|Bread pudding served with grilled green beans for a light vegetarian meal|
|Open crumb and crackly crust sourdough|
Transforming a humble dish, like a bread pudding, into something special and successful takes a skilled hand. I’ve found it in Ottolenghi and his team, again, in Plenty More. With ingenuity and persistence, they have developed this remarkable vegetarian recipe using a short list of everyday ingredients.
Ricotta and rosemary bread pudding appeals to me at so many levels. I make breads regularly, mostly levain breads and a lot of sourdough. But I have never made bread pudding before. It did not occur to me, for one reason or another, that with bread puddings, plain breads can be transformed into a main course to be served for lunch or a laid-back dinner. The economics of this dish is also compelling. Less than one pound of sourdough bread is all that’s needed to make the pudding. The resulting dish, baked in a good-size rectangular baking pan, can easily feed four to six. I was impressed with how well it all came together in a coherent dish even before taking a bite in the pudding. One more bonus: Bread, Parmesan and rosemary, three major ingredients fulfil this week’s mystery box madness challenge at IHCC. Everything is falling in place.
I did not make all-white sourdough bread called for in this recipe and I won’t. I followed Chad Robertson’s Tartine basic country bread formula except for using 20% whole-wheat flour instead of 10%. In my calculation, there’s enough all-purpose flour to make the bread a blank canvas ready to take on other ingredients. Natural levain (not commercial yeast) is 20% of the final dough. Hydration level is about 78%. After four hours of bulk fermentation, I shaped the dough into two big boules. Put them in the refrigerator overnight for the final rise. The loaves were transferred into a Dutch oven and baked in a 475°F oven. This is my good-old standby bread recipe that makes open crumb and shiny crust country bread, consistently. I can’t be more enthusiastic about making these country loaves that epitomize the versatility and simplicity of four basic ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt. Of course, you can always get store-bought sourdough bread to make the pudding. To me, it’s the journey, not so much the finished bread!
The next step is to prepare a milk mixture consisted of: whole milk, heavy cream, onion, rosemary and nutmeg. Bring the milk mixture to a boil. Discard onion and rosemary after the mixture cools. Add eggs to thicken the milk mixture to the consistency of custard. The fun part is to layer the rest of the ingredients in a baking pan. Parboiled turnips go to the bottom of the pan. Each bread slice is topped with a cheese spread made with parmesan, ricotta, rosemary and chives. Then the bread pieces are placed above the turnips. The custard is spooned on top of the bread slices until all slices are immersed and soaked up the creamy and cheesy goodness. After an hour and a half, the pudding is ready for the oven. Nothing more complicated than mixing and assembling. This is a very straightforward recipe. Nothing could easily go wrong.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. You take one bite: it’s sourdough bread transformed into a smooth pillowy pudding, like a souffle, enlivened with herbs and cheeses. The turnips that lined the bottom of the pan add a peppery touch. Turnips are optional, according to Ottolenghi, but they make the pudding extra special. And I love biting into the hidden turnip.
|Everything I know about breadmaking in one recipe|