Brioche Bread & Butter Pudding with Chocolate

It was my brother in law’s birthday a couple of months ago. Unfortunately for him, the day of his birth, September 11 is now far better known for other reasons, in fact he was 21 the day the planes struck the world trade centre so his special day became a bit of an irrelevance.

However, this year I cooked dinner for him and finished off the meal with a twist on traditional bread and butter pudding. I like how in this recipe there is a great partnership between the buttery brioches, creamy custard, bitter chocolate, sweet prunes and lifted by a far more adult slug of ameretto.

Apologies to my gluten, wheat and dairy intolerant followers (and daughter!) in advance for this recipe…

Serves: 8-10 portions (this is very rich, so small is better!)

Ingredients

1 good brioche loaf sliced or 4-6 small brioches sliced
1/2 a vanilla pod or best vanilla essence
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
350 ml of half fat milk
300 ml of single cream
120g of soft brown sugar
150g of best dark chocolate – 70% cocoa solids or better
Around 10 prunes
A good handful of pecans
A shot of ameretto liqueur
Sufficient butter to butter brioche slices
Sugar to sprinkle on top of pudding.

method

1. Put eggs in a bowl and mix with electric blender until slightly foamy and paler in co our.
2. Melt 100g of your chocolate in microwave with a tablespoonful or two of the milk. Do 15 second bursts and keep checking until just melted and combined with the milk.
3. Pour a little of chocolate in with eggs and combine with mixer. Then gradually add the rest whilst mixing constantly.
4. Put milk, cream, a few pecans crushed and the vanilla pod (or essence) in a large pan and bring really slowly to a simmer. Again, keep a good eye on it, as it starts to boil remove from the heat and let it cool somewhat.
5 Strain milk into egg/choc mixture and combine again with blender – if the milk is too hot and you don’t mix rapidly, then you will have a disaster!
6. Add your slug of ameretto. This is now your chocolate custard to use in pudding.
7. Chop remainder of chocolate, prunes and pecans into small chunks.
8. Butter brioche slices and place in a good size (20-25cm square?) baking dish. Between each layer of brioche, sprinkle in bits of the chocolate/prune/pecan mixture.
9. Once brioche is used or dish is full, pour in chocolate custard over the whole thing making sure the top layer of bread is well moistened with the custard mixture.
10. Sprinkle with sugar and leave for 30 mins or so (longer is fine) before baking.
11. Bake at 160c (fan oven) for 20-30 mins. The baking dish should be placed in a deep baking tray with some water in it to creat a Bain Marie whilst cooking.
12. Serve with some extra thick single cream.

Fig & Pecan Beer Bread

I reecently attended a cookery course as everything I have learnt about cooking has been from informal sources – consequently, I have no ‘proper’ techniques and a lot of bad habits!

The course was a great experience: spending all day learning and cooking, getting the chance to experiment and to ask an expert chef teacher all manner of questions.  My teacher was called Hannah and was trained by Prue Leith.  She was a good mixture of tough and fun that suited me very well.

One of the first things we worked on was bread and techniques for baking many different sorts of loaves.  I have only used a bread machine to this point and had ruled out in my head ever making it by hand (too slow and old fashioned…).  I am now a convert to the more traditional methods, but I can see how this could be adapted to a machine – you won’t get such a pretty plait loaf though!

This loaf works fantastically well served with blue cheese or a nice, rich homemade pate.  My father in-law will not however mix ‘sweet and salt’and had his slices with butter and jam which seemd to suit him very well.

Serves: Makes 1 large loaf

Ingredients

60g butter

2 tsp light muscavado sugar

300ml bitter beer or ale (I used Theakston’s Old Peculiar, but any silly named dark English beer will work!)

1 egg, beaten

10g fast action dried yeast (or 20g fresh yeast)

2 tsp salt

225g strong white flour

225g of wholemeal flour

40g chopped dried figs

40g chopped pecans

To glaze – 1 Tbsp of honey

Method

  1. Place sugar and beer in a pan and heat until bubbling, then boil fast for 1 minute or so.
  2. Take beer mixture off heat and add the butter to it to melt.
  3. Place flours, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Make sure you have been very accurate with the measurements of the dry ingredients (less important for liquid), this is the best tip for breadmaking!
  4. After the beer mixture has cooled a little more, add the beaten egg and cool to the temperature of a newborn baby’s bath water (hey, I am a daddy!).
  5. Add around 2/3 of your liquid egg/beer/butter to the dry ingredients.  Get your hands in and work this into a nice soft dough.  You may need to add more of your liquids to get the right consistency.
  6. Get the dough onto a floured work surface and knead it for 10 minutes or so (a surprisingly good work out…).  You will know that you have kneaded enough when the dough springs back slowly when you lighly place your fingertip to it.
  7. Place dough in an oiled bag in a warm place to prove until it has doubled in size).  This should take between 30 mins to an hour depending on temperature, flour used, age of yeast, which way the wind is blowing, etc…
  8. Take dough out of bag and knock it back with a couple of gentle punches.
  9. Add your figs and pecans and knead them in well for a couple of minutes.
  10. Shape the loaf into your chosen form – a plait gets lots of ooos and ahhhhhs.  Place on an oild baking sheet or tin and loosely cover in oiled cling film.
  11. Place in warm place again and let rise until pillowy and nearly doubled in size – around 40 mins.
  12. Place loaf carefully into preheated 200C oven for 15 minutes.
  13. Take out loaf and brush with honey. Place back in oven for anoth 10 minutes or so.  Loaf is done when it sounds hollow when knocked and it feels light for it’s size.

Enjoy fresh and warm with Dolcelatte cheese or toasted with a rich duck liver pate.