Photos by Alex Harris
If you ask most British people what their favourite comforting dessert is, chances are bread and butter pudding will come very near to the top of the list. Originally developed as a way of using up bread that was past its best by spreading it with butter and soaking it in a custard of milk and eggs, this homely pudding has been elevated to gourmet status over the years with the addition of new flavours and ingredients.
In her book, Nigella Bites, Nigella Lawson shares her Grandmother’s Ginger Jam Bread and Butter Pudding. Made with brown bread, this wonderful twist on the traditional was definitely ahead of its time. When I first made it years ago I followed Nigella’s Grandmother’s recipe exactly and the results were delicious, but you know me, I can’t leave a recipe alone. Over the years, I’ve tinkered and played with it, and although I haven’t veered too far from the original I have made a few changes.
As much as I like the flavour and nutrition of brown bread, I prefer to use a lighter loaf for this recipe. Here in England we have a bread called Best of Both, which is half white flour and half brown flour, and it works very well. I’ve stuck to the ginger jam or preserves, which is what gives this recipe its unique personality, but I have moved away from the rum in the original recipe to Amaretto and more recently Cointreau or Grand Mariner as I prefer the flavour. I also add orange rind to give a nice citrus hit to the recipe. The fact remains that without Nigella and her Grandmother, it would never have occurred to me to do any of this as I’m not really a bread and butter pudding fan. Or at least I wasn’t until I tasted this recipe!
Ginger Jam Bread and Butter Pudding
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites
⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
1 cup sultanas or juicy raisins
¼ cup Amaretto, Cointreau or Grand Mariner
10 slices of bread, preferably from a loaf that contains both white and brown flour
10 generous tablespoons of ginger jam or preserves
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups double (heavy) cream
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk (preferably full fat)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground if possible)
grated rind of one orange
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 350ºF or 180ºC. Grease a large deep rectangular casserole with butter.
Put the sultanas or raisins in a bowl and pour the liqueur over top. Microwave for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and set aside to stand.
Spread each slice of bread with some butter and jam, and make sandwiches with them. (Make sure you have some butter left over.) Cut the sandwiches into triangles and arrange them in the casserole. As Nigella suggests, I like to alternate point side up, and then flat side up down the centre of the casserole, and then squeeze the remaining sandwiches in along the sides. Sprinkle the sultanas or raisins over the top, along with an unabsorbed liqueur. Push the sultanas gently down into the bread a bit if you can.
Whisk the egg yolks, egg and sugar together. Add the cream and milk and whisk a bit more. . Finally whisk in the ginger, nutmeg and grated orange rind. Pour this mixture over the jam sandwiches in the casserole. Set aside for about ten minutes or up to an hour. Smear the remaining butter over top of any crusts that are sticking up out of the custard in the casserole. Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar and bake for about 45 minutes until the custard has set.
Allow to sit for about ten minutes before serving. I’m perfectly happy to eat this voluptuous pudding unadorned, but you can also serve it with a bit more custard or some cream if you like.