Saturday, 31 October 2009

Platinum (or just as valuable) Pumpkin Bread Pudding

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The 2 most important ingredients in any pumpkin dessert.

Since it's Fall, and all, I've really been craving super Autumnal treats. So when I saw this recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding over at Smitten Kitchen, I jumped for joy. And it's supposed to be easy, too! What more could a girl ask, especially when she's having her first dinner party in her new flat in mere days?

Well, I'll tell you one thing: a girl could ask for a little more forethought. Of course, in my conniption of excitement over the purported ease and deliciousness of said dessert, I forgot how hard it can be to find pumpkin in England.

For some unknown reason, pumpkin isn't a common ingredient over here. Or, it is, but it's either fresh (at fancy restaurant) or part of a pre-made pastry a la Starbucks. As for canned pumpkin puree, the kind we Americans use boatloads of at Thanksgiving, one might just as easily search out a signed copy of The White Album. Ok, maybe that was dramatic. Make that Paul McCartney's latest CD.

Anyhoo, the bottom line is that the boyfriend and I went shopping for our dinner party today, and we got everything we needed for our pasta bake, salad, and pumpkin bread pudding, save for one item. Yes. The pumpkin. After searching and asking at three separate grocery stores in our area (one of which might actually have been the 8th circle of hell), I was quickly becoming distraught. But my boyfriend managed to keep my hopes up, and I got straight on the computer when we got home and googled "canned pumpkin london."

E voila! Whole Foods, which has so magnanimously followed me across the pond, sells canned pumpkin! We hopped on a bus to Camden and busted into the tiniest Whole Foods I've ever seen, people on a mission. And of course we couldn't find it.

But, luckily, we chanced upon some wonderfully helpful British customer service (all to often, this is a contradiction of terms, although things are improving slowly), and they were able to lead us to the small cans of pumpkin puree, tucked into a dark corner of a low shelf. Hurrah! Oh, and when the cashier asked what I was going to make with it and I told her, everyone around me started salivating and one woman said "I'm going to need an invitation to that party." So it was a very good experience in the end.

And it was easy to put together! So easy, in fact, that I forgot to take pictures until the very end, when the yummy-looking concoction was sitting in my new silicone cake pan:
It smelled good already, but it wasn't until 25 minutes later, when I pulled it out of the oven, that I realized we might have a new favorite on our hands:
I took a tentative bite of the steaming goodness, and once he saw my face my boyfriend just had to follow suit. And once the pudding cooled a bit, he followed suit some more, in a big way:
All too soon we were spoiling our dinner!
And then it was all gone within minutes. I'd definitely call this a success.

So, test-run done, half-portion devoured, and full-recipe repeat planned for tomorrow's dinner! Then maybe I'll bake some oatmeal cookies (I made chocolate chip last week; post to come). I think I could get used to this new delicious lifestyle...

The recipe, borrowed word for word from Smitten Kitchen:
1 1/2 cups whole milk (Or 1 cup heavy cream plus 1/2 cup whole milk)
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted* (can skip this step if using the second set of instructions)
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Gourmet’s Instructions: Whisk together pumpkin, cream, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, spices and bourbon, if using, in a bowl.
Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.
Alternate, Come On, Be Lazy With Me, instructions: While preheating oven to 350°F with rack in middle, melt butter in bottom of a 8-inch square baking dish. Once it is melted, take it out of the oven and toss bread cubes with butter, coating thoroughly. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients. Pour them over buttered bread cubes in baking dish, stirring to make sure all pieces are evenly coated. Bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.

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