the good pud

date & brandy bread pudding
When it comes to winter desserts, there are few things as comforting and satisfying as a good pudding. The British are the masters of this with their roly poly pudding, baked rice pudding, treacle pudding, tangy lemon delicious, chocolate self saucing pudding and the bizzarely named ‘spotted dick’.  And of course there is your classic Christmas pud all dense fruity goodness served with a boozy brandy custard or the perennial favourite of Sydney cafes – the sticky date (or toffee) with a toothachingly sweet caramel sauce. But if I was forced to choose a favourite, it would be hard to go past the simple pleasure of a bread & butter pudding.

Although I may have crossed paths with a pale imitation of this classic pudding during my boarding school years, I seem to have sensibly blacked the experience out. As far as I can remember, my first introduction to the classic b&b pud came from my dear friend Colette who had it on high dessert rotation just after we finished uni.

With her divine crème brulee and sticky date pud, Colette was the dessert maestro of our crowd and we’d often combine forces for dinner parties with me playing the savoury courses and Col on sweets. I remember how cute her b&b pudding looked with the bread cut into triangles and lined neatly in the dish. Golden brown and crunchy on the edges and swooningly custardy underneath, it was the highlight of many a meal.

Over the years I’ve experimented with a few different takes on the bread pud. Brown bread made for a more wholesome feel and the legendary sourdough fruit bread from La Tartine bursting with dried figs, apricots and whole almonds was a favourite for a while.

Then I graduated to the time saving richer breads which negated the whole buttering step. Brioche cut first into cubes and piled into a dish looked the part. But the extra butteriness of the more easy to source croissant has been my bread of choice for a while now with cute individual fig & whisky puds featuring back last winter.

My latest bread pudding wasn’t slated for a spot on stonesoup but something this good needs to be shared. After a lot of positive feedback from my budding food critic family during a recent weekend at the farm, I managed to temporarily rescue enough for a few happy snaps. And so my friends I give you my date and brandy bread pudding. Almost a reason to wish for winter to hang around a little longer but fortunately it also tastes pretty good straight out of the fridge so there’s no need to actually hope for something so crazy…..all good things.
date & brandy bread pudding
serves 6
Inspired by Emma Knowles’ apple, raisin & brioche pudding published in the Aug 07 Australian Gourmet Traveller.

Using croissants rather than regular bread and butter makes this pudding even easier than the original. No need for tedious buttering, just slice up your croissants and you’re ready to go. Emma uses home made brioche for her puds which would also work a treat here if you’re in the mood for a spot of baking.

This is one of those great dishes that you can have all ready for the oven and then just pop it in to bake while you’re eating your main course. Stress free entertaining. Feel free to substitute in other dried fruit and booze combinations like fig and port, rum and raisin or prune and whisky.

If you feel like being a bit more fancy, you could bake and serve in individual ramekins or ovenproof bowls.

200g pitted dates, quartered
1/4C brandy
4 large stale croissants
1 pink lady apple, quartered, cored and very finely sliced
4 eggs
1/3C (80g) sugar
1C (250mL) milk
1 1/2C (375mL) pouring cream
2t cinnamon
1/2t grated nutmeg
icing sugar, to serve
vanilla icecream or double cream, to serve

Combine dates and brandy and allow to stand for an hour or as long as you’ve got.

Preheat oven to 180C. Cut croissants crosswise into 1cm thick slices and arrange in rows in a ceramic baking dish approx 20 x 28cm in size. Sprinkle over dates and the brandy and tuck in the apple slices. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over the croissants. Allow to stand for at least 15mins for the custard mix to soak in.

Bake for 35 – 40mins or until golden brown and puffy. Allow to stand for 5mins then divide between warm dessert plates or bowls and sift over icing sugar and top with a generous scoop of icecream or cream and serve immediately, preferably along with a glass of your chosen booze.

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