Saturday, January 5, 2013

Year of Happiness

I don't want to knock to 2012, nor do I want to sound cliche, but I am pretty certain 2013 is going to be a great one.  A really great one.  Mostly because it started with this:

Meyer Lemon Bread Pudding.  Right?

It's gonna be a good year.  Full of lemons, resourcefulness, and happiness.  I never really make resolutions, mostly because I feel all the little things we're supposed to resolve to do, or not do,- eat fewer sweets, run more, be a better person, etc. etc. get old too quickly. But I do like intentions.  So for the sake of declarations: this year I intend to live purely in happiness. Oh yeah, that and eat more bread pudding.  I've got to say, so far, I'm off to a good start.

It may seem obvious, but the key to good bread pudding lies in, you guessed it, the bread. I used two day old Columbia City Levin bread, which is as delicious fresh as it is in bread pudding. As I've found myself in possession of a decent amount of stale bread lately, bread pudding was the obvious choice.  One of the things I like most about bread pudding is how it comes to fruition. It's the proverbial making of lemonade, the spinning of straw to gold version of a dessert.  We make the best of what we have, and then we make it better.  I didn't even plan this, but really it's a great metaphor for the new year.

Thanks 2012 you were great, but I'll take what you've got and raise you an even better year in 2013.

I'm a firm believer that all things made with Meyer lemons are infinitely better than any similar version made without them.  I'm working on scientifically proving it too.

As always, I made lemon curd this way.  I doubled the recipe thinking I'd need more than usual, however it wasn't necessary, one batch will be plenty. Side note: Lemon curd freezes well in an airtight container if somehow you can't think of enough other things to eat the leftovers on. So far I've done french toast, a broken piece of leftover chocolate chip cookie, and in honor of a clean slate New Year,  a spoon on two separate occasions.

Also, if your lemon custard is a little soft that's totally fine for bread pudding because you'll bake the whole thing over again. In fact, I would suggest undercooked the first time is much much better than taking your custard too far to start. Additionally, I would make your lemon custard the day before or at least several hours before you want to bake the pudding so it has time to set up properly.

Now for the pudding, pudding.

Begin with your bread. I cut up 3/4 of a loaf of Columbia City Levin into one inch squares with the crust still intact.  Many recipes call for the de-crusting of the bread, but I think the crust gives the dessert a little more texture.  I compensate for the presence of crust by letting my bread soak in the pudding custard for 20-25 minutes before baking it.

Basic Bread Pudding Custard: 

4 eggs
1/2 - 3/4 granulated sugar (depending on where you fall on the sweet to sweet-tart scale) I found that since your adding lemon curd you don't need more than 1/2 cup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 quart whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of finely finely diced lemon zest

In a bowl whisk eggs plus 1/4 cup sugar together, set aside. In a sauce pan bring milk and 1/4 sugar to a  simmer.  Remove from heat and pour into egg mixture slowly while continuously whisky to keep the eggs from cooking. Add salt and lemon zest.  Mix to combine.  Pour mixture over bread pieces and let sit for 20-25 minutes. I used a large roasting or baking pan for this step to ensure all of the bread was covered in custard.

After the bread has absorbed the majority of the liquid, transfer 3/4 of the bread into a buttered 9 inch cake round.  Spread evenly with lemon curd. Cover the curd with the rest of the bread mixture and pour any remaining pudding custard over top.  Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the sides begin to pull away from the edge of the pan.  Personally I think bread pudding is best served warm, but be my guest; eat it any way you like.

Hopefully, this recipe goes as perfectly with your new years resolutions as it does with mine...