Friday, May 17, 2013
by Sheila Connolly
I love traveling (except for the getting there and back again—where's a transporter when you need one?), and I love trying new things. This month I've been through Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh and points between, and I came upon some great food, either because someone pointed me toward it or I stumbled on it by happy accident.
The concierge at my small hotel in Philadelphia suggested Talula's Garden around the corner, where I ordered a dish I won't even try to describe, much less make at home. What I can say is that it was memorable because it contained a wonderful range of ingredients, and each bite tasted slightly different. (You can see the menu here.)
In a small town in New Jersey, where I was staying with a friend, I wandered into a restaurant called Sweet Lula's. I went in because it was the first place I came to, and I was starving after a long day of driving across Pennsylvania. Once inside I ordered from their ambitious menu and nearly dropped my fork at my first bite of their Roast Cod with Sage Brown Butter, it was that good. With grilled endive on the side—you can bet I'll try that this summer (I think the trick is to halve it and soak it in salted water so it doesn't cook too quickly on the grill).
Dessert there was bread pudding, and that's what I want to talk about here. I seem to remember eating bread pudding most of my life, but when I went to look up recipes in my trusty cookbook collection (both old and new books), most of the recipes I found called for dry bread crumbs, and all I could think of was mush. Lula's pudding was made with thick slices of bread. Luckily I returned from my East Coast odyssey with a loaf of homemade apple cinnamon raisin bread, which worked just fine (and the slices fit very neatly in a 9-inch square pan).
This recipe is kind of a hybrid of French toast and custard, and it's easy to make.
OLD FASHIONED BREAD PUDDING
Preheat the oven on 350 degrees F. Butter a 9" square baking pan (this works for slices of bread—if you want to tear up the pieces you can use any pan you like).
Lay the bread slices in the pan. This took eight slices. If you're using pieces, that's about four cups. If you want to add raisins or even a dried fruit like cranberries, now is the time.
2 cups milk (I used half milk, half cream)
½ cup white sugar
Nutmeg or cinnamon if you like
Beat the eggs, then add the milk, sugar and spice(s). Pour the liquid over the bread and let it stand until the bread pieces are soaked through (a few minutes).
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden. I added caster sugar to the top before baking, for a little crunch.
You can serve this with whipped cream, ice cream or a sauce (Lula's offered whisky caramel sauce!) It also kept surprisingly well for a day or two.