I came across this recipe for bread pudding from 1815 and since I love bread pudding I decided to make it. Image of the recipe below. When I was in the kitchen about to make it I took a screen shot of my website blog post about finding the recipe because that was faster for reference.
The recipe text is included for people who don’t see the image or who are using a screen reader.
I did a post over at my blog where I posted the recipe.
Take the crumb of a penny loaf, and pour on it a pint of good milk boiling hot, when it is cold, beat it very fine, with two ounces of butter and sugar to your palate, grate half a nutmeg in it, beat it up with four eggs, and put them in and beat altogether near half an hour, tie it in a cloth and boil it an hour, you may put in half a pound of currants for change, and pour over it white wine sauce.
To make a boiled bread pudding a second way.
Take the inside of a penny loaf, grate it fine, add it to two ounces of butter, take a pint and a half of milk, with a stick of cinnamon; boil it and pour it over the bread, and cover it close until it is cold, then take six eggs beat up very well with rose water, mix them all well together, sweet to your taste, and boil it one hour.
I figured it would be interesting to attempt this. I decided on the first way, no currants added.
My first hurdle was figuring out the size of a penny loaf. It turns out the size/weight of a penny loaf was dependent on the cost of wheat. I read a bunch and saw all the formulas and as near as I can tell a penny loaf had to weigh anywhere from 11 to 16 troy ounces. A troy ounce is 31.1034768 g (1.097142857143 ounces.) Some more googleing . . . .
Because I am awesome at math, I’ll just do some calculations and . . . 16 troy ounces is 17.554285714288 regular ounces. Ta Da!!!
I decided 16 ounces of bread was close enough. I bought a 16 oz baguette at the store.
The steps with lots of pictures:
I tore up the baguette into chunks then used a food processor to reduce to crumbs. I didn’t have time to wait for them to get stale enough so I dried out the crumbs in a 500 F oven until most of the moisture was gone. Not toasted though!
Above is the mixing bowl of crumbs, awaiting a transformation to something delicious.
At the store, I bought full fat milk (in a bottle!!!) not homogenized, that still had cream in it from one of the local amazing dairies. That would be more like what would have been on hand in the Regency.
I boiled the milk as directed. . . and mixed it into the bread crumbs. It was really dry. My doubts about this began in earnest. It wasn’t the texture I was expecting at all.
But OK! I put the milk and bread crumbs mixture in the freezer so it would come to room temperature quickly.
After that, I had my butter (unsalted) my nutmeg, sugar, and eggs ready to add.
Since it said Sugar To Taste, I’ll just say I added about 1 1/3 cups of sugar. If I were to make it again, I might reduce the sugar slightly.
I was worried about the amount of nutmeg as half a nutmeg grated was easily a tablespoon or more and that’s an aggressive amount of nutmeg.
Once I had the sugar and nutmeg added, I elected to add about a teaspoon of Fleur du Sel (fancy French salt) and about a teaspoon of cinnamon because I thought it seemed a little bland.
The recipe calls for a lot of mixing time, up to 30 minutes after the all the ingredients are added. I mixed it on higher speeds for a long time. With a Kitchen-aid because this isn’t about my upper arm strength.
As I was adding ingredients my doubts increased. It was an unattractive color, it was dense and sticky, and I was having regrets about the whole idea. Maybe my bread crumbs weren’t fine enough. Maybe I should have used a different bread. I don’t know.
I poured and scraped the mixture onto the cloth, and it was like that blanc mange from Monty Python running around eating everything. I was sure it would rise up and attempt to eat innocent people.
I wrapped it up and used a lot of string to to tie it up. My nightmare was that the whole thing would come apart in the water. I feel I used an appropriate amount of string. I would NOT use less.
Right. Boiling. In the water. For an hour, it said.
But after an hour it wasn’t appreciably cooked at all. So I trussed it up again and boiled it some more. And then I had an engagement so I put the water on simmer and left it for 3 hours. Maybe a deeper pot and more water, aggressively boiling? I don’t know. It just looked . . . so sad.
Here is it boiled and boiled and boiled … But notice that my string work was excellent.
I untrussed it and it was . . . omg. It kind of fell apart because I wasn’t expecting this…blob. And it was sticking to the cloth, too.
Ugly just isn’t the right word, but it will work. Plus it didn’t look much different than when it went in. I figured the whole thing was a complete loss.
And then I tasted it. Just in case. And it was actually really good. My son tried it and said. “I’d call that a win.” It was all gone the next morning, by the way.
It wasn’t hard to make. It probably does need a sauce to hide how unappealing it looks.
An acquaintance told me later she makes hers in a mold and I can totally see doing that because then it’s a pretty shape.
There you have it. Bread pudding Regency style. It was delicious. But not more delicious as bread pudding baked in an oven. But still delicious. And all that nutmet? Absolutely the correct amount.
It probably should say to boil in a greased cloth. That helps with the sticking.
Should I need to truss someone up and kidnap them I am dragging you along to tie them up! Excellent trussing! More often than not when it comes to baked goods the ones that look the worst, taste the best.
My Mom learned to make bread pudding when we lived in England. When my father was alive she made it all the time as it was his favorite. Then again, he grew up in Pennsylvania hearing Welsh spoken in his home and his Welsh grandmother, Elvira Hughes, made boiled bread pudding all the time.
Mom only makes it occasionally now, usually when baby brother #2 begs her to do so. He was only 3 when we moved to England and almost 7 when we left and he still favors British food over anything else.
When she does make it I know it takes all day and quite a bit of work. It usually doesn’t look like much of anything, but she covers it with some sort of sauce and it tastes heavenly.
We have better luck getting her to make Yorkshire pudding and Bisto gravy or these little tea cakes called maids of honor.
My grandmother, more that sixty years ago, used to make bread pudding that ended up like solid, greyish jelly. Looked weird, but tasted wonderful! By the way, much so-called bread pudding sold commercially today is really bread-and-butter pudding, which is an animal of a totally different kind, baked and not boiled.
I’d say you got it just about right, but maybe not solid and heavy enough.
Oh, Carolyn, what an adventure!! I admire your ambition and spirit of discovery. I’m not much of a cook to start with, and would never have attempted this –way too much work. LOL. Which is the reason, of course, that I appreciate the chance to read about someone else’s first-hand experience with it! Thanks so much for sharing this.
Butter the cloth. Also, if you don’t truss it quite so magnificently and merely made a bag out of the cloth and tie it at the top, then tie that to a spoon handle across the pot, you’ll get a more attractive shape for your pudding (think round Christmas Pudding).
I need to try this sometime, though maybe in a mold. Thanks for sharing!
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