The Magic of Bread Pudding
One of my favorite cookbooks is A Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook, by Patricia Telesco, originally published in 1994 and currently in its sixth printing and also available on Kindle. I bought it brand-new when it first came out when I was living in Cleveland Heights, Ohio at a wonderful bookstore called “Gifts of Athena” – I think it’s still there, on Lee Road. Fabulous store – if you are ever in the Cleveland area, check it out.
There’s three parts to the cookbook. The first part talks of the magic of the pantry and the basic kitchen witchery. The second part has all the recipes – from simple salads to more esoteric edibles like “Marigold and Dandelion Eggs” from Medieval France and “Love Potion #9”! Part Three has tables and appendices – and quite honestly, this cookbook is worth having on your shelf simply for this section! Any kitchen witch worth her salt needs to know the correspondences between the goddesses (and gods, I suppose) she honors and the foods they like. Telesco’s cookbook is a cornucopedia of such knowledge.
In the first section of the book, she writes about bread. In a passage titled “Kitchen Lore”, she reviews various folklores concerning the kitchen such as the not letting the hearth fire die out, bringing a gift when you are invited to someone’s hearth, not buying a new broom in May and other traditions. About bread, she writes, “Bread, as one of the traditional staples of the world, should never be wasted. To do so tosses away your luck and prosperity with the garbage. Give your leftovers to the birds or make breadcrumbs.” (22)
I was raised never to waste any food at all, let alone bread. But “bread”, given its association with money – remember the hippie term in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s – has a deeper connotation. I am literally unable to throw away bread. I really do believe that if I toss away bread, my bank account will dwindle away to nothingness. So yes – I do make bread crumbs from them. Often, I’ll make croutons. But one of my favorite things to make with old bread is Bread Pudding.
Bread Pudding is really quite easy.
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
½ loaf of old bread – I usually use Italian or French bread – cut into cubes
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 4-to-6 cup baking dish & fill it with the cubed bread. (Mix in raisins or cranberries, if you are using them).
In a heavy saucepan, heat the milk until small bubbles form at the edge of the pan, stirring constantly.
Add the sugar and stir well. Remove from heat. In another bowl, beat the eggs well and add the vanilla. Add a small amount of the milk mixture to the eggs and mix. Repeat this several times (this is called “tempering the eggs”).
When you have added about two full tablespoons of the milk mixture to the egg mixture and mixed it well, add the egg mixture back into the milk mixture and stir well. Add whatever seasoning you may want – I like cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of cloves. Some people add bourbon or rum! Whatever you like! Pour over the bread cubes and push the bread cubes down into the custard mixture.
When all the bread cubes are immersed, put the pan into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown.
I serve it with maple syrup and whipped cream. Yummy !!
So if you have never read A Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook by Patricia Telesco, I highly recommend it. And save all your bread and try making Magical Bread Pudding – it’s good at any time of the day!
Happy New Year!