It may sound odd, but cooking with stale bread is one of my favourite things to do. It must be the Romanian peasant blood in me. I'm not sure what else explains my horror at wasted food and the satisfaction I get from taking an almost inedible ingredient and turning it into something nourishing and delicious.
Last fall, when I was working as a guest chef in France, I found myself in possession of an excessive amount of day-old baguettes – the by-product of a bread order gone wrong. My scramble to use up all the loaves resulted in some pretty good dishes. It was this bread pudding that I put on the menu, though, that truly struck a chord with the French
This recipe isn't particularly groundbreaking, but I do think it's a cut above a lot of the overly sweet, stodgy and complicated bread pudding recipes I've come across in my day. I love an extremely light, custardy pudding. This dessert delivers that in spades. Served with poached apples and sage crème, it really does make the perfect cold-weather dessert. Keep these two things in mind before carrying on: The pudding needs to sit over night before baking, and the apples and crème can be done three to four days in advance.
Servings: 6 to 8
3 cups milk
½ cup sugar
½ pound (200 grams) 2-to-3-day-old bread, roughly cubed
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
10 grams sage leaves
1 lemon, zested
¾ cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
4 egg yolks
2 gala apples peeled, cored and quartered
1 cinnamon stick
2½ cups apple juice
Whisk the milk, eggs and sugar together until well incorporated.
Place bread in a flat high-rimmed container and pour milk over top. Layer some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the bread and let sit in the fridge over night.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and pour in the bread mixture. The bread should come at least two inches up the side of the tray. Scatter little knobs of the butter all over the bread and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the pudding has just set, but is still wobbly in the middle. Let cool.
In a heavy-bottom saucepan gently heat up the cream, milk, sage, lemon zest and sugar. Just as the cream starts to bubble around the edges, remove from heat.
Meanwhile, in a metal bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Add a ladle of the cream mixture to the yolks. Whisk rapidly to prevent yolks from curdling. Add another ladle and repeat. Now pour the yolks into the saucepan and cook over low heat until the custard begins to thicken, whisking the entire time. It is ready when you put a wooden spoon into the custard and a finger drawn on the back of the spoon makes an uninterrupted line.
With a stand-up or hand blender, blend the mixture until the sage has dissolved. Set aside and let cool in fridge.
Put all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over a gentle simmer until apples are fork tender. Add more apple juice if necessary during cooking. Cool down and store in the poaching liquid.
Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat. Add butter and gently fry pudding until it’s warmed through and golden brown on one side.
On a serving plate, spoon some crème, and top with a piece of pudding and a wedge of apple. Sprinkle a pinch of Maldon salt over the pudding and serve immediately.