Christmas in a foreign country, far from family and friends, has the potential to be a very lonely experience. Unless you happen to be one of eight ‘orphaned’ Australians crammed into a two-bedroom house in a southern suburb of London, together for the next 24 hours due to a temporary cease in the public transport that would allow us to return to our respective residences. And so began one of the most memorable Christmases of my life.
It was cold enough to cool the beer in the back garden rather than the fridge, there was great music, Mario Kart rallies (it was the 90’s), and Ros and I cooked our first Christmas meal. The crowning dish, served very late in the afternoon as we had grossly underestimated the amount of time it takes to cook such a feast, was this chocolate bread and butter pudding.
I have often thought of that pudding over the years. Whilst the rest of that meal has faded from memory, I can still visualise the reactions around the table as we tucked into dessert. All of us had had bread and butter pudding before, but this dessert was on a whole different level. It was rich, and decadent, and a perfect end to our Christmas lunch.
For some reason though I had never made that bread and butter pudding again. Until this winter. I stumbled across the recipe in an old folder and all the memories of that Christmas came flooding back. It was a cold and wet day, and a comforting bread and butter pudding suddenly seemed called for.
Mum would often make bread and butter pudding for dessert when I was a child. She would tuck sultanas between the slices of bread, which would swell in the custard. I loved the pudding but I hated those fat squishy sultanas, and would studiously pick them all out before tackling the now mangled pudding. Occasionally I would miss one, the big fat sultana making me gag (have I mentioned I was a picky eater as a child?). Picking sultanas out of your dessert is a lot less socially acceptable as an adult, so I didn’t eat bread and butter pudding for many years.
This pudding ticks all the boxes for me. The squishy sultanas have been replaced by little nuggets of melted chocolate that seep into the custard. The custard itself, spiced with cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg, is absorbed by the buttery croissants. The croissants, which replace the traditional bread, suck up the custard and puff in the warmth of the oven.
This dessert is true decadence; comfort food at its finest. I have made it many times this past winter, as if making up for all those years that the recipe languished uncooked. I have tinkered with it slightly to make it easier to cook, replacing the original pain au chocolate for the more easily sourced croissants, and changing up the spices, yet it remains very true to the original. It is still a cracker dessert, memorable even without the ‘orphan’s’ Christmas.
Spiced Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding
This pudding is best served warm, rather than piping hot, although I always find it difficult to wait that long. You can also reheat leftovers in a warm oven. The edges will crisp slightly but the pudding is still fabulous.
- 425 ml whipping cream
- 250 ml full fat milk
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 vanilla pod
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 60 - 70 g golden castor sugar
- 4 large butter croissants approx. 450g
- 75 g dark chocolate chopped, 70% cocoa solids
- Butter for greasing
- Split the vanilla pod and roughly break the cinnamon stick, and place in a medium saucepan with the milk and cream.
- Slowly bring the cream mixture to the boil over a medium heat, then immediately remove from the heat.
- Place a lid on the saucepan and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and castor sugar together until frothy.
- Sieve the infused cream mixture into the beaten egg, add the ground nutmeg and whisk together.
- Grease a 21cm x 28cm x 8cm baking dish with butter.
- Split the croissants and place a layer in the bottom of the baking dish.
- Scatter half of the chopped chocolate over the croissants.
- Place the remainder of the croissants over the chocolate and scatter the remaining chocolate over the top of the dish.
- Gently pour the custard over the croissants, ensuring that they are evenly covered. Press the croissants under the custard if necessary.
- Set the baking dish aside for 30 minutes to allow the custard to be absorbed.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C fan forced).
- Bake the pudding for approximately 30 minutes, until it is puffed and golden, and the chocolate is melted.
- Allow to stand for 5 - 10 minutes before serving, if you can wait that long.