Is it possible to improve on the classic bread-and-butter pudding? The version documented by 19th-century domestic goddess Isabella Beeton, with bread and currants, vanilla and nutmeg?
It might be heresy to suggest it, but in this case we respectfully argue that the answer might be “yes”.
If you are of the school for whom there can never be enough chocolate, this rich but super-simple crowd pleaser is one of many delicious ways to use up any brioche you might have left over from our take on the great Gaston Lenôtre’s brilliantly buttery version on page 32.
Lesley emphasises that the brioche or bread you use should be slightly stale. If it’s on the dry side, it will do a much better job of soaking up the eggy, milky liquid you’ve concocted in the Thermomix, which becomes a creamy, decadently chocolate-spiked custard as the pudding bakes.
Using stale brioche or bread is very much in the spirit of Mrs Beeton—her 1861 cookery opus was titled A Book of Household Management and had an emphasis on thrift and avoiding waste. Mrs Beeton was not averse to a little tinkering: her original recipe suggests that cooks could, should they choose, add cream, candied peel, or “more eggs than stated”.
If you ate all your home-made brioche while it was still fresh and pliable there’s no need to miss out. As Lesley Russell says: “If you haven’t made your own brioche don’t despair—use a bought brioche loaf, or substitute good quality white bread.”
- Heat the oven to 175C fan-forced. Select an ovenproof dish 1.5 litre capacity.
- Place the eggs, sugar and milk into the mixing bowl. Mix together 3 minutes/37 degrees/speed 3.
- Cut the brioche slices in half or into quarters if they are large. Generously dredge the base of the dish with cocoa then lay in half the brioche pieces. You might have to trim them to fit the base of the dish.
- Dredge the again with cocoa and scatter over the chocolate and raisins, if using.
- Top with a second layer of brioche.
- Pour the egg mixture in so the dish is half full, then allow it to stand for a few minutes so the brioche absorbs the liquid. Pour in the remaining mixture when there is room. Dredge with more cocoa, then a little extra sugar.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 50–60 minutes. The pudding will puff up and will be set in the centre. A small knife into the centre should come out clean.
- Allow the pudding to settle and cool before serving. Serve it warm or cold with a pour of cream.