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Cardamom, Orange – White Chocolate Bread Pudding

by on December 27, 2012
 

I can’t say that the thought of warm bread pudding brought comfort to me on a freezing cold day. No I can’t in the 26 degree centigrade heat that has enveloped me in sunshine and a gentle breeze since my return home two nights ago. Its harmattan season. I’ve swapped cold American nights for windy Nigerian days, and crisp climes thanks to the southern winds hitting Nigeria from the Sahara desert.

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My superhero son in action, holding our bread pudding

We made it through Christmas with a wonderful feast. I arrived home on the eve of Christmas, shared presents, feasted on Laduree macarons and went to bed early.

Christmas breakfast was delicious oatmeal, with orange juice-plumped dried cranberries, a compote of berries and toast. I went back to bed and awoke to rustle up a quick Nigerian Christmas lunch of Jollof rice, Fried chicken and creamy salad, while our bacon bird, aka Turkey draped with back bacon roasted for dinner.

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Roasted potatoes, tossed in brown butter and seasoned with dried oregano and chillies; a chopped apple and cucumber salad with cilantro, and brown butter glazed carrots and green beans were the sides. Though there was no stuffing, I did serve up an orange-cranberry sauce, made from dried cranberries that had the hue of beets and tasted tart and delicious.

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In a nutshell, Christmas breakfast, lunch and dinner were great.

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Then jet-lag set in, keeping me awake and setting me on a path of discovery, that began with ‘wondering what to do with all the leftover bacon that crowned the turkey’ and ended with slowly developing a white chocolate and orange recipe for bread pudding.

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Breaking out my new punch bowl, with the son serving himself

How does one get from bacon to bread pudding? Don’t ask me but that’s the way it went.

And why face it headlong?

Well, this coming year I will embrace spontaneity. Be comfortable with it.

I will embrace fear, for what is it that could happen if I hid from it?

And because I have run away from bread pudding for years, from my time living in England till now, this is ‘the’ time.

My fear of bread pudding has always been the thought of ‘soggy bread’. I must confess that I haven’t also come across great descriptions other than ‘custardy’. I tried to convince my husband that it would be delicious but he wasn’t buying it. My kids too were not sold. Neither was I too….to be honest but I was determined that Boxing Day brunch would be bread pudding.

And bread pudding it was.

It emerged warm from the oven, crisp topped, light textured and tasting like delicious cake. There was nothing soggy about it. Shockingly.

And everyone, husband to children, myself and neighbours absolutely loved it. So much so that daughter number 1 requested it the day after for brunch. I didn’t acquiesce though, but I will soon….with some panettone.

Perhaps for New Year’s Day brunch.

Cardamon, Orange – White chocolate Bread Pudding

Ingredients
1 tablespoon melted (brown), unsalted butter
4 slices, thick cut stale French Bread, about 4 cups of 1″ cubes
4 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
1 ¼ cup fresh milk
¼ cup fresh cream
Zest and juice of 2 large oranges, about 2 tablespoon zest and 1/2 cup juice
50g white chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons dried cherries & berries (cranberries, blueberries, etc)
6 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
1 teaspoon vanilla powder or two teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup pecans, chopped
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
Directions

Pre-heat oven to 300° F (about 150° C) and butter a 9-inch x 9-inch square baking dish, or a round pie dish.

Prepare the bread

Spread the bread, in one layer, on baking sheets to toast.

Toast bread for about 10 minutes, until it is slightly crisp on the outside but still spongy on the inside – don’t worry if some cubes taken on colour, and brown.

Place the bread cubes into the pan, ensuring the bread is in a single layer.

Sprinkle with the crushed cardamom powder, then tuck in pieces of white chocolate between the bread cubes. Finish with the dried cherries and berries, ensuring an even spread.

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Make custard

In one bowl, beat the egg yolks with the milk, cream, orange juice and zest till light colored.

In another clean, (stainless steel) bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, adding the sugar once the egg whites hold soft peaks. Continue beating till the mixture turns glossy. Fold into the first milk and egg mixture.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread, making sure that it is evenly coated. Top with chopped pecans and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top. Let rest for 10 minutes so the bread absorbs some of the liquid and the flavour.

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Bake in a Bain Marie

Place the baking pan into a larger pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the outer pan to come halfway up the sides of the pan containing the bread pudding.

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Bake at 300° F for at least 45 minutes, or up to an hour, or more until the custard is set, and top of bread pudding springs back lightly when touched.

Serve with fresh whipped cream and some light custard.

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As I alluded to earlier, this was an experience quite similar to my cassoulet one. Trepidation ending in amazement and finally understanding – bread pudding is the finest sort of dessert there is. Easy to assemble, to modify and tasty too.

This combination had everything for me – the bread transformed into a cakey texture, light and soft, and definitely enhanced by whipping the egg whites. The white chocolate though, completely disappeared though there . My favourite things were the top crust of sugar and pecans, and the fruity, tart bites of the dried cherries.

Whipped cream was the favourite ‘side’ to be served, even though I enjoyed the custard.

Delicious.

One must not judge a recipe by its name. Or a book, by its cover.

Are you a bread pudding fan? What’s your favourite way to have it?

As we speak, I’m concocting a panettone and butter version.

One love. I trust all the festivities and feasting are going on well……

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