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In England, a Dessert by Any Other Name Is Still Pudding

March 19, 1992|MARCIA CONE and THELMA SNYDER | Cone and Snyder are cookbook authors

"Strange as it may seem, the British call dessert of any sort a pudding," says Jane Garmey, author of "Great New British Cooking." A bread pudding may be closer to what the British mean than any other American dessert, but as the bread cubes and custard fuse together in cooking, the solid, spoonable cake hardly resembles the creamy puddings we've come to know in this country.

A good case can be made for cooking this marvelous old-fashioned dessert in the microwave, and making it more often because of the time saved. To do so, some special techniques are involved.

The brown crust that is naturally achieved in the conventional oven is simulated by buttering a casserole or mold first and then coating it with bread crumbs. The brown crusts left on the bread (or better, the whole-wheat variation) add more brown color, yet the pudding is never "too dry" because it has not been subjected to the parching heat of the conventional oven.

Raisin-Nut Bread Pudding always makes us think of traditional cool-weather meals. In the past, it was a way for mothers to fill us with calcium-rich milk without us even suspecting it. It is still a way to coax children to eat milk and whole-wheat bread; we would not hesitate to serve it to our children for breakfast.

The Apricot-Glazed Apple Bread Pudding is a takeoff on an apple charlotte. Garmey claims that although the charlotte was originally made of apple marmalade covered with bread crumbs, it is now most often made with apples and given a bread crust or pastry crust. The bread crumbs work much better in the microwave.

RAISIN-NUT BREAD PUDDING

1 1/2 cups milk

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 slices bread, 1/2-inch thick, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts, optional

1/2 cup raisins

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Raspberry Sauce, optional

Pour milk into 4-cup glass measure. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 2 minutes or until heated but not boiling.

Meanwhile, beat together eggs and sugar in mixing bowl. Stir in vanilla. Slowly pour half of warm milk into egg mixture, stirring constantly. Pour mixture back into 4-cup glass measure. Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 2 minutes, stirring once. Stir in bread cubes, nuts and raisins. Let stand 5 minutes, occasionally pressing bread cubes down into sauce with spoon.

Butter 1-quart glass or ceramic bowl with 1 tablespoon butter to within 1 1/2 inches of top. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons bread crumbs. Pour bread mixture into prepared casserole. Sprinkle top with remaining 2 tablespoons bread crumbs and cinnamon.

Cover with wax paper and microwave on MEDIUM 8 to 12 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from center comes out clean (rotate pudding 1/4 turn twice). Let stand directly on counter 10 minutes. Unmold, if desired. Serve with Raspberry Sauce. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving, with sauce, contains about:

352 calories; 221 mg sodium; 81 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 70 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 1.5 grams fiber; 15% calories from fat.

Variation:

Whole-Wheat Bread Pudding:

Substitute whole-wheat bread for white bread. Substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar.

Raspberry Sauce

2 cups fresh raspberries or 1 (12-ounce) package frozen

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in 4-cup glass measure or 2-quart deep, microwave-proof casserole. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 3 to 5 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes, or until mixture is boiling and berries begin to fall apart.

Puree mixture in food processor or blender or force through sieve (latter is preferred method if you want to remove any seeds). Serve warm or chilled. Makes 1 1/3 cups.

Note: For sweeter sauce, add additional 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar.

This layered casserole of bread crumbs, apples, butter and sugar is delicious served in a bowl with hot milk or cream poured on top.

APRICOT-GLAZED APPLE BREAD PUDDING

5 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs

1 1/2 pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/8-inch slices

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon brandy or apple, orange or berry juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons apricot preserves

1 tablespoon apricot-flavored brandy or apple, orange or berry juice

2 cups warm whipping cream or milk

Rub inside of 1-quart glass or ceramic serving bowl with 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons bread crumbs.

Place about 1/2 cup apple slices in bottom of prepared bowl. Next, layer 1/3 of each ingredient: bread crumbs, brown sugar, remaining 1/4 cup butter (cut up into small pieces) and remaining apples. Follow layering 2 more times to make 3 layers. Combine egg, 1/4 cup milk, brandy and lemon juice in small bowl. Pour over top.

Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 5 minutes. Rotate 1/3 turn. Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 8 to 15 minutes, or until apples are tender and knife inserted in center comes out clean (rotate pudding 1/3 turn after 6 minutes). Remove from oven and cover with plate, pressing down slightly to pack pudding. Let stand 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine preserves and apricot-flavored brandy in 2-cup glass measure. Microwave on HIGH 1 minute or until melted. Remove plate and wax paper from pudding. Unmold, if desired. Pour heated preserves over pudding.

Place warm cream in 4-cup glass measure. Microwave on HIGH 2 to 3 minutes or until warm. Transfer to serving pitcher and pass with hot apple pudding. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

430 calories; 160 mg sodium; 129 mg cholesterol; 31 grams fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.5 grams fiber; 64% calories from fat.

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