When the wind sweeps down from the north and the air temperature dips below 50 degrees, homo sapiens start to think about comfort foods to fuel up—mac and cheese, pot roast, potatoes and gravy and for those with a sweet tooth—bread pudding.
This centuries-old dessert has been made around the world using stale bread, milk/cream, eggs, a fat such as an oil or butter, sugar or other sweetenings and spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. It was considered a good throw-together dessert using what was in any bakers pantry. But a recipe in the right hands when the stars align can create magic.
This simple, yet decadent dessert done right, has just enough sweet custard to make a moist pudding, that with a caramel whisky sauce, is hard to turn down at the table.
Locals and town visitors alike don’t have to look far for a good version, defined as a moist, creamy (but not eggy) interior and a crisp top crust. It can be found at the Harvest Table Restaurant and it comes with a twist. It is made from Hermann’s Battocletti Bakery’s yeast glazed donuts.
Harvest Table Co-owner Mary Brennell says she got the recipe when she took over the Cottage Restaurant in 2013.
Good cooks use Jewish egg-enriched challah bread for its rich flavor in their bread puddings and the same could be said for using a yeasty-flavored glazed doughnut. Also, the airy texture of a glazed donut traps moisture from the custard, once it is baked.
Those bread qualities may not be lost on Mary, but the savvy restauranteur also emphasizes the custard.
“People like custard in their pudding,” she says. “They’re looking for that moist, dense texture [of a good pudding] you get that with a quality custard.”
Home cooks can have problems achieving Mary’s benchmarks when it comes to custard. If it is not handled properly it can curdle or not set up properly. Adding another egg or two would help, but there is a danger giving the pudding an egg flavor.
Here’s a great chef’s tip from Cook’s Illustrated: The egg flavor comes from the sulfur compounds in egg whites. Get rid of the egg whites and just use the yolks. That will give you a rich, silky custard with no trace of egg-flavor.
Mary uses a caramel sauce on top of her bread pudding.
“It tends to lean more towards butterscotch because we use a brown sugar base rather than white sugar,” she added.
Let the cold winds blow. A serving (or two) of hearty bread pudding will put the glow back into cold bones.