Of all the things I had anticipated about being a new mama — the sleep deprivation, the fact that sometimes babies cry for no reason, whatsoever, that they look ridiculously cute things that are too big on them — at least one of the things that I hadn’t considered was, well, the Itch. The one you get at the end of your nose nearly the second after you start feeding the baby and have not a finger free to scratch it.
It’s not always an itch, though. Sometimes it’s a just a bit of water that you need — just a sip! from that glass just two feet in front of you! Oh, how you would do anything for that sip of water! But a lot of times these days, it’s a recipe. I can’t help it. I have so little time to cook and yet these recipe ideas are getting louder and louder in my head… winter salads and tangy pies and buttery leeks and funky salsas and I have more dishes than I could cook in two hundred nap times, it seems, nonetheless in the 15 minutes of a single one that is left after I have both scratched my nose and taken that sweet, sweet sip of water.
So, I keep a list. I jot all of these ideas down and I arrange them according to urgency and to keep myself sane, I only look at the top item at any one time and try to plot my course accordingly. A couple weeks ago, it was a faintly gingerbread-spiced bread pudding with chunks of apples, studded with plumped raisins and on our next trip to the market, I bought some apples and on another trip, Alex bought some raisins and we hit up one of those Ukrainian restaurants in our neighborhood for some of their homemade challah and on another run I remembered to buy some milk and eggs and finally, 9 days and 14 hours and 26 minutes (or so) after I had started dreaming of a fall bread pudding that could be dessert or decadent breakfast or just something to make our apartment smell so ungodly awesome, it even mesmerizes its tiniest inhabitant, I had this one in front of me.
And — thank god — it was totally worth the wait.
One year ago: Cauliflower Salad with Green Olives and Capers, Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel and Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie
Two years ago: Simplest Apple Tart and Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
Three years ago: Shrimp Cocktail, Artichoke Potato Gratin, Chocolate Stout Cake and Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers
Raisin-Studded Apple Bread Pudding
Adapted from Melissa Murphy and David Page via Food & Wine
Ironically, the part of this recipe — after the flavor profile, of course — that I was the most curious and excited about was the one that ended up being a flub. The original recipe called for separating eggs, whipping the whites separately and folding them into the custard batter. Alas, the custard batter was far too wet and thin to do anything but allow chunks of white to float to the top, like foam, leaving a sticky and distinctly not meringue-like layer on top of my pudding. My synopsis? Pass on splitting eggs.
Finally, as far as bread puddings go, this is not one that is overly eggy or custardy. For some, this is a plus. But if you like your bread puddings truly submerged and then suspended in their custard, rather than just lightly soaked in it, increase the eggs to 4 and the milk to 4 cups. The spices and sugar can remain the same.
1 pound bakery white or challah bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup (6 ounces) golden raisins, plumped in hot water for 15 minutes
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6 minutes, until crisp. Transfer to a bowl and add the apple and raisins.
Generously butter either a 9×13-inch deep baking dish or six 8-ounce ramekins. If using ramekins, set them on the baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, using a handheld electric mixer or whisk, beat the eggs with the sugar. Beat in the ground spices, vanilla and salt.
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk with the molasses until just warm to the touch. Gradually beat the warm milk into the egg mixture, scraping the bottom and side of the bowl.
Spread bread mixture out in your large baking dish, or distribute it among ramekins. Pour the custard over the bread mixture, nudging the bread around a bit to make sure it soaks all of the pieces. Let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake in the center of the oven for about 40 minutes, until puffed and set, with the tops lightly browned. Let the bread pudding(s) rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.