This recipe comes from my maternal grandmother’s recipe folder, a wonderfully retro piece of design, circa late sixties, early seventies. Bread and butter pudding has, I know, gone from stodgy disparagement to fashionable rehabilitation and back to not-that-again clichédom, but I am not prepared to let any of that bother me.
This version uses brown bread rather than white, and between the buttery sandwiches is heaped chunky-hot ginger jam, sometimes sold as ginger marmalade, but most usually, if quaintly, as ginger conserve; on top is sprinkled Demerara sugar mixed with aromatically warm ground ginger, the spice of the old-fashioned English kitchen.
My grandmother, more austerely, used milk; I go for mostly cream: nothing creates so well that tender-bellied swell of softly set custard.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 3 tablespoons dark rum
- 10 slices brown bread
- approx. 10 tablespoons ginger conserve or marmalade
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2¼ cups heavy cream
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons Demerara or granulated brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Grease a pudding dish or shallow baking dish with a capacity of about 1½ quarts with some of the butter.
Put the raisins in a small bowl, pour the rum over and microwave them for 1 minute, then leave them to stand. This is a good way to soak them quickly but juicily.
Make sandwiches with the brown bread, butter and ginger jam (2 tablespoon-fuls in each sandwich); you should have some butter left over to smear on the top later. Now cut the sandwiches in half into triangles and arrange them evenly along the middle of the dish. I put one in the dish with the point of the sandwich upward then one with flat-side uppermost, then with point-side uppermost and so on, then squeeze a sandwich-triangle down each side—but you do as you please. Sprinkle over the raisins and unabsorbed rum that remains in the bowl.
Whisk the egg yolks and egg together with the sugar, and pour in the cream and milk. Pour this over the triangles of bread and leave them to soak up the liquid for about 10 minutes, by which time the pudding is ready to go into the oven. Smear the bread crusts that are poking out of the custard with the soft butter, mix the ground ginger and Demerara sugar together and sprinkle this mixture on your buttered crusts and then lightly over the rest of the pudding.
Sit the pudding dish on a baking sheet and put in the oven to cook for about 45 minutes or until the custard has set and puffed up slightly. Remove, let sit for 10 minutes—by which time the puffiness will have deflated somewhat—and spoon out into bowls, putting a pitcher of custard, should you so wish, on the table to be served alongside.