We've been playing with vegetables and other healthy stuff since before Christmas! It is fitting that we move on to sweet things next.
I was curious to see what this chapter would bring. When you think of Italian food I imagine that for most people desserts don't come into the picture. Pizza, pasta, cheese, grilled meats, veggies, salads, fish . . . yes! Cakes, tarts, cookies . . . not for most of us.
In fact, I conducted a wee survey today at work (because apparenlty I was bored) and asked 10 colleagues to name an Italian dessert. No one could name one. Then I asked one of our admin assistants who is of Italian descent - she at least came up with cannoli, gelato, Tiramisu, Semifreddo, panna cotta, and zuppa englese.
My first foray into the world of Marcella's desserts was a glazed bread pudding. I admit to feeling let down. Bread pudding? This seemed neither Italian nor all that interesting for that matter. Bread pudding has a bad name in my family - my mom calls it 'depression food' - for the era, not the state of mind she falls into when she sees it in front of her.
Bread pudding, regardless of attempts to 'trendify' itself over the years is a humble thing. No doubt the original recipes for it were vehicles to use up the last scraps of stale bread. Marcella's recipe seems to harken back to that time when cooks had to make use of every bit of food - nothing being wasted.
I've made a number of bread puddings over the years but absolutely none were made like this one - here the bread is soaked in warm milk until it becomes a sodden mass.
Paul walked as I was embarked on the next step in the recipe and suggested that the contents of the bowl looked like the contents of one's stomach after having eaten. SIGH
The mushed up bread DID have the appearance of bread that had been well chewed by a baby!
To this mixture you add soaked raisins, sugar, pine nuts, and egg yolks. The final step is to beat egg whites and fold them in. This admittedly unappetizing looking mixture is poured into a pan coated with caramelized sugar. 75 minutes later the pudding comes out of the oven.
Once out of the oven you pierce it with a fork and pour rum over top.
The final step is to unmould it onto a pan. This is when disaster struck - the pudding did NOT wish to leave its pan. In fact, it broke into pieces. After having checked to see if anyone witnessed my crisis, I stuck the pieces back together and covered the whole thing and placed it in the refrigerator (Marcella advises that it is best the next day).
I served it up the following day.
You guessed it - this was bloody amazing! Proof, yet again, that simple dishes without excessive sauces, spices, and flavourings, can impress. I even tried it out on mom - who immediately wore an expression that looked as if she were sucking on a lemon when I asked her if she wanted some bread pudding - when I wasn't looking she snuck a HUGE portion into a container and snuck it home.
That, boys and girls, was likely the highest praise that there could be.