"That's THE BEST way to eat a hot cross bun," Peter declared, licking his lips and patting his belly contentedly. My Englishman loves a good pudding and he was clearly enamoured with my buttered hot cross bun version.
The origins of bread and butter pudding can be traced back to frugal cooks in the Middle Ages, who probably thought it was sensible not to waste leftover bread, no matter how stale it was.
Food writer, Nigel Slater—who says that the Brits, "with their tightly clenched fists", are the masters of frugality—muses about bread and butter pudding in his brilliant book, Eating for England - the Delights & Eccentricities of the British at Table (Fourth Estate/HarperCollins Publishers 2007):
"Bread and butter pudding did not come about because someone had the idea that bread, butter and rich, sweet custard would make a sensuous and tender pudding... but then who can argue with a pudding so calm and gentle, so quivering and fragile, so light and creamy? ... It is ingenious, and who cares if it just happens to be seasoned with as much meanness as with nutmeg." Hear, hear, methinks.
The versatility of bread and butter pudding is one of the things that makes it so good. It can be made with croissants, brioche, panettone, gingerbread, wholemeal bread, plain old white bread, gluten-free bread or any kind of bun. You can add chocolate or caramel, almonds and raspberries, or blueberries and bourbon. The possibilities are endless.
Hot cross buns have been available in stores since Boxing Day, so there's no real need to wait until Easter. Perhaps you can bake your own buns (like these beauties from Not Quite Nigella), and use the leftovers to make this treat.
BUTTERED HOT CROSS BUN PUDDING WITH WHISKY MARMALADE
1 tablespoon sultanas
2-3 teaspoons whisky or a flavoursome "moonshine", gently warmed
2 hot cross buns (small to medium sized), at least one day old
35g unsalted butter
2 free-range egg yolks (use the whites for meringue)
30g caster sugar
200mls full-cream milk (or use half milk, half cream for a richer pudding)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pearl sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon whisky marmalade, warmed, to finish
First, douse the sultanas in the warmed whisky and leave them to soak for at least half an hour, until they are plump.
Use a little of the butter to grease the base and sides of two x 1-cup oval or round ovenproof pudding dishes.
Cut each hot cross bun into 1-cm slices from the top through to the bottom (see my photographs), taking care to keep the form of the buns. Spread butter onto both sides of each slice and set the buns aside.
Combine the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl, and whisk until creamy. Warm the milk (or milk and cream) together with the vanilla bean powder, and bring to simmering point, then remove the pan from the stove. Pour the milk over the eggs and sugar, and whisk to combine.
Arrange the buttered slices of hot cross bun in the prepared pudding dishes, using your fingers to make space between each slice. Sprinkle the whisky-soaked sultanas (and any liquid) into the gaps between the slices of bun and down the sides of the dish.
Slowly pour the custard mixture over and around the hot cross buns, making sure that liquid seeps in between the slices and around the sides. Do this in a few stages, allowing the custard to settle before adding more. Gently push the top of each slice down into the liquid. Now set the puddings aside for about 20 minutes, to allow the buns to soak up the custard.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Sprinkle pearl sugar over the top of each pudding, if using. Now, place the pudding dishes into a roasting dish and add sufficient water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the pudding basins. Cover with aluminium foil. Pop the tray into the oven and bake the puddings for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 20-25 minutes or longer, until the puddings are golden brown, and a knife inserted into the custard tests clean. Brush the top of each pudding with the whisky marmalade during the last five minutes of baking, and then serve. Makes two.
Your turn now, dear readers. Do you enjoy bread and butter pudding? Perhaps you have fond (or not so fond) memories of it. Please share your stories. I love hearing from you.
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.