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)

Baked Rice Pudding

Pudding in serving bowls has extra milk added to it for a looser consistency.

Pudding in serving bowls has extra milk added to it for a looser consistency.

Is it snowing where you are (again)? Do you live in a city where you can't make snow cream because you don't even have your own garden, much less a clean place to gather snow from? Are you also not really sure what snow cream even is?

JOIN THE CLUB and get on the rice pudding train with me. Rice pudding is a traditional pudding in the American sense of the word, a baked custard-rice mixture topped with cinnamon and nutmeg and it's awesome. I had never had rice pudding until I was well into my teenage years, and I don't really know why that is- I mean, it's never on the menu at restaurants, but why had no one I knew ever made it?

But anyway, it's not exactly a thing you want to serve at a party, and supermarkets in both the US and the UK always have the pre-made version in stock, so I guess it just never occurred to me to make my own, which is stupid because it's gotta be easy, right?

It is.

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But what sets this version apart is that it's baked- while loads of recipes for baked rice pudding exist, I've definitely never had a baked version, but after this I might never go back. After combining the liquid ingredients with the rice, the whole thing is put in the oven for an hour, which is enough time to caramelise the top and dry out some of the excess liquid, making a thicker, denser finished pudding that's more like a crème brulée than a traditional rice pudding. If you prefer yours looser in texture, it's easy to add a drizzle of milk when you serve it to mimic the more common stovetop pudding varieties. Served straight from the oven, it was warming and cosy and a perfect afternoon snack to eat while we watched the snow fall... but I'd be lying if I told you I didn't eat it straight from the fridge the following morning for breakfast.

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You should definitely make this pudding this week. Serve it hot or serve it cold, it's good either way. I'm already planning a version made with coconut rice and coconut milk, and I can't wait. This is comfort food perfect for when the weather outside has you never wanting to leave your house again, and the best part is that you probably have nearly all the ingredients in your refrigerator already.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. Now that I know how easy rice pudding is to make, I'm gonna make it all the time.

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One year ago: toll house marble squares
two years ago: Asian chicken two ways

the recipe:

Baked Rice Pudding

the directions:

Cook the rice according to the directions on the package- if you have a cinnamon stick, pop it in the rice pot to infuse the rice.
Once rice has cooked, drain any extra water, remove the cinnamon stick and refrigerate until needed to cool the rice so you don't scramble your eggs later.
Preheat oven to 400F/200C.
Beat eggs until light yellow and creamy, then add sugar.
Beat until smooth, then add the vanilla and ½ cup (118ml) milk.
Beat thoroughly until uniform consistency.
Add cooled rice gradually and beat on low speed approximately 1 minute until rice is broken up.
Add remaining 2 cups (470ml) milk and stir well to combine.
Mixture will be VERY liquid.
Pour into an 8-inch baking dish with high sides or a 9-inch dish (I used a tart pan).
Give it a stir in the pan to make sure the rice isn't clumped together.
Sprinkle top generously with nutmeg.
Fill a separate baking dish with water and place on the shelf below the pudding.
Bake 50-60 minutes until the middle jiggles only slightly when nudged (a knife inserted in the middle should come out sticky, but no liquid should leak from the hole).
Top will be quite browned and caramelised.
Serve immediately while warm or refrigerate and serve cold, either way with extra nutmeg or cinnamon on top and a drizzle more milk if needed to loosen.

the ingredients:

1 c (180g) uncooked white rice
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
3 eggs
1 c (200g) sugar (this makes a pretty sweet pudding; if you'd prefer it slightly less so, you can cut it to ¾ c)
2 ½ c (590ml) milk, divided
1 tbsp vanilla
Nutmeg

French Onion Soup

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I hate french onion soup. There aren't a lot of foods I really detest, but I've made two of them in the last week for this blog (the other to come next week), and french onion soup is one of them. I'd argue my rationale is valid- without going into detail, it involves a Panera, a group study session, food poisoning and missing the first exam of my college career.

Since then, I have never eaten french onion soup (and I lived in France for a year, got married there, spent my honeymoon and three other recent vacations there- my commitment to avoiding it is truly admirable, if I say so myself). Not only have I completely abstained from french onion soup for the last fourteen years, but I also have only eaten anything made with beef broth maybe a half dozen times in that span. My hatred runs deep.

Because I haven't had french onion soup in that long, I have literally never eaten it in front of Judson. But I realised I didn't want to make a giant batch and be stuck with it if he didn't like it either, so I asked him if he did: 'UGH, french onion soup,' he sneered. 'YOU DON'T LIKE IT EITHER? How did I never know this?!' I asked, shocked. He responded 'it's not that I don't like it, it's just a food that's not fancy but that people eat when they want to BE fancy, and that bugs me. Why? Don't you like it?'

And that's how we each found out something new about the person we've been married to for almost six years. On account of all this, I only made us two servings of it because, I mean, what if I couldn't handle it? It turns out that Judson quite likes the act of eating french onion soup, it's just the idea of it he can't handle, so he didn't mind either. And really, what's not to like here? Onions cooked low and slow until they're sweet and soft, a deep, flavourful broth and seriously, what other soup do you get to serve with the melted cheese right on it, already broiled to a crisp?

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This version of the recipe is insanely easy- put your onions on and forget about them; add your broth and forget about it; when ready to eat, reheat under the broiler with a mozzarella crouton and you're golden- literally, that's the colour your toast should be. Best eaten with a glass of Pinot Noir and a film you've been dying to see (we went with Mindhorn) while you watch the snow swirl outside your window.

One note: my beef broth phobia runs deep, so I went on a limb and used the best quality I could get for this recipe- since it's literally half the ingredients of the soup, I'd recommend going top-notch with it. I didn't have any homemade, so I used the best quality stockpot I could get my hands on and upping the awesome factor with some fresh thyme, a glug of verjus (you can use wine, I just happened to have verjus to hand), and a generous pinch of brown sugar because I like the way it plays off the onions.

 

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. I don't think I can properly call myself a fan of french onion soup yet, but if anything is going to convince me, the simplicity of this recipe will be it.

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One year ago: toll house marble squares
two years ago: double-chocolate layer cheesecake

The recipe:

French Onion Soup

The directions:

Chop onions into bite-size pieces.
Heat the butter in a large stockpot JUST until melted, then turn heat as low as possible.
Add onions, stir to coat with butter, and add the brown sugar if using.
Put the lid on the pot and allow to cook for 1 hour, checking occasionally to be sure they haven't dried out.
After one hour, add beef stock.
If using the thyme, bay leaf, and verjus/wine, add it now.
Stir well, and bring to a gentle simmer.
Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until heated through.
Meanwhile, toast baguette slices until just crisped through but not yet browned.
Warm your grill (broiler in the US) and place an oven tray in the top 1/3 of oven.
Taste soup and adjust seasoning (ours needed a hint of brightness, so I added a spoonful more wine here).
Ladle the soup into two ovenproof bowls, place the toasted baguette on top of each bowl, and place the mozzarella on top of the bread.
Place the soup in the oven and toast until mozzarella is blistered and bubbly and soup is bubbling underneath.
Remove from oven, garnish with an extra thyme sprig if desired, and eat immediately.

Yields 2 generous servings.

the ingredients:

3 large onions
2 tbsp (28g) butter
Scant 2 cups (400ml) beef stock
2 slices from a baguette
2 slices mozzarella cheese
Optional: 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 bay leaf, 2 tbsp verjus or wine.