Monday, December 13, 2010

If you don't like Christmas Pudding ... try this

When I was a little girl I used to ask my Dada what he would like for Christmas. His reply was always the same, he asked for peace and quiet, every year without fail. And do you know what, I have finally realised what he meant, 30 odd years later!
My two boys are wonderful, full of life and energy and on some days louder then a flock of seagulls at the back of an abundantly stocked fishing boat.  It is rare that there is a quiet five minutes in our house during the hours of 7am and 8pm with a constant chattering, shrieking, laughing, and the odd bout of crying. I am not complaining in the slightest as some people would give anything to fill their homes with such a sound, but it really does get to me sometimes. I spent the weekend not in tip-top condition, feeling like I have been fighting something invisible. Part of me shrunk away from the world and blocked out the rush that we all seem to be in, going where, will someone tell me?

I did stray out on Saturday briefly to visit a toy store (myself and a million others it seems) and again on Sunday to Farmleigh House to a food market. While the market was nothing really to write home about, (everyone seemed to be selling and eating hot dogs) I did manage to seek out a really nice pie from people called PieIrish. However there were free horse and cart rides, carol singing and a large amount of Christmas cheer to help things along.

My rescue came on Sunday afternoon when our Superhero friend stepped in looking for a certain two boys to help cut out gingerbread decorations. This allowed me a blissfull walk through St Anne's Park and then along the beach to Bull Island where there was a peaceful silence except for the cold breeze blowing in from the east.  This well needed break in the fresh air has given me the appetite for life for another few weeks.

I found some really sweet, quite delicious apples from Tipperary and I also discovered a new French bakery on Moore Street called Paris Bakery.  It looks really interesting and a further investigation of its wares is required but I did come away with a great Brioche. So these two purchases led to a super pudding which I think would be a great alternative for those who do not like Christmas pudding. It is rich and delicious without being too heavy. It is a regular bread and butter pudding except that I added a few layers of cinnamon buttered apples and toasted almonds, you could also add raisins or chopped dates perhaps.  You could also leave all the added extras if you want a plaing bread and butter pudding.

You will need, to serve 4:
3/4 of a white loaf - I used a brioche from the Paris bakery (Pannetone is also good)
2 cox's pippin apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
25g butter, plus a little extra to grease the dish and to butter the bread slices
300ml whole fat milk
300ml double cream
4 eggs
150g golden caster sugar, plus extra for the top
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g flaked almonds

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the cinnamon. Add the apple slices and toss the pieces around to ensure that they are well coated.
Cut the crusts of the bread you are using, although if you are using a Pannetone, I would leave them on. I did cut them off the brioche, which in hindsight was unnecessary. Butter each slice on Now place a layer of bread, buttered side up into the buttered oven proof dish. Next add a layer of apple, a layer of bread and a layer of apple, finishing if you can with as much bread as possible on the top.

Now make the custard.
In a large bowl, whisk by hand, 4 eggs with the sugar and the vanilla extract.
Place the milk and cream into a saucepan and heat until just under boiling point. You will know when it forms a slight skin on top and you can see the liquid just starting to agitate underneath the skin.
Very slowly, pour the hot liquid into the egg and sugar mix, whisking the mix slowly with one hand as you pour.

Then gently ladle the creamy liquid over the bread allowing a little time between each ladleful to soak fully into the bread. Continue until all is absorbed or there is physically no room for more.

Sprinkle the flaked almonds generously over the top, cover with cling film and place in the fridge until needed. This can be prepared a day ahead and simply baked in the oven when needed.
To cook, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place the oven-proof dish into a larger roasting tray and pour boiling water about half way up its side. Cook for about 45minutes to 1 hour. I had to introduce a foil top after about 35 minutes to prevent the almonds and bread from browning too much.

You can serve this with some custard or simply a little whipped cream.

This is a perfect prepare ahead non-traditional pudding for Christmas day with the cooking time fitting in perfectly with the serving of the main meal.

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