“Why would you ruin a perfectly good bread pudding with raisins?” said my wife.
Myself, I like the raisins, especially good ones first soaked in something nice. But I get her point. I’ve had the soggy sad raisins version on too many occasions.
So when I happened across this recipe from an 1877 English restaurant cookbook, I made a note for the next time I had bread gone stale.
As fate would have it, recently I served a beautiful boule (shown below) as part of a larger spread and had some leftover at the end of the day. And as it does, a few days later it had turned a bit stale.
So I decided to make that bread pudding for dessert.
In 1867, Auguste Kettner, former chef to Napoleon III, opened one of the first French restaurants in London. And for 149 years it was a regular haunt for people from King Edward VII to Oscar Wilde, Bing Crosby, and Agatha Christie.
When one is in the humour to eat bread-pudding one wants it very simple — therefore the simplest receipt is the best, and the less we say of currants and candied citron the better. The rule is to pour upon fine breadcrumbs about three times the quantity of liquid — in the form of rich milk and butter. Say there are six ounces of bread, — on this put two ounces of fresh butter, and then pour boiling hot a pint (sixteen ounces) of the creamiest milk to be obtained. Cover this over, and let it stand until the bread is well soaked — which will take about half an hour. Then mix in three ounces of sugar, the yolks of five eggs, the whites of three, and a little nutmeg. Pour it into a dish, and bake it for half an hour.
— Kettner’s Book of the Table: A Manual of Cookery, Practical, Theoretical, Historical. London 1877.
That’s the whole recipe!
I’ll break it down a bit with some of my notes from the times I’ve made it.
I use my kitchen scale to measure out six ounces of bread. As you can see below, it was about four slices of this particular loaf. More often, it’s about six. But remember this was historically a recipe to use up precious bread gone stale — so a little more or a little less is nothing to fret over.
You can also double the recipe if you have more.
I prefer heartier breads, but just about any bread will do fine. I’ve used everything from sour dough to wheat breads at one time or another.
And if you want to trim off the crusts, feel free — I like them myself.
If your bread is not stale, fake it. Fifteen minutes on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven will do the trick. Drying it out allows it to soak up more liquid.
Cut or tear the bread into cubes and scatter into the baking dish.
In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk and butter to just before it boils. Then pour it over the bread and push the bread down into it with the back of a spoon.
Let it sit for at least half an hour, pressing it down every now and then.
Milk was creamier back when. I like to use 1/2 cup of cream and 1-1/2 cups of whole milk. But if you have good, local, cream-at-the-top milk? Maybe in glass bottles? By all means, just use that.
Then, in a bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks. The yolks of five eggs, the whites of three is only five eggs total.
However, eggs were much smaller then.
I was lucky enough to have a dozen eggs from young hens that you’d consider small — quite small actually — that I’d picked up at the local farmers market. For normally-sized large eggs, only use four: two eggs plus two yolks. Otherwise, you’ll end up with an overly egg-y dish.
Mix the sugar and nutmeg into the beaten eggs and then pour it into the bread, milk, and butter already in the baking dish and gently mix it up well.
At half an hour, mine is usually still not quite done. A paring knife stuck into the center still comes out wet. I’ve found forty-five minutes seems to work best.
I could raise the heat of the oven to make half an hour work but the end result has a texture that’s a bit too dry for my liking. (Of course I tried it!)
Eat it as-is, or dust with some powdered sugar or a nice vanilla anglaise, and so on.
Kettner's Bread and Butter Pudding
Bread and Butter Pudding is a perfect answer for stale bread. From an English restaurant recipe more than a hundred years ago. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 6 ounces bread
- 16 ounces milk (About 2 cups. I like to use ½ cup cream plus 1½ cups whole milk.)
- 2 ounces butter (Half of a stick.)
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 ounces sugar (A scant half cup.)
- nutmeg, to taste (A few grinds.)
If the bread is not actually stale, dry it out on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven for 15 minutes.
Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes and put them in a baking dish.
Heat the milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat to just before it boils.
Pour the mixture over the bread and let sit for half an hour, occasionally pushing the bread into the liquid with the back of a spoon. (The goal is for the bread to soak up all of the liquid.)
In a bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks until smooth. Add the sugar and nutmeg and mix well.
Pour the mixture over the bread, milk, and butter in the baking dish and gently stir well.
Bake in a 400°F oven for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.