Making it Up As You Go

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lots of the things I cook are things my mum taught me. When I first had my own place, one of the best and most helpful things (and there were lots) that my mum did was to give me a folder of all the things she makes that I would be likely to want to cook as well (without her being there to advise, or her impossible number of cookbooks to refer to*).

Pictures: me (enjoying the novelty of the new camera!)

Over the years, though, there are some things that both of us cook that have ended up being, if not completely different things, at least quite distinct variations on a theme. A lot of this is because neither of us tends to be great recipe followers (except when baking, when inventiveness so frequently leads to stickiness and squashed things that we tend to stick to the rules. Bah!). Especially with recipes that have been cooked many, many times, the temptation to try something slightly different just because we can occasionally takes hold. This includes a recipe for one of my favourite salads**, which began as an idea from a magazine, and turned into something entirely different, but with only about two ingredients in common.

This means that if, when visiting, I volunteer to cook (the temptation of the enormous, well laid out and amply provisioned kitchen is large), my dad inevitably puts in a request for something I am convinced is utterly boring. This is done so that he gets the variety of “my version”. One of these is bread and butter pudding (mine is mostly different due to adding sugar and eggs with abandon). The last time I was there, the recipe evolved a bit more than planned.

After deciding there was to be a bread and butter pudding (something I’m always happy to eat when visiting, as it tends to get mystified looks when I eat it at home, and no volunteers to share it with me), there was the discovery that there wasn’t any white bread, or any raisin bread, in the house. Lacking the convenience of a 7-11 underneath the house (how do people manage without a shop within a five minute return trip?), and having anticipated pudding for a chunk of the afternoon, defeat was not an acceptable option. Consideration fell to a large bag of hot cross buns...

This was the result of the unplanned hot-cross-and-butter pudding. I think I would make it again (it’s definitely something different to do once you get sick of hot cross buns, which, given they appear earlier each year, grows ever more likely, improbable as it sounds), although the consensus was that it was too rich to eat as much of in one sitting as the normal recipe.

This was how they were made:
Four hot cross buns
Butter (preferable) or equivalent spread of your choice
Sultanas (yes, extra ones)
One large egg
3 dsp caster sugar
2 dsp custard powder
500 ml milk
1 dsp caster sugar
1 tsp custard powder
200 ml milk
Demerara and soft brown sugar, to taste

Quantities are very much an approximation and down to personal preference.

Slice each bun into three and spread with butter. In individual bowls (high-sided noodle bowls work well – individual serving dishes mean people can have theirs as squishy or crunchy as they like), layer sultanas and bun.

Combined egg, sugar, custard powder and milk. Pour over the buns (varying the amount per bowl according to the preferences of the eaters) and set aside while finishing cooking whatever is preceding the puddings (if anything), or around 20-30 minutes. This allows time for the bread (or bun, as the case may be) to absorb the mixture. Making them in a hurry is never as tasty.

After resting for 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Just before you’re ready to cook the puddings, Combine the remaining caster sugar, custard powder and milk and pour into the bowls (so there is some liquid which hasn’t been absorbed by the buns, making the puddings moist. Or squishy, if you’re my dad).

Sprinkle liberally with sugar – mostly Demerara, with a scattering of soft brown.

Before baking

Bake for around 20-30 minutes (it varies a bit depending on amount of liquid and your squishiness preference), or until the tops of the puddings are crunchy and golden.

Serves three gannets, or several ordinary people. Yum.

I think it would also be good with panettone. And marmalade. But next on my list might be a nutella version...

* Although, in a few short years, I appear to be amassing quite the collection. Most of which get used, rather than just admired hungrily...
** It involves cheese. To have a favourite salad without having turned into something insufferably scary requires at a minimum that cheese be involved. Most things do...

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