Happy Family Day! + Overnight Bread Pudding Recipe

Bread Pudding by Ayala Moriel
Bread Pudding, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
This is the 2nd Family Day in British Columbia - a statutory holiday that was invented last year, but sort of began 4 years ago, when the Vancouver School District slapped an extra Pro-D-Day (professional development day) on the closest day possible to Valentine's Day weekend.

This holiday being quite devoid of content so far, it's time to build it up a bit. For example: change legislation about how many parents can go on one baby's birth certificate. I wish I could have had a choice in the matter when my then-husband (and daughter's father) took off, conveniently close to when her diagnosis process began... Oh well. Being over 16 and all, she no longer needs a single consent from her faux-father even if he was around. Time flies! The only people who really count are not those on paper, but those who are there to parent the child, when they get their fever high up, get all their front teeth pulled out, break their femur, and the daily communication with a non-verbal little person that only got a grip on language at the age of 8. I thank the daddy that did step into the picture and decided to remain there to support us even when our romantic partnership has ceased to exist.

The weather today certainly helps in creating new traditions: constant rain after several weeks of rather dry (albeit chilly) weather. Perfect time for indoor fun such as blogging, playing card games, and baking.

For those of you into baking, here's the best bread pudding recipe, which makes a perfect use of any left over white bread, challah or brioche you may have (being a small family of 2, we never manage to finish our Friday night Challah, and always have at least half left - which I freeze and collect until I feel like bread pudding again).

I learned the recipe from my dear grandmother, when I first moved out of my parent's home, and she was my baking mentors for the entire time I lived in Tel Aviv. I owe her more than I can even begin to tell you - and the baking skills only scrape the surface! She turned 90 at the end of last year, and is now the proud grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 6 (well, soon 7!). She's truly the rock and foundation, who held the family together for many years, as my grandfather passed away many years ago.

I wrote down all the staple recipes for her pastries which I love - cheesecake with pudding creme, poppyseed chiffon cake with chocolate icing, date cake, honey cake, and many more. Years later, my mom bought a book about Ashkenazi Jewish recipes, which featured a very similar recipe, but with a slightly different baking method: the pudding is baked, covered in foil, under very low temperatures, overnight. Put it in the oven the night before, and you won't need an alarm clock: you'll wake up to the sweet smell of cinnamon and apples baking in the oven... Surely a wonderful way to wake up in the weekend as well, straight into a pampering brunch that needs no additional preparations!

I made a couple of adaptations from Shmulik Cohen's HaMitbach HaYehudi, such as the addition of steam to the baking process, which prevents it from scorching on the bottom. So I feel like I can call this recipe my own now:

Overnight Bread Pudding
1 Challah Bread
1 Cups milk and/or sweet red wine for soaking
4 Granny Smith apples
100gr raisins
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs Povidl (spiced plum jam) aka Pflaumenmousse
3 Eggs
1 Tbs cinnamon powder
1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
50gr butter, softened
- Hand-tear the bread into small pieces
- Wet the bread with milk or wine, and squeeze out any excess moisture
- Peel, core and grate or chop the apples (grating creates a more consistent texture; while using chopped apples creates a texture more similar to an apple cake - it truly is a personal choice)
- Butter a 23x27cm pan
- Fill with the batter and flatten the top with a spoon or a spatula
- Use an aluminum foil for covering
- Place the pan inside another pan that is filled with tap water
- Bake overnight at 100c (or at least for 8hrs)
- In the morning, remove the foil, springle with some more sugar and cinnamon, and dot with butter. Bake for another hour.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. There are many ways to enjoy this simple treat: It's wonderful on its own as a breakfast affair, or with a slice or two of sharp cheese such as Cheddar or Emmenthal. Alternatively, serve as a desert a-la-mod with a scoop of real vanilla ice cream. But that's a bit of an overkill in my opinion. My personal favourite is room temperature, with homemade chocolate milk on the side. 

Banana Chocolate Bread Pudding

This morning I didn't need the alarm clock: I pleasantly woke up to a luxurious, rich, nutty scent of burnt butter, caramelized bananas and steaming chocolate... Can you think of anything more pampering, surprising and special than to wake up in the morning to the smell of freshly baked goods, come from your own oven?

Would you believe me if I told you that this is possible to be done without any effort whatsoever such as waking up at the wee hours of the night, measuring or weighing ingredients and worrying if you'll have time to eat them before rushing to work?

Sounds too good to be true, I know... I would agree with you unless I were to experience it myself with this one quirky dish called bread pudding. If made in the steaming technique this new recipe of bread pudding from a Jewish cookbook that I suspect was designed as a breakfast affair for Saturday morning - that one day in the week when observant Jews usually need to forgo most hot meals unless they were prepared on a hot plate in very slow cooking.

There can be as many flavour variations to bread puddings as the types of stale bread used to prepare it. And you can always add a little bit of this or that. I've been fantasizing about a banana and chocolate affair for over two weeks and it was about time to do something about it. I even had 3 overripe bananas begging for attention. So last night was the night to starting working on that.

5-6 Pain au chocolat (or plain croissants, or a loaf of brioche or challah)

1 cup milk
3 Tbs cocoa powder (I personally prefer Dutch processed)
1/3 cup brown sugar 
50gr (about 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Pink of sea salt
1tsp pure vanilla extract
4 eggs, beaten
50gr dark chocolate, chopped finely (or chocolate chips)
Additional butter for the pan/pudding dish

- Cook the milk, cocoa and sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Add the butter and wait for it to melt. Add the vanilla extract
- Cool down for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mash the bananas well.
- Pour the chocolate mixture onto the bananas. Add the eggs one at a time and beat them between additions.
- Preheat the oven to 95c (200F)
- Butter generously a pudding bowl or another heat proof bowl or casserole dish (such as ceramic or pyrex) or a deep pan. 
- Place slices of the pain au chocolate in the bowl and arrange them as neatly as you can, in one layer.
- Pour the banana, hot chocolate and egg mixture over the bread slices. Sprinkle with the chopped chocolate.
- Create another layer of bread, then pour the batter and sprinkle with more chocolate.
- Cover with a lid (or with aluminum foil).
- Place the pudding bowl inside a shallow pan filled with water and place in the oven.
- Bake over night (for 8-9 hours).
- Meanwhile, get your beauty sleep. You'll wake up to the most amazing breakfast - and your home will smell heavenly!
- When you remove the pan from the oven, the pudding will be all puffy. Please note that it will collapse (even if you leave it in the oven with the door slightly open). That's normal, and would not take away from your enjoyment. I promise!
- If you used a bowl, invert the pudding onto a serving plate, and dust with powdered sugar. This pudding is best served hot or warm. Goes very nicely with a cup of black tea with milk (we had a banana coconut tea from Murchie's for the occasion), a cup of coffee, or even just a glass of milk.

Bon appetite!
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