Hibernation once again: Two winter classic desserts in one
Let’s combine two favourites: rhubarb and custard, and bread and butter pudding
Rhubarb bread and butter pudding
I never make desserts during the summer months; after dinner usually involves fresh fruit or raiding the freezer for ice creams. But as the evenings get colder, there’s nothing nicer than a comforting dessert to prepare for winter hibernation.
I decided to combine two of my favourite desserts: rhubarb and custard, with bread and butter pudding. And thankfully the results are as delicious as I could imagine. Both are quite similar in that nursery food/boarding school menu style. This is the type of hearty fare ladled out to keep the troops full and happy. The bread and butter pudding already has the custard, so I add a little extra vanilla and a layer of brown-sugar-coated rhubarb. I place my rhubarb in the centre between two layers of bread, but it is also delicious on the base like a fruit sponge. A jar of really good-quality rhubarb and ginger preserve would be a tasty short-cut here.
Bread and butter pudding is extremely versatile and a great way to use up slightly stale bread. I usually use crusts and all, mixing sourdough with white yeast bread and even the odd slice of brown sourdough bread. Soda bread and brown wholemeal soda bread is not suitable, as it crumbs instantly and turns to a mush when the custard is added.
This pudding can be changed to suit the seasons, with grated white chocolate and raspberries or orange zest and blueberries with a splash of Cointreau strewn between the layers. Dark chocolate chunks and raisins make a decadent winter pudding. Rachel Allen’s boozy date version is divine. I also bake mine in a bain marie. It means the custard is gently cooked and does not dry at the edges after spending almost an hour in a hot oven. This dish reheats well and can be prepared a few hours ahead of time, covered and kept in the fridge.
This dish is pure comfort food. Serve warm in bowls with a dollop of cold cream or even a jug of thick custard.
Rhubarb bread and butter pudding: Serves 6
10 slices stale white bread, crusts removed
300g chopped rhubarb
3tbs soft brown sugar
70g caster sugar
2tsp vanilla paste or extract
1tbs soft brown sugar, for spindling over the top
Cold softly whipped cream
Butter the sides of a 20sq cm or oval baking dish. Butter each slice of bread and cut into little squares or triangles. Place half of the bread on the base of the dish.
Combine the chopped rhubarb with the brown sugar. Spread the sugared rhubarb in a layer over the bread. Lay the remaining bread neatly over the rhubarb to cover it.
Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan until almost boiling. Remove and set aside. Whisk the caster sugar with the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then slowly add the hot milk, whisking all the time until smooth and combined. Whisk in the vanilla. Pour this custard over the bread pudding, making sure it coats each piece of bread. Leave to rest and soak in all the custard for half an hour. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Create a bain marie by placing the pudding dish in a large roasting tin and fill halfway up with hot water. Do this at the oven to avoid burns, then bake the pudding for 45-50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is crisp and golden.
Serve with the child softly whipped cream.