say crack of dawn, I mean MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.

Coffee Cake #2

Coffee Cake #2

Coffee Cake #2

Coffee Cake #2

The verdict:
COffee Cake 1: Quick & easy plush coffee cake

5 spoons out of five. This is an amazing breakfast treat, and probably you should make it to help get you through this week. Seriously, make this coffee cake ASAP. I opted to leave mine in the cake pan for a more rustic (read: lazy) approach, but you could just as easily line the pan with paper and remove it to serve on a platter. Or make it as cupcakes. Or bake it in a springform pan so you can just remove the ring and serve!

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coffee cake 2: Sticky-Toasty apple coffee Cake

4 spoons out of five. This cake is great, but it's slightly more work than the first one (due to the apples) and its much better on day 1 than day 2, so I subtracted a spoon for both of those.

one year ago: White cake with creamy chocolate frosting
Two years ago: Mandarin Barbecue chicken

The recipe:

Quick & Easy Plush Coffee Cake

the directions:

Preheat oven to 200C/400F and grease a 9-inch cake pan.
Sift 2 c flour once, then measure.
Add baking powder, salt, and ½ c sugar, then sift again.
Cut in 6 tbsp butter.
Beat egg and milk together, then add to flour mixture, stirring until blended.
Turn into prepared pan and spread evenly (mixture will be thick).
Melt remaining 1 ½ tbsp butter and brush over batter in pan.
Mix together remaining 4 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp flour, and cinnamon (and cardamom, if using).
Bake 15-20 minutes until pick inserted in middle comes out clean.

the ingredients:

2 c + 1 tbsp flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ c + 4 tbsp sugar, divided
7 ½ tbsp butter, divided
1 egg, beaten well
½ c milk
½ tsp cinnamon
Optional: ¼ tsp ground cardamom

The recipe:

Sticky-Toasty Apple Coffee Cake

The directions:

Grease a springform or 8x10 square pan. 
Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Sift together flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt & baking powder.
Cut shortening into dry ingredients until it looks like cornmeal
Add eggs & milk then stir until smooth.
Pour into prepared pan and cover with apples.
Sprinkle with brown sugar (up to 1/3 c depending on tartness of your apples and your taste).
Bake 20-30 minutes until well-brown on top and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

the ingredients:

2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 c shortening or Stork
3 eggs
1 c milk
1 c apples, peeled & chopped finely
1/4 to 1/3 c brown sugar (to taste)