This post was written by Emily Castillo for the SCA Great Rare Books Bakeoff.
Bread pudding is a timeless dessert that plenty of people have tried at least once. In my case, I first tried it when my mom was on a food experimenting binge in high school. There were some good (and not so good) results from all of that experimenting, but her bread pudding sat with me well enough that, when I was presented with the opportunity to cook an old recipe, I chose bread pudding as a safe bet. However, I did not realize that, when I signed up for this, old recipes can be pretty vague. So, using the recipe from Household Cookery and Laundry Work, originally published in 1882, I set to making some bread pudding.
Now, before I get into the process of cooking the bread pudding, I figured I would provide a quick disclaimer and just say that I have never made any kind of pudding before. I understand the process in theory, kind of, and I had somewhat seen my mom make her version, but that did not mean I was not stressed every step of the way with this recipe. It was fun, but the results do not look the most appealing, though I promise it was delicious and worth a try!
So, with plenty of effort and the supervision of my friend (whose kitchen I used), I ended up with a great amount of bread pudding. Actually, I ended up with more than what I know what to do with, but that just means I have plenty of bread pudding to share with friends. Now the ingredients are as follows:
When I first started, my immediate instinct was to figure out what a breakfast-cupful of milk entailed. Lucky for me, it was one of those descriptors that was exactly as it sounded, and just ended up being equivalent to a regular cup. However, I ended up doubling all of the ingredients because I had mistakenly put 2 breakfast-cupfuls of milk to boil, resulting in my ingredient list being:
- 4 slices of (Brioche) Bread
- 4 tablespoonfuls of Marmalade
- 2 breakfast-cupfuls of Milk
- 4 Eggs
- 2 table-spoonfuls of Sugar
The first thing I did was remove the crust from the slices of bread, then I tore them into decent bits to place in a shallow cooking pan. However, I did grapple a bit with how much bread I should use, considering the description of “2 thick slices of Bread” isn’t exactly the most descriptive. That was why I used brioche bread, to make my life a bit easier, but I will admit that it did make me a little stressed to not know what “thick” meant to the author.
Then, I waited for the milk to boil and, once it was, I poured it over the torn up pieces of bread and let it sit for ten minutes while covered with a plate. Once the ten minutes were up, I continued following the recipe and used a fork to whisk it until it formed a “pulp.”
I then beat the eggs and mixed them in, with the marmalade following shortly after. This part is where I ran into a funny little problem. Courtesy of the author, there was no mention of sugar outside of the ingredient list, so I debated with myself for a bit on whether or not to add it during this moment in the process. Considering the brief explanation of the process after, she states, “Beat up the eggs, and stir them in, mixing well; to which add a tablespoonful of marmalade, and mix all together.” Logically, she doesn’t mention mixing at any other point, so it made the most sense to just add the sugar here, and I would recommend doing so at this point too.
After this, it was time to place the pudding mixture into a basin and attempt to figure out what she meant by “steam for an hour.” Since we didn’t have a legitimate pudding basin, and since I saw my mom was able to do it, I used a bundt pan as a makeshift basin.
I buttered the bundt pan, then spread out a tablespoon of marmalade at the bottom as the recipe called for. To steam for an hour, I placed a sheet of parchment paper with butter spread on it (my compromise for her description calling for buttered paper), and tied it with twine to secure it. I got a shallow baking pan and poured in simmering water to create a sort of bath for the pudding.
I then let it simmer for an hour and tried to not think about how things may have gone wrong. Once the hour was done, I slowly took off the parchment paper to reveal my dessert. Luckily, once I had taken the parchment paper off, it had that key pudding jiggle, so I was a lot more confident it was at least fully cooked through.
With the help of my friend whose kitchen I was borrowing, we managed to flip the pudding out onto a plate, and watched it plop out and break a bit.
While it doesn’t look the most appealing, both my friend and I tried it and were surprised at how good it was. It had that key pudding texture, and the orange marmalade gave it a fun little tang that I was not expecting. Of course, there were definitely some things that could be improved, such as using an actual pudding basin, it was a great time and definitely worth recreating. If you want to try it yourself, you could also opt for the classic raisins rather than marmalade. It is the same process, with the bottom of the mold “ornamented with raisins” rather than marmalade, and definitely could end up just as fun! Plus, it could be cool to claim to friends and family that you managed to decipher an old recipe for their enjoyment.