Bread has been getting a bad press for sometime and appears to have become the enemy. I could quite happily inhale the bread basket every time it's placed in front of me in a restaurant, but I spar with that voice in my head demonising the humble bread roll. I can definitely stuff my face with every kind of carb known to man and bread I find is particularly difficult to resist. I drool at the thought of focaccia, olive ciabatta, poilâne, bagels and brioche. However, it's with great sadness that bread and myself have had a very toxic relationship and as with any torrid love affair we have had to part ways.
My blissful childhood was filled with weekend picnics to the Lake District, family and friends in tow. My mother and all my aunts would make a mountain of puris and parathas accompanied with spicy potatoes and mango pickle. Bombay sandwiches and Frankie rolls were devoured in minutes. We would sit on blankets savouring this delicious carb laden food, all washed down with thermos flasks of hot cardamom chai and finished off with delicate homemade saffron and pistachio Indian cookies, Nankhatai. Those innocent, nostalgic, heady days were fun-filled and full of laughter, often resulting in food eating competitions. This often rendered me into a food coma and any maladies were put down to greed!
However, when I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in my early adulthood, I was able to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together. Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction of the immune system to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The only cure for this autoimmune disease is to eliminate all gluten from your diet and hey presto you're fine! Over the last few years, the market in gluten free products has exploded and being gluten free is seen as being fashionable, a fad even. Always wanting to be a purveyor of fashion, this is not something I had ever desired, to give up a part of my comforting, ingrained bread eating life. It was what I thought at the time a travesty and I even mourned the ramifications. The upside of this so called 'trend,' is that gluten free options are ubiquitous in supermarkets and most restaurants. London's gluten free bakery, Beyond Bread offers a smorgasbord of everything gluten free. I no longer have to pine for freshly baked baguette and finally I can have my gluten free cake and eat it!
I don't shy away from making everything for my family, I just don't eat it myself. Breads, cakes, pasta all feature in my repertoire, but I occasionally substitute certain ingredients for gluten free ones whenever I feel the need to satiate my desire for bread. One of my family's favourite desserts, that I would like to share with you, is Bread and Butter Pudding. The denouement of any meal, with this dessert will certainly result in happy endings. Let's break bread.
Bread and Butter Pudding
1 Brioche Loaf 400g
600ml Double Cream
6 Free Range Eggs, large
225g Vanilla Sugar
40g Golden Raisins
30g Butter, softened
50g Pistachio Nuts, shelled & unsalted
Few strands of Saffron (optional)
Slice the brioche loaf into thin slices and cut each slice into two triangles.
Place the milk and double cream and saffron if you are using it, into a heavy based pan and slowly bring to the boil.
Once boiled, take it off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Whisk the eggs and the sugar together until it is pale, light and leaves a trail.
Add the cooled cream and milk to the egg mixture and whisk together.
Butter a baking dish with the 30g of softened butter and arrange all the brioche triangles into it.
Scatter the golden raisins on top of the bread and carefully pour on the custard.
If any of the bread floats to the top, push it down with the back of a spoon, ensuring it is immersed in the liquid.
Chop the pistachio nuts into thin slivers and scatter over the pudding.
Leave the pudding for several hours or overnight to ensure that the bread has soaked up all the liquid.
Place the baking dish into a larger roasting tin, which has been lined with a newspaper. Fill the roasting tin with warm water so the water comes up half way up the side of the baking dish. This is a bain-marie, or a water bath and will prevent the milk from boiling and curdling the eggs.
Place into the oven and cook in a pre-heated fan-assisted oven at 165 degrees celsius or equivalent, for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, but there will still be a slight wobble.
Serve hot or cold.
If you do wish to make this dessert gluten free, use gluten free brioche rolls, slice and follow the instructions.
If you do not have vanilla sugar, just use regular caster sugar.
If you want to make vanilla sugar, add a vanilla pod into a container of caster sugar. Store and use as required.
It is best to use golden raisins, or even green raisins if you wish.
Using saffron is optional. It will change the flavour of the custard and will add a mellow yellow tinge to it.