Monday, July 25, 2011

Black Bread Pudding.

Once upon a time, to waste even a crumb of bread – the staff of life itself – was a sinful act as well as an uneconomic one. Cookery books of the Victorian era and newspapers of the World War (I and II) era in particular are full of hints on how to use up scraps and crusts of bread. Mostly today, we throw it out without a moment’s hesitation, because commercial bread is cheap, and we have no respect for it anymore.

Our predecessors had a myriad ways of using up stale or leftover bread, and I am always interested in finding a new/old idea. Bread pudding in one of its more or less rich forms is one well-known English solution to the problem - and a happy one too, for as we all know the English do love their puddings.

I recently came across an interesting variation of the bread pudding concept. The bread-and-butter pudding of my childhood was pale and sweet and soft and studded with currants. Here is a far more robust version: 

Black Bread Pudding.  A Heidelberg Receipt.
Grate fine a quarter of a pound of stale black bread, a quarter of a pound of fine white sugar, a few almonds, a little citron cut very fine; eight eggs beaten separately very light. Mix all well together, then add the yolks gradually, and lastly the whites. This pudding must bake about three quarters of an hour in a quick oven. Make a wine sauce to serve with it.
Home cookery: a collection of tried receipts, both foreign and domestic, by Mrs. J. Chadwick (1853)

Naturally, I looked to see how common this idea is in the English language corpus. The answer is – not particularly common at all. But I did find the following recipe, which contains a small puzzle.

Black Bread Pudding.
Take yolks of 3 eggs and beat with 1 cup of granulated sugar; add 1 cup of grated stale black bread gradually. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of allspice, or a very little ground cloves if desired. Mix all together and then add the beaten whites of the eggs. Bake in a tube form or pudding dish; when baked, leave it in the oven, and pour 1 cup of red wine over it. Serve the pudding with either a Charlotte russe, or a rich wine sauce.
San Rafael Cook Book (1906)

The instruction to serve with “a Charlotte russe or a rich wine sauce” is odd. A Charlotte Russe is a dish in its own right, not a pudding accompaniment. Did the cookbook author make a mistake, or is there some small region where it IS a sauce?

Quotation for the Day.

The bread I eat in London, is a deleterious paste, mixed up with chalk, alum, and bone ashes: insipid to the taste, and destructive to the constitution.
Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771)


Keith said...

That brings back memories, thank you. Must ask my wife to make one some time.

The Old Foodie said...

I dont actually fancy it myself. I think i have been corrupted by the sweet white custardy kind. Its my Mums fault.

The Old Foodie said...

I dont actually fancy it myself. I think i have been corrupted by the sweet white custardy kind. Its my Mums fault.

Gaviota said...

I'm researching about black bread for a project I'm working on. I understand black bread was typical of Russia (as opposed to brown bread if you like) but I haven't found much information. Could you possibly post something about it? Many thanks, wonderful blog

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Gaviota. I will try to get around to answering your request, but dont know when it will be. I would think that to thoroughly research Russian black bread woul require knowledge of the Russian language, which, sadly I dont have.