If you are a Jane Austen aficionado, you may have read her mother's recipe, written in rhyme. My recipe makes about a fourth the quantity of Mrs. Austen's and uses proportionately less sugar and butter and more eggs. Also, I skip the cloves and rosewater--the cloves because so many people don't like them and the rosewater because I seldom have it on hand.
Sometimes I serve it with custard sauce, sometimes with my Banana-Pecan Rum Sauce (see below), but this time I served it with softly whipped cream sweetened with a drop of real maple syrup.
About the bread: I can never quite bring myself to use my homemade bread for pudding, so I go for the best store-bought bread I can find. Actually, it turns out rather well with the basic Oroweat/Brownberry/Arnold country buttermilk bread--six slices from the 1 1/2-pound loaf. And, unlike Mrs. Austen, I don't cut the crusts off.
Bread and Butter Pudding
(Makes 6 servings)
8 ounces good sliced white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
4 teaspoons rum
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup dried currants, optional
1 Use bread that's a few days old. I usually use 6 slices from the 1 1/2-pound loaf of Oroweat/Brownberry/Arnold country buttermilk bread. Spread one side of each slice with a teaspoon of soft butter. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the buttered bread. Spread it with a knife so that it is embedded in the butter. Stack the bread and cut into cubes, 16 squares per slice.
2 In 2-quart bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, mace, salt, milk, rum and vanilla. Add bread cubes, mixing gently. Pour mixture into buttered 2 1/2-quart round Corning casserole* and let stand for 10 minutes or so while oven preheats to 350 degrees. If you're using the currants, take care to separate them so that the pudding won't have clumps of currants. Then pour the bread mixture into the casserole in three batches, sprinkling a third of the currants over each.
3 Bake at 350 degrees until puffed and golden and knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer dish to rack and cool about 20 minutes to serve warm with either ice cream or sauce. Or refrigerate for at least 3 hours to serve chilled with whipped cream. It's also delicious at room temperature.
Banana-Pecan Rum Sauce
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 medium bananas
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons rum
1/16 teaspoon salt
In small skillet, toast pecans; remove and set aside. Slice bananas into 1/4-inch rounds; set aside. Add butter to pan, and melt over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cook, whisking, for about a minute. Add rum, bananas, and salt; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Spoon over warm bread pudding.