in spite of the fact that this elegant rendition of a stodgy, heavy, unattractive classic was met with the response “yeah…ive never been a big fan”, it is in fact wonderful. done with the right bread. panettone is preferable. but sadly it is not christmas time and we’re not in sicily and panettone isnt sold on the side of the road in trucks all year round. mores the pity. brioche however is an agreeable alternative. should you be willing and able, you can make your own brioche. but not even i would suggest doing that for filling a ramekin and drenching it in custard. you’d be insane. and you should probably find something better to do with your time. but maybe its passion that drives you. and a refusal to give in to the miserable alternatives that are presented to you late on a sunday evening in a city where bakeries have no name and no soul. faux parisienne “patisseries” full of wealthier-than-thou ladies who lunch long into the night are no place for pastry enthusiast (recently labeled a snot, as recently, in fact, as in the space between the last sentence and this). but you gotta do what you gotta do and there was a neglected blog to attend to. so here it is, brioche bread and butter pudding. heavy heaven.
375ml double cream
1 vanilla pod split and scraped
1 brioche loaf (small)
preheat your oven to 170 degrees. put milk and cream into a saucepan.
add the vanilla and place on medium heat on the stove. bring to the boil. dont let it boil over so watch it and remove from heat when its reached boiling and remove the vanilla pod.
meanwhile whisk your eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy
slowly pour the hot cream into the eggs, whisking constantly. set this aside to cool completely.
slice your brioche and butter the slices. then cut into small squares.
put the brioche into the buttered ramekins and sprinkle with saltans.
pour over the custard so it fills half the ramekin. leave this for 5 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard. then fill with the remaining custard. sprinkle with a bit of sugar if you so desire.
put this in a bain marie and then into the oven for 15 minutes until set. remove and promptly eat.
in the immortal words of master shake from aqua teen hunger force…cha cha cha cha delicious!
its not because anyone needs to learn how to put a piece of bread in some eggs and milk and fry until golden that i post this. its because this is a different french toast – taken to a whole new level on account of an excess of a lemon infused custard that was taking up valuable fridge space. how could it go wrong? well, ill tell you. if you are so far gone as to coat your bread in custard be aware that it is very rich and something about its properties made the toast very claggy. not what we want. so i just cracked an egg and poured a drop of milk into the lemony custard for round two and it worked perfectly. it had quite a sharp lemon taste but was still wholly recognisable to the palate as french toast – only a french toast elevated to new lemony-vanilla-y heights.
this was attempt one – bread into custard. at this stage the looming claginess was not yet apparent and so we continued merrily on our way, unawares of the mistakes we were making, mistakes only knowable retrospectively with the benefits of hindsight.
faces were made. the words “claggy”, “cloying”, and “strange” were liberally peppered in attempts at describing the experience. so amendments were made. a moment of reflection, one egg and a dash of milk were added.
and it wasnt just better than attempt number one. it was really very very good. it didnt need a squeeze of lemon. it didnt need the mound of sugar which is usually piled on french toast (though it got it, because it cant hurt). it could have done with some poached fruit on the side but that suggestion was laughed at and the only fruit on hand was a banana and the object here was to avoid clag, not increase it. so the next time you have a lemon custard glut (a position we all find ourselves in from time to time), try it. its lovely.
before i begin the custard/ice cream discourse i feel i should briefly reflect on a recent criticism i received from an ambling older fellow. it was put to me thusly: “could you perhaps not be so unremittingly cool and be slightly less cool for the sake of grammatical comprehension.” hardly. my initial response however was tempered somewhat when i took into account the scope and scale of my audience – you know who you are. and the fact that i can count them on one hand, granted one which was blessed with a few extra digits. make that two. and it occurred to me that in order to maintain the interest of this small, wonderful and dysfunctional collective of individuals, much less attract the interest of a broader cross-section of society, i should perhaps respond more openly and, if nothing else, feign interest in constructive criticisms which might come my way. so henceforth and herewith i shall endeavour. to. be, more; liberal# in my use’ of punctuation! and so it is, i declare the death of cool in favour of grammatical and structural accuracy. now, onto the question of custard, if i may. >?@*()
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup of sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups double cream
1 vanilla pod – split and scraped
in a saucepan pour the milk, cream and the vanilla pod and heat on a low heat until just before boiling point. remove from heat and set aside.
in a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy and doubled in volume.
then carefully, gently, and calmly slowly pour a little bit of the hot milk/cream over the egg/sugar mix and whisk like a mentalist. this is the crucial moment. if your attention is diverted, or even if your whisking arm is weary, you run the dreaded risk of scrambling your eggs. once you have whisked in the first bit of milk, you can take a step back from the psychological and culinary edge and proceed to pour in the rest in a more relaxed fashion…though it is important to continue whisking.
then return the mix to the saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon over a gentle heat. it will slowly start to thicken and you will know you are good to go (not that theres ever anywhere to go) when you can draw a line through the custard on the spoon. if you are using this for custard then place the cooled mix in the fridge to set. if you are marching inexorably on to make a vanilla ice cream sent from heaven then pour this cooled mix into an ice cream machine and churn for 20-ish minutes. whichever way you go, you will find yourself at the end, in a full fat sea of vanilla-y goodness in which i encourage you to wade, bask and finally sink to the bottom.