Tartine bread pudding

I remember the first time I heard about Tartine Bakery in the San Fransisco Bay Area. Baker husband + pastry chef wife, baking their way across the French countryside – could anything be more romantic and dreamy? Of course, I had to get my hands on their pastry recipe book which has proven to be both useful as well as inspirational. The pâte sablée recipe has become my go-to for any sweet tart, while the lemon meringue cake inspired me to try my hand atmy own version.

A few days back, I found myself with a leftover loaf of homemade brioche, made sorta on the spur of the moment from this recipe. I’d baked it at my brother’s request, for some rather tasty stuffed french toast that he whipped up for family brunch. Of course, every such family get-together invariably ends up with heaps of leftovers. And what better way to use up two-day-old brioche than to turn it into some bread pudding!

Now I’ve made as well as tasted several bread puddings in the past, but they’ve largely been rather uninspiring. Most recipes tend to produce a finished product that’s dry and stodgy and tastes pretty much like what a bread pudding essentially is – stale bread in a baked custard. I wanted something more worthy of a rich brioche, something that would be far greater than the sum of its parts. And in my quest for the perfect bread pudding recipe, I stumbled upon Tartine’s. Previously, I think I had actually written it off because the milk:egg ratio just seemed too overwhelmingly disproportionate. FOUR cups of milk in a tiny loaf pan?? But after reading raving review after raving review of both bakers who had tried it as well as customers who had tasted the original (lucky them!!!), I knew I just HAD to make it and see for myself what all the hype was about.

And you know what? It is hands down the best bread pudding I have ever tasted. The bread slices really benefit from being soaked in the custard base, for it transforms them from being mere bread-in-eggs-and-milk into an entirely different creature; soft, moist and utterly delectable. The pools of liquid interspersing the bread bake up into a smooth-as-silk custard (some have described it as being flan-like). And the caramel sauce that is lavishly spooned on top – oh, my. Forget creme anglaise, this sauce is THE way we were meant to enjoy a perfect bread pudding.

Bottomline: Make it. Now.

Start off by slicing up your loaf of choice (I used a brioche; feel free to use whatever suits your fancy!). Lightly toast the bread, and then arrange the slices in a 9×5 or similar-sized pan.

brioche1brioche2brioche3brioche4

Eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, whisk away! Bread slices meet custard mixture, soak it all up before going into the oven.

eggsmilkcinnamonbread

While the pudding is baking, it’s time to make the sauce! Apparently, over in Tartine, the pudding is served “topped with seasonal fresh fruits, such as cherries, peaches, or thinly sliced apples or pears that we lightly sauté in butter and then heat in caramel until they are soft”. I chose to make mine with apples cos that’s what we had in the fruit basket at home, also cos both caramel apple and apples with cinnamon are such delectable flavour combinations. I also took the liberty of bumping up the salt, as I firmly believe that salted caramel is always always better than regular caramel.

First up, prep your fruit. I went with one green and one red apple, which gave the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. Peel, chop, and soak in lemon juice/saltwater to prevent them from browning.

Tartine bread pudding: Apples-1 | Scrummiliciousapples2apples3apples4

Now for the caramel. I remember was initially immensely daunted, too, the first time I attempted it, but when it comes down to it it’s really just sugar that you bring up to the temperature at which at caramelises. Some recipes advocate the use of a candy thermometer, but I prefer just to go by sight and smell. That golden-brown hue and that almost-burnt sugar scent – you can’t miss it. Unless you run off to the bathroom or you’re busy eating durian or something, that is.

Tartine bread pudding: Caramel-1 | ScrummiliciousTartine bread pudding: Caramel-2 | ScrummiliciousTartine bread pudding: Caramel-3 | ScrummiliciousTartine bread pudding: Caramel-4 | Scrummilicious

Saute the cinnamon-kissed apples lightly in a pat of butter, till they’re slightly tender yet still crunchy.

