Two comfort food favorites, cinnamon toast and vanilla custard, join forces in this adaptation of a toast and marmalade pudding of unknown provenance, included in Lillian Langseth-Christensen’s “Mystic Seaport Cookbook.” To create a silky custard, which sets this apart from any bread pudding I’ve ever tasted, I use the method suggested by Shuna Lydon in her FOOD52 video on how to make custards. Lydon insists – with good reason – that to make the best custard, you must combine the eggs with hot (but not scalding) milk, and then refrigerate the mixture until it is very cold. You can easily put this together if you prepare the toast in the baking dish the night before, chilling the custard separately. While the oven is heating in the morning, peel and slice the pears over the cinnamon toast pieces, pour the custard over everything, sprinkle on a bit more cinnamon sugar, and it’s ready to go in the oven. You can also use apples instead of pears in this if you like. Enjoy!! ;o) —AntoniaJames
4 – 5 slices of sandwich bread (See note below, please.)
2 -3 tablespoons of butter, plus more for the baking dish
Mix 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, the white sugar and the spices in a small bowl. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the sugar and spices, to sprinkle on the pudding before baking.
Toast the bread and butter it generously. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar on the slices of buttered toast.
Whisk together the eggs and 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Heat the half and half, milk and cream until very hot (so hot that it hurts to put your finger in it, says Shuna Lydon), but not scalding. Dribble a bit of the hot milk and cream into the eggs and sugar, whisking vigorously. Continue to add more of the milk and cream, whisking all the while, until you’ve added about half of it. Then, add the rest, and the vanilla, and whisk a few more times.
Allow to cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold (at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight).
When ready to cook the pudding, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put a roasting pan -- one large enough comfortably to hold the baking dish -- in the top third of the oven; fill it about an inch deep with boiling water.
While the oven is warming, peel, core and slice the pears directly onto the pieces of cinnamon toast in the baking dish. Take the custard from the refrigerator and give it a good stir. Then pour it over the pears and toast.
Place the baking dish in the water in the roasting pan. Add more hot water if necessary to bring the level up to about ¾ of the contents of the baking dish.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.
N.B. Whether you use four or five (or even six) slices of bread depends on the size of the loaf. You want enough bread to make two good layers of toast pieces. If you lay two slices into your baking dish and there’s a fair bit of room left, make one or two more slices, as needed. Remember though that you want to leave a bit of room between all the small pieces, once cut, for the custard.
When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)