Few cuisines are as distinct as Indian. Pungent, fresh, regional and certainly personal, the Indian culture has food tied into nearly every custom, belief and tradition. If one were to ask a group to name the single flavor most associated with Indian food, most would say curry. And yet, if you've ever immersed yourself into their food, you would be hard-pressed to identify something that carried through and consistently earmarked the language of Indian food. In fact, I'm not sure I would even put curry on the front burner! Onion, garlic, anise...these are the ones I think about. And yet they are also so expressive when it comes to fresh ingredients. If you care to read the vast repository of information about Indian food, you can scarcely come away with anything less than respect, and at the top end of the spectrum, humility and awe.
The first time I went to an Indian themed cooking class, I began to understand the reason that the smells permeate your clothes, hair and skin. When it comes to main courses, they are into "simmering." Slow, purposeful, passionate, and love-filled simmering. But when I think about tasting the food, I get this weird picture in my head that the food isn't just tasted on my tongue. It's like I feel it up into my head, as though there are so many layers it is played out like a 3-D chess game with forks, making it impossible to have a linear tasting experience. One cannot simply take a bite and say, "I taste cumin." Because as the aromas travel through your olfactory senses, you're hard pressed not to continue the descriptives way past the dessert!
I have to say I am always adding a little of the Indian food pyramid to almost everything I make. Which is why my SALMON WITH MINT ROSEMARY RAITA OVER WHITE BEANS SAUTEED WITH CUMIN, RAISINS AND ONIONS TOPPED WITH HONEY LEMON APPLES came out needing such a long title! I dunno if its Indian, but it feels like it. Each bite was so full of flavor, so nuanced, I scribbled not only the recipe but every detail I could remember about how I was inspired to make it.
shubh kamanayem- OR - All the best!! And khaane par mazaa aayaa- Or Enjoy you MEAL!
It happens every year. I always toast too many bread crumbs for my stuffing, knowing that the time to run short is NOT when you're pouring hot, buttery, onions, celery and fruit over the bread and doing final assembly. Argh. That would be catastrophic. So, I just toast away until my kitchen is brimming with little golden cubes of stuffing fodder. I do it the night before because after you heat the dickens out of them, they're nice and dry and don't mind an overnight stay in the open, dreaming contentedly of their future melding with sausage and butter.
But what to do with these orphans now? Hmmm. I stared at those squares, piled tamely on top of one another inside the zip-lock baggie, jostling for position like college kids in a phone booth, and knew I had to intervene.
Other leftovers are crammed into my fridge, so I don't have to be reminded of their presence every time I walk into the room. But that bread. It is relentless.
"Use me, please? I don't want to be smooshed into your garbage disposal. Does it matter you only paid $2.02 at the store for me? I worked hard to make your T-Day a success. You owe me something!"
And so I responded, and without hint, script or guidance, set about assembling the items needed for a bread pudding, and got to work. And dang it if it didn't work out perfectly. (Nobody likes a bragger, but isn't that what a blog is for? ME, ME, ME?) And we all say that so you will think, "Okay, I trust her. I will try it!"
That's my hope, anyway.
So, I've discovered some little things that made this so awesome. Things that if YOU DO THEM, you will have success. First, (and get closer to the screen, you need to remember this.) THE BREAD MUST BE DRY SO IT DOESN'T PRODUCE A DENSE pudding. Second, make sure you give it enough time to soak up all the custardy numminess. 12 to 24 hours is non-negotiable for soft raisins and currants, and for a dessert that poofs out while cooking like a 16 year old boy with three, giggly girlfriends. And third, more good vanilla than you would suspect because that is what takes it to the next level. I'm not gonna lie to you, the subtle rum flavor is awesome, but the point is you don't want to taste it, you want it to compliment the flavors. Otherwise I'd tell you to go make an egg sandwich and wash it down with a little pirate juice (Yo, Ho, Ho and a bottle of...oh you know). Finally, buy a good, professional whisk. I love my Sur La Table version. I feel like a Food Star every time I grab it. Everything must be mixed well and you can do it without an electric mixer if you have a good whisk.
Okay, enough preaching. Let's start measuring. First, you'll note this is egg generous and easy on the sugar. I think it gives the dessert and the look of it more of a "pop-over" feel and keeps it from being too pudding-ish (which is often why most people dislike bread pudding in the first place). It rises high and is light and airy, but you don't miss that creme brulee taste that makes pudding, pudding. Also, I'm very light on the nutmeg and cinnamon. I let the fruit and lightness of the bread stand alone, because when you add the caramely sauce to serve, you want everything balanced.
Let's just say that those little bread crumbs felt like the center of attention yesterday, and forgot all about that little stuffing incident wherein someone, and I ain't saying who, almost left them behind. (Hmmm. What flavor bread pudding shall I do next year?)
Currant Raisin Rum Bread Pudding with Caramel Rum Sauce
8 cups toasted cubes of french bread, all dry, enough to fit nicely into an 11 by 7 baking dish
1/3 C golden raisins
1/4 C dried currants
Zest from one lemon
2 C milk
1 C heavy cream
1 t salt
1/2 plus 3 T white sugar
1 1.5 t dark rum
1/4 t nutmeg (grate your own if you'd like!)
1/2 t cinnamon
1 1.5 T good vanilla extract
Cut the french bread loaf into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes (It usually takes 1 large loaf) and toast on a cookie sheet under broiler until most of the edges are a golden brown. Put in large bowl and let sit the rest of the day or a few hours so the BREAD IS DRY. Butter a 11 by 7 baking dish. Place bread in dish. Sprinkle the raisins and currants over the top to distribute the fruit evenly. Whisk the eggs together first, so that they're all completely incorporated. Add all other ingredients and again, whisk everything together for at least a couple of minutes until nothing separates and the mixture is smooth. Gently pour the egg mixture over the bread. It should come almost to the top as you gently push down the bread into the egg mixture so that everything is touching egg. You don't have to keep doing it, just make sure the top level of bread is at least immersed by half when they bob back up. Cover and put in fridge 12 to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Let the pudding sit on the counter for 30 minutes before you put it into the oven. Bake uncovered for 42 to 43 minutes, until the whole thing rises up and the edges are a little browned. IT won't sizzle or bubble, that means its overdone. Just take out when it appears high (like a popover!)
Remove and let cook for 30 minutes. In the meantime, make the caramel rum sauce.
CARAMEL RUM SAUCE:
1 stick of butter (salted) melted in the pan
1 C light brown sugar (the dark brown has too intense a flavor and won't compliment the dessert as well.)
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 t cinnamon
2 T rum
Melt butter over med low heat. Add sugar and whisk while it bubbles, for about 1 and a half minutes, until it's smooth and shiny. Pull off burner and add the cream, cinnamon, and rum. Return pan to med low/low heat and whisk constantly while it bubbles for about 4 minutes, until it begin to thicken SLIGHTLY. Remove from heat and let bubbles subside now and then to check it.
To serve, cut into squares, drizzle each hot, yummy serving with the hot caramel sauce. Refrigerate leftovers and reheat in micro. Can reheat the caramel sauce as well, although it's a little grainy the second time. I recommend making only what you need for what you serve.
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.