This first installment of Monthly Gourmet arrives in mid-June, just catching the tail end of the spring rhubarb season. I love the look of rhubarb -- the transition from green to red on the stalk reminds me of a tourmaline -- but most of all I appreciate its tart flavor, as do all of us who can’t get behind the sweetness of a strawberry pie.
The little experience I have has taught me that rhubarb’s acidity needs to be tempered before adding it to a dessert. There are different ways to do this, which include simmering it on the stove to make a compote, or letting it macerate in sugar, which is the case in this recipe.
Overall the rhubarb bread pudding was a very easy dessert to make, and I think it reflects the user-friendly yet delicious ethos behind Gourmet. It’s versatile as well, a substantial pairing with afternoon tea yet a light final course for dinner. And seeing as someone devoured the remainder the next morning, it’s an elegant dish for breakfast or brunch as well.
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
⅔ cup granulated sugar
a ½ pound loaf of stale French or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a ceramic or glass bowl combine the rhubarb with the granulated sugar and let it macerate for 1 hour.
In a buttered shallow 1½-quart baking dish combine the bread and the rhubarb mixture. (NOTE: I used a Le Creuset 1 7/10-quart Heritage Au Gratin Dish)
In a bowl beat the eggs, add in a stream the half-and-half and the milk, both scalded, beating, and stir in the the nutmeg.
Pour the custard over the rhubarb mixture, sprinkle the brown sugar and the cinnamon over the top, and dot the bread pudding with the butter.
Put the dish in a baking dish pan and add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake the bread pudding, covered with foil, in a preheated slow oven (300 degree F.) for 30 minutes and bake it, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Serves 4 to 6.
I didn’t know what “scalding” milk meant before this recipe, and discovered that it meant bringing it so a pre-simmer on the stove while whisking constantly. As it goes, this is a common step for making custards. In my impatience I didn’t let the milk and the half-and-half cool completely before adding them to the eggs, which gave my custard a slightly grainy consistency after it was baked. This didn’t seem to have any negative impact on the taste, however.
- Try to coat the bread mixture very thoroughly with the the custard, maybe even stirring it all together. The top of the pudding didn’t get coated as well and as a result had a crisper texture to it.