Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kate's Key Lime & Blueberry Bread Pudding

When Siobhan was in 5th grade, I had the opportunity to accompany her class on an outing to Plimoth Plantation. I had never been, although I had heard many positives about the place. – The staff not only dressed in authentic colonial garb, but spent months learning the dialect of the early settlers before they began their assignments in the village. Their approach to history education fully embraced and embodied the lives of the pilgrims, as well as the local Wampanoags. Each day when they came to work, they “became” one of those early inhabitants of the Plimoth settlement.

During our tour, we walked the dirt roads of their little enclave on the coast of Massachusetts. We knocked on doors and visited many of the colonists. They were a hardy people; survivors of a perilous trans-Atlantic voyage that took the lives of many of their friends. But they were a generous and thankful people, too, and we were warmly welcomed into several homes. At one such stop, we were invited to help Goody Cabot make a bread pudding for the night’s supper. We broke chunks of course brown bread and soaked it in fresh goat milk, adding precious maple syrup and a little bit of cinnamon, brought from England several years prior. Dried plums were cut and added, too, and then the mixture was transferred to a big, black cook-pot, and set to simmer over a low-burning wood fire. Later in the day, after we had finished the rounds of the village and had visited the camp of the neighboring Wampanoag, we were treated to a sampling of our earlier chore. Simple – and delicious!

Life here in Massachusetts is, thankfully, much easier today. And the bread puddings and custards that come from my kitchen may be significantly different. But the goal is the same – use what is on hand (well mostly) to create a simple, body and soul-nourishing dish that will comfort on a cold winter night in New England.

Kate’s Key Lime & Blueberry Bread Pudding

You will need:

• Stale bread

• Whole milk or half-and-half

• Eggs

• Sugar (I like organic raw or turbinado)

• Fresh berries (or dried cranberries, cherries, raisins, etc.)

• Lemon or lime curd (You can make this yourself. P 737 “Orange or Lemon Sponge Custard”, in my version of Joy of Cooking) OR you can used the pre-made kind. I really like Stonewall Kitchen’s Key Lime or Lemon Curd

• Pure vanilla

• Ground nutmeg or cinnamon

1. Start with about a half loaf of stale bread. It can be white, whole wheat, oatmeal, sourdough. I’m not sure about rye, but if you try it, please let me know.

2. Break into generous chunks, about 1”x1”, and put into a deep baking dish.

3. Add 3 to 4 cups of whole milk or half-and-half, enough to cover the bread and leave about 1” of liquid on top. The bread will expand as it soaks up the milk.

4. Depending on how stale your bread is, cover and put into your refrigerator for 2+ hours – or overnight. You want to make sure that all of those crusts have had ample time to absorb the milk and “tenderize”.

5. When you are ready to assemble, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

6. Use 1 egg for each cup of milk that you added to the bread. Beat well and add ¾ to 1 cup of sugar, depending on how sweet your sweet tooth is. Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon – or both. Your choice.

7. Fold into the bread mixture until well blended.

8. Add about a pint of fresh berries, and again, fold into the mixture being careful not to “mush” the bread or crush the berries.

9. You can actually stop here (well, you have to bake it!) and have a delicious dessert, served with a dollop of whipped cream. BUT, for a special occasion …

10. Add about ½ to ¾ of a jar of lemon or lime curd. Drop by the teaspoon onto the top of your pudding . Then, take a knife and gently swirl through the mixture.

11. Put your baking dish in a “water bath”. (Put about an inch or so of water into a 9”x11” lasagna or cake pan.) Be careful not to get water in the pudding mixture.

12. Now, it’s baking time. Put the pudding in water bath into the oven, which should be pre-heated by now.

13. It will take about 55 – 90 minutes to bake. You can test for done-ness by look and feel. Is the top golden brown and slightly raised in the center? Does the center “spring” when you lightly touch it? If the answer is yes –

14. Remove from your oven and cool for about an hour. You can leave in the water bath, or remove and cool on a rack.

15. This is delicious served warm with a little whipped cream. AND if there are leftovers – you’ve got a wonderful, nutritious breakfast!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

My dear Acquaintance,

I knew, of course, that you would re-surface one day.

I, too, was busy with the grandkids yesterday – taking in “Toy Story on Ice” at the Garden.

My two oldest kids are happily (most days, as are most of us coupled-ones) married, and youngest daughter graduated summa cum laude last May. She is living the Bohemian life with a young painter. Punk rock bands perform in their basement, on the side across from the washer/dryer combo, on alternate Tuesdays.

T. is still working, writing for a small company in North Andover. I got the boot… er - took early retirement in Feb of 09. I’ve been picking up odd free-lance work to pay the bills and buy hay. (Buy hay? you say) And I play with the grandkids every chance I can. They are real, and make me feel more connected to life than any hi-tech job ever did.

We bought a small trailer, a “park model RV”. (Who woulda thunk it? T. in a trailer.) It is parked 1.1 miles from the beach in southern Maine. We’ve spent the last seven summers there, and would love to retire officially in Vacationland. (Although that would surely mean we wouldn’t be travelling south to warm and sunny central MA for winters anymore…)

When I say retire, I mean farm. We now own 19 alpacas, three of the boys – my herdsires – currently reside in our backyard. They’ll go to “work” for the Summer at a farm in NH, in mid-May, and we’ll close up the house here and head up North…

Re: all things in this life – “Hindsight” , as they say…

What would any of us do over, had we only this future-lens to help us understand what we see on any given day?

Cash a couple of your Social Security checks and go to the Bahamas, for heaven’s sake. We’re grandparents; our youth is gone. Buy and take a copy – or I’ll send you one – of “The Dirty Life”. Read it on your sail. And don’t worry your daughters while you are away. Text them when you can, and tell them where you are, and most importantly, that you love them. Then you can come back to the land, with your smooth heels and salty tan, and get all romantic about dirt and connectedness and those beautiful little grandkids.

Before or after you go, you are always welcome to come visit us for an egg sandwich and a very dry martini...

xo me2

p.s. -- Did you know that CW is farming in CT? She raises goats and chickens and has just started to make cheese. S. has some beautiful photos …