Monday, August 30, 2010

Bread Pudding Recipe



Ingredients

Bread:

9 - 10 cups of bread cubes, (crusts left on or removed) cut into bite sized pieces

Custard:

4 large eggs

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

1 1 /2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

4 cups (960 ml) half & half, milk, light cream or a combination thereof

Variation: Can replace 2 tablespoons of the milk/cream with 2 tablespoons of brandy or rum.

Note: Use breads (or a combination thereof) like French, Brioche, Challah, Croissant, Italian, or Panettone. The bread can be fresh or stale and crusts can be left on or removed. You can also use day old scones.

Fruit: (Optional)

- 1 large peeled and cored tart apple, diced

- about 1 - 2 cups of fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)

- one large diced bananas and 2 ounces of chopped white or dark chocolate

- 1 cup sultanas (raisins)

- 1 cup of chocolate chips

Method

Bread Pudding: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Lightly grease with butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 9 x 13 x 2 inch (23 x 33 x 5 cm) heatproof baking dish. Place the baking dish into a larger roasting pan that has enough room to fill with water.

For Custard: In an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the eggs and sugar on high speed until thick and lemon colored (about 4-5 minutes) (when beater is raised the batter will fall back into bowl in a slow ribbon). Beat in the vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Then beat in the melted and cooled butter and half and half (light cream).

Assemble: Place the bread cubes and fruit (if using) in the baking dish. Carefully pour (or ladle) the prepared custard over the bread cubes until completely covered. Press down the bread cubes so they are covered with the custard.

Prepare a water bath. (A water bath is used to provide temperature protection for the egg custard.) Carefully pour in enough hot water so that the water is halfway up sides of the 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Bake about 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Another way to judge whether the pudding is fully baked, is to gently press down on the center of the pudding. If any custard comes up to the top, the pudding needs to be baked a little longer. Remove the bread pudding from the water bath and cool slightly before serving.

Can be served warm or cold with a dusting of confectioners' sugar and a dollop of softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

This recipe is from Joy of Baking.

Makes one 9 x 13 bread pudding (serves about 8 - 10 people)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bugs

I've been stricken by several bugs lately. That's the main reason why this blog has not been updated as frequently as it used to be. Don't worry, I'm still healthy physically but the bugs are pretty stubborn. I'm talking about the Lazy Bug, Procrastinator Bug, Lethargy Bug and Moody Bug. I wonder if there are any other bugs I have that have yet to be diagnosed.

It's hard to get my fat bottom off the chair and away from the computer, surfing the net and reading online stuff and being a nosey-poke on Facebook. In this day and age of advance technology, it's so easy to get drawn and lost in the the computer and internet world without realising the time passing.

Last week, I got busy putting old (and I mean, really old) photographs into proper photo albums. There was a bag of these small albums of photos lying around, those that you get from the photo processing shops when you send your films to be developed. If you're from my generation or before, you'll know what I'm talking about. Those were the days when cameras used film and once the 12, 24 or 36 exposures are used up, you send the roll to the shop. Then, when they're ready, you collect them and eagerly pore over every single photo to see how your pictures turned out. And you hold up the negatives to the light (most of us amateurs would not own lightboxes) to check the number and jot them down if you want to make extra copies of the photos.

People in this new generation like Caitlin only know of digital cameras. Right after taking a picture, they are instantly gratified. They get to check if the picture is great and if otherwise, they can just delete it on the spot, select modes like close-up, portrait, landscape, night or day, flash or without flash, reduce red-eye effect etc. Unlike those days when a picture is taken, no matter how badly, they will be there on the film/negative forever, unless you throw the negative away.

So back to the old photos I was talking about. I bought proper new albums and tried my best to sort and group them according to the 'era' to create a semblance of chronology. Then I ran out of albums. I've yet to get more to complete the job -- the Procrastinator and Lazy Bugs at work here.

I've a stack of books I so greedily bought during book sales and at BookAxcess that I've yet to read. They are books I like, I want to own, I think I should read....but I've YET to read - again, the Procrastinator Bug attack. Also the Moody Bug I think. There are some activities I need to have the 'mood' for in order for me to indulge in them. Reading and cooking are among them.

This week, I've selected two books to read. I've covered one-third of Money Doesn't Grow on Trees by Neale S. Godfrey so far, while Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman is still patiently waiting for me to pick it up.

As for my 'Cooking Thursdays' projects, I actually did try out some recipes two Thursdays ago. I revisited Banana Bread since I had too many bananas lying around. Then I also made some milk buns. The earlier batch of dried yeast I had were 'dead' so I bought a new batch. It turned out that they were not any more alive than the earlier one although slightly better. The dough rose but not super-actively I guess. So the buns turned out not as fluffy as I hoped they would. Ate the buns with mushroom soup, dipping and spooning with slightly aching wrists and fingers from all the kneading!

I also baked some chicken thighs in satay marinade for dinner two Thursdays ago.  The marinade powder had been sitting in my larder for a long time. I once had lofty dreams of grilling my own satay but never got around to buying skewers and the thought of having to thread the chicken fillet bit by bit onto those sticks just put me off -- there you go, Lethargy Bug.

Last Friday, I made lasagna. It was my own version. I cheated by using bottled spaghetti gravy, mixed it with a concoction of pureed brinjals, tomatoes and frozen corn, carrot, peas (great way to hide the vege from the kid) before cooking it with minced pork (didn't have enough beef in the freezer). I layered the lasagna sheets with this gravy and lots of shredded cheddar and tossed it into the oven.  The end result was yummy luckily, and the kid gobbled up more than her usual dinner portion.

I had grand plans to make roti jala over the weekend but the stars were not aligned for me to do so. Yes, I'm blaming the cosmic powers and