Tartine bread pudding: Apples-1 | ScrummiliciousTartine bread pudding: Apples-2 | ScrummiliciousTartine bread pudding: Apples-3 | ScrummiliciousTartine bread pudding: Apples-4 | Scrummilicious

Now stir the apples into the warm caramel sauce, and let it bubble together a while longer. This magical sauce is really one-half of what makes this bread pudding oh-so-special. Please don’t skip it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once the pudding’s out of the oven, the sauce goes on, and in. According to this extremely helpful source, over at Tartine, holes are poked all over the pudding to create space for the sauce to fit in. What this results in is not just sauce over the pudding, but hidden pockets of apple-caramelly goodness scattered throughout the interior of it. Brilliant indeed!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh yeah.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh yeahhh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brioche Bread Pudding
serves 8-10

Pudding:

Ingredients

6 brioche slices, each 1″ thick
8 eggs
120g sugar (reduced from 185g in original recipe; caramel sauce more than makes up for it!)
960ml milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon (not in original)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350F (180C). Slice up a regular-sized loaf of brioche (challah, croissants or any other similarly rich, sweet loaf would work too) into 1″-thick slices. Toast 6 slices in the preheated oven, 5 minutes on each side. When cool, arrange in a 9″x5″ or similar-sized pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk 8 eggs. Add in sugar and whisk to combine. Add milk, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon, whisk again to combine.

Pour custard mixture into baking pan and let stand for 15 minutes. Top up with additional custard. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 1 hour, or until custard firms up and no longer oozes liquid when pressed gently with the back of a spoon.

Remove pudding from oven. Using a butter knife or a teaspoon, make small indentations all over the surface of the pudding. Pour caramel sauce (recipe below) generously over the pudding, allowing the sauce to seep through the little holes. Reserve leftover sauce to spoon over each individual serving.

Serve immediately. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for a couple of days, simply reheat the pudding or even eat it cold!

Salted caramel apple sauce:

Ingredients

2 apples (green or red or both)
180ml heavy cream
250g caster sugar
60ml water
3/4 tsp salt (original recipe calls for 1/4 tsp)
2 tbsp light corn syrup
3/4 tsp lemon juice
55g unsalted butter, plus extra for sautéing the apples
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Peel and core apples, and chop them into roughly 1″ cubes. Soak in lemon juice/salt water to prevent them from oxidising. Set aside.

Microwave heavy cream on high at 30s intervals until it starts bubbling, about 1 1/2 mins. Have it ready by the stove.

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water, salt, corn syrup and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring just only until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, without stirring, until sugar caramelizes and is golden-brown. Remove from heat and immediately pour heated cream into the caramel.  The mixture will seethe and bubble furiously for a while; let the mixture simmer down and then whisk until smooth. Add in the butter, and whisk to combine.

Drain apples and stir in ground cinnamon. In a frying pan over medium heat, add a pat of butter. Pour in apple cubes and cook until slightly tender but still crunchy. Add sautéd apples to caramel sauce and heat just until mixture starts to bubble.

adapted from Tartine, by Elisabeth Prueitt & Chad Robertson.

Of beginnings

fondantMy love for baking actually began with a huge fascination with fondant. That was around 3 years back; a friend happened to show me a baking blog of sorts of another friend who made these unbelievable, amazingly intricate fondant cupcake toppers. I was intrigued – you mean these edible masterpieces could actually be made (theoretically at least) from the comforts of my own kitchen?? I remember heading home that night and googling – “How to make fondant”. Recipes with strange-sounding, foreign ingredients surfaced – Glycerine and Gelatine (ain’t that for making jellies?) and Glucose (I know this one! C6H12O6 and it’s got something to do with photosynthesis right?). There was Rolled Fondant and Poured Fondant and right when I was starting to think – ok, maybe it ain’t quite that easy after all, my eyes lit upon two words: Marshmallow Fondant. Just marshmallows and powdered sugar? Seriously?? Game on. A couple of days later, I tried my hand at it for the first time. Suffice to say, it was a rather valiant attempt, and afterall it’s the thought that counts, right? A dear friend was the [fortunate?] recipient of my first batch ever of decidedly homemade (some would call it quaint) fondant-topped cupcakes. I was really proud of that elephant btw.

elephant

Couple of days later, I got to decorate my 1st ever cake with fondant! Carrots for a carrot cake – how apt.

carrot cake

Of course, fondant can’t be served just like that (although some might argue it could!). It’s not exactly a dessert on it’s own; it needs a stage, a backdrop. And so began my love affair with cupcakes – it’s an obvious match, it’s a waste really if pretty fondant toppers are served on sad, un-scrummy cupcakes. But cupcakes were only the beginning. Googling cupcake recipes online brought me into the whole wide wonderful world of baking blogs and recipe sites, and way beyond the tiny realm of mere cupcakes. Cookies! Cakes! Bars! Pies! Tarts! Puddings! Baking bloggers became household names to me – so inspired was I by the talented ladies behind the likes of Annie’s Eats, The Pioneer Woman, Picky-Palate, I Am Baker, just to name a few, as well as local bloggers like Happy Home Baking and Bisousatoi. It’s impossible to just look at the recipes – pretty much every other recipe I saw made me go “I wanna make that!!11!!!1!!”. And so, I did. Of course, most of what came out of my oven never looked quite like what I saw in the amazing drool-worthy pictures online. But they did taste pretty good. And the more I baked, the more I wanted to bake. But that’s another story for another time.

I never quite forgot my roots though, and my initial love affair with fondant. A year back, I upped the ante with an entire fondant-covered cake, for my church youth group’s anniversary. It was a pretty epic affair, and I really couldn’t have pulled it off without the help of an incredibly talented artist friend (which made me kinda realise, every baker does need a certain level of aesthetic sense, or else a co-pilot to help out in that department!). The slightly marbled effect on the blue background was a result of me giving up after what felt like hours of kneading the blue colouring into that HUGE ball of fondant but on hindsight, it did kinda work with the whole ocean/rippled effect! Everything except for the gummy fishes were made from fondant – yes, even the sails which bear an uncanny resemblance to sliced cheese.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fondant and me, we’ve come a long way. I guess I’ve progressed quite a bit, learnt quite a bit, explored and broadened my baking horizons quite a bit since that fateful day, some 3 years back. But there’s always been this special connection to fondant. A couple of months back, I did my first solo “catering” event for a friend’s wedding, and fondant monogrammed hearts made an appearance on the wedding cupcakes.

Marshmallow fondant | Scrummmilicious

Most recently, in fact just a couple of days ago, my beloved niece celebrated her first month, and I was asked by my brother and sis-in-law to make a hundred cupcakes as favours for the guests. Challenge accepted! Thanks to a wonderful tutorial as well as a cookie cutter which I somehow had the foresight to stock up on a few months back, baby K managed to have a pretty swell first month celebration I’d say(:

fondant bootiesonesiesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbaby K cupcakes

It seems fitting, therefore, that the very first post here should be dedicated to that same root of my baking journey. I’ve tried several recipes over the years, but this is the one I finally settled on, simply because it never fails to produce fondant that is a dream to work with. And it’s tasty too! I can vouch for the fact that most choose to eat it rather than peel it off, unlike storebought fondant which tends to have a strange smell and aftertaste. Try it, and you’ll see(:

Marshmallow Fondant
yield: ~750g fondant

Ingredients
250g mini marshmallows
20ml warm water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
500g powdered sugar (sieved)
20g shortening

Directions
In a large microwaveable mixing bowl greased thoroughly with shortening, place the marshmallows and water. Microwave at medium-high for 30-second intervals, stirring with a well-greased spatula in between, until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in salt, lemon juice, corn syrup and vanilla extract.

Add 1/3 of the powdered sugar into the marshmallow mixture and stir until combined. Repeat with second 1/3. Now pour the mixture onto a clean surface (also greased with shortening!), add remaining 1/3 powdered sugar and knead with your hands (greased!) until a smooth ball of fondant (similar to the consistency of play-doh or plasticine) is formed.

Form fondant into a smooth disc, coat thoroughly with a thin layer of shortening and cover with cling wrap. Store in a sealed refrigerator bag and let rest for at least 1-2 hours before using.

Kitchen notes

*The lemon juice might seem to be a strange ingredient, but the sourness of it really helps to cut the sweetness of the fondant and give it a pleasant taste.

*Corn syrup is a must for ensuring the fondant remains wonderfully pliable and easy to work with; I’ve found that recipes which omit this produce fondant that tends to crack and crumble more easily.

*The amount of powdered sugar you need might be slightly less or more – depending on things like temperature and humidity, you might need to vary the amount slightly to achieve the perfect consistency which is neither too sticky nor too dry.

*Grease, grease and grease some more! The mixture starts out incredibly sticky so if you don’t want melted marshmallows sticking to absolutely everything and anything, grease away! Don’t worry, the shortening will not affect the taste in any way.

*Colouring fondant: If you plan to colour an entire batch in just 1 colour, I’d recommend you add the colouring (gel colouring works best!) along with the lemon juice etc after you’re done nuking the marshmallows. But if you plan to tint it various shades, you’ll have to work the colouring in right at the end.

*Storage: Homemade marshmallow fondant typically keeps for a month or so. Store it well-wrapped and tightly sealed to prevent it drying out. But DON’T keep it in the fridge – chilled fondant brought back to room temperature will start to “sweat”, making it moist and unbearably sticky to worth with.


recipe adapted from Cake Central via Annie’s Eats.