Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Brioche Pudding

When I was going to UBC I got a gig working at La Baguette & L'Eschalote on Granville Island. It was hellish work but the pay was good, the hours flexible and I learned a lot about food. I would do anything to avoid having to serve customers which meant I ended up spending hours in the kitchen doing prep work which was way more appealing to me than dealing with the tourist ooh and ahh over the pastry case.

I had previously worked in kitchens before at Boston Pizza when I was a teen as the salad prep girl and then as a short order cook at the Spanish Banks concession stand but working at the bakery took my food skills up a notch. The best part was working with Mr Dung who was the head pastry chef, he was old enough to likely be my grandfather but he worked harder than anyone there. He was trained in Vietnam and his English was terrible but somehow we got each other and through lots of nodding and pointing he taught me many things.

One of the best things he taught me was to appreciate Brioche Pudding, until then I thought bread pudding was disgusting and I couldn't fathom why anyone would eat it. I used to have to make the custard, chop up the day old brioche, danishes & croissants, butter & sugar the pans, then soak the bread for a least an hour then bake off pan after pan of of the stuff. I did all of this under Mr Dung's watchful eye and he would smile approval when I got it right. Some days I burnt them, some days I under baked them and ended up with mush which had to be thrown out which I tried to do sneakily out the back door and if Mario the owner asked why there was no brioche pudding today I would lie and tell him we did have enough day olds. I don't miss that job since it was hot grueling work but I do miss learning things from Mr Dung.

Anyway this recipe isn't the exact recipe I used at La Baguette because the quantities I used there were huge but this is a pretty tasty Brioche Pudding.

1/2 pound day old brioche, danishes or croissants cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 to 6 pieces)
4 large eggs
1 cups whipping cream
1 cups milk (whole is best but 2% works, don't use skim)
3/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp Grand Marnier, Frangelico or Amaretto
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins or fresh blueberries

Cube up the brioche and set aside. Butter & sugar 1 loaf pan, Pyrex works best. Loosely press brioche into pan, the trick is to get it packed just right, not too firm, not too loose so you get the right ratio of bread to custard. Beat the eggs with the sugar, then add remaining liquids and beat until smooth.

Pour custard into the pan and soak the brioche, get a spoon and press the bread into the liquid. Don't over fill the pan as you don't want it to spill over, just fill until the top layer of bread is submersed. Let the brioche soak in the custard for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours in the fridge. Take the pan out and let it get up to room temperature, preheat oven to 350.

Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, it all depends on how wet the brioche is, sometimes it takes longer. Its done when the edges are slightly golden and you can insert a knife in the centre and it pulls out dry, if there's custard clinging to the knife its not done. Watch it thought at it can over cook quickly and dry out at the end. Remove from the oven and take a knife around the edge when it's still warm to loosen the sides. I recommend chilling the brioche over night before you try to release it from the pan, it will set up better and not loose any moisture.

Serve in 3/4 slices chilled, really good on it's own, better with blueberries & cream or even English custard.

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