Musical pairing – So Good by Brian Culbertson
So there I was last week sitting in a light-filled room listening to Pam Anderson of Three Many Cooks talk about recipe development; the one day workshop had just started and I had moved from my chair to stand at the back of the room so that I might take better photos. After several minutes, I quietly tapped a woman dressed in pretty pink on the shoulder and whispered if it would be OK for me to sit down by her on the couch; she nodded and made room for me. Pam was giving tips on how to approach each recipe – whether it’s working with ingredients or a particular method. I’m listening but also flipping through the beautiful program that has been prepared for the day; there are bios on each of the presenters including thumbnail pictures: Pam, Abby Dodge, Alice Currah . . . heart stop . . . quick side glance . . . OH. MY. GODDIE. I froze. Because in that moment I realize I’m sitting next to Alice . . . THE Alice of Savory Sweet Life and Everyday Alice . . . and that I had tapped her on the shoulder . . . OH. MY. GODDIE. ‘Please, oh please, oh please don’t let me be an idiot and say something really dorky!’ my head screams. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about as Alice is down to earth and as sweet as they come – a real peach . . .
And so is this recipe for Breakfast Bread Pudding with Peaches & Vanilla-Buttermilk Syrup (how’s that for a segue?)!
When my eyes first landed on this recipe in the August issue of ‘O Magazine’, I knew I’d make it and I knew I’d love it; for one thing, the recipe is made in a deep dish pie plate so it looks like pie but secondly, I wanted a spectacular recipe to use peaches from my very own tree – peaches that yield sweet nectar, nectar that quickly drips down your chin so that you either stand over a sink while eating or you make sure to have plenty of napkins for wiping away the evidence. Fruit so perfectly soft and tender that it cannot be tucked into lunchboxes; fruit that cannot be eaten gracefully on a first date, fruit that should be eaten picked fresh off the tree rather than picked up at the grocery store. Peaches. One of life’s utmost simple and seductive pleasures. Yes, I used the word ‘seductive’ on a food blog.
Now I’m going to admit straight up that this recipe will take a bit of work – but completely, completely worth it so don’t be daunted by the ingredient list or the steps involved – the rewards are exponential. And make the recipe on the weekend – assemble the night before, let it hang out in the refrigerator; the next morning, as you preheat your oven, put on some nice jazz music, pour yourself a cup of coffee or bubbly, grab the paper, start the crossword and bake the pudding. Make the syrup while the pudding is resting. Serve and savor every. single. bite.
The Professor and I had difficulty trying to come up with a proper name for it using the current street lingo – Is it ‘the bomb?’ or ‘off the hook’? or ‘it rocks’? or ‘sick’? Sigh . . . I haven’t a clue and I’m not even going to try – just make it and if you have any lingo suggestions, please let me know – I need all the help I can get.
BREAKFAST BREAD PUDDING W/PEACHES & VANILLA-BUTTERMILK SYRUP
O Magazine, August 2010, pg 210
FOR THE PEACH SAUCE:
¾ Cup Sugar
½ Vanilla Bean, split & scraped
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about ½ lemon)
6 Large, ripe yellow peaches, halved, pitted and coarsely chopped into ½-inch pieces
1-pound loaf Challah or Brioche, sliced ¾-inch thick
2 Tablespoons Sugar
FOR THE CUSTARD:
1-1/4 Cups Milk
1-1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
½ Cup Sugar
½ Vanilla Bean, split and scraped
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 Large Eggs
6 Large Egg Yolks
FOR THE VANILLA-BUTTERMILK SYRUP:
½ Cup Heavy Cream
¾ Cup Buttermilk
½ Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
½ teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Whole Vanilla Bean, split and scraped
½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
1. Make peach sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring sugar and ½ Cup water to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in vanilla bean (and scrapings from half bean) and lemon juice. Add peaches and simmer gently until softened, 10-12 minutes. Let cool slightly, remove vanilla bean, then using slotted spoon, transfer half of the peach mixture to bowl of a food processor. Pulse 4 to 5 times until mixture is a chunky sauce; set aside for assembly. Reserve the rest of peaches and their juices in a dish and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; toast bread slices in a single layer on a rimmed sheet tray until just golden and dried out, 8-10 minutes. Flip slices and toast 5-7 minutes more.
3. Make Custard: Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, sugar, vanilla bean (and half scrapings from half bean), nutmeg and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover and let steep 20 minutes. Remove vanilla bean. Cool.
4. Whisk eggs and yolks in a medium bowl, then temper a bit of milk-cream mixture into the eggs, then whisk eggs back into steeped milk-cream mixture.
5. To Assemble: Grease a deep pie dish. Arrange pieces of bread on bottom to cover, spread ½ cup peach sauce on bread and repeat with remaining bread slices and peach sauce, ending with bread slices.
6. Slowly pour custard into dish, gently pressing down on bread as needed so it absorbs custard (pudding may need to sit a few minutes before adding more custard). Cover and let sit at least 40 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.
7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle top of pudding with 2 Tablespoons sugar and garnish with a few gratings of nutmeg. Bake until golden, puffed and set – about 45-50 minutes. Transfer to rack and let sit 20 minutes.
8. Vanilla-Buttermilk Syrup: In a medium saucepan, cook cream, buttermilk, sugar and cornstarch over medium heat, stirring until sugar melts. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and whisk in baking soda, vanilla bean and salt; mixture will foam and froth. Let sit 2 minutes.
9. Serve pudding immediately with reserved peaches and vanilla-buttermilk syrup.
10. Life will never be the same.
SMITH BITES NOTES: When I make this recipe again, I’ll use a deep dish casserole or 9×13 pan instead of the pie plate as it’s difficult to layer all the components and add custard without overflowing. Also, make sure you add the scrapings of the vanilla bean to whatever component you’re working on – the instructions weren’t clear but I assumed I wouldn’t scrape that precious vanilla gold and toss it; also once you’ve removed the bean, rinse, dry and then tuck the bean into some granulated sugar – in a month or so, you’ll have some lovely perfumed vanilla sugar to use in recipes or add to coffee. I recommend doing steps 1-6 and refrigerate overnight; bake the next morning and while doing so, put together the syrup, then serve – eat as much as your tummy will hold, rest and repeat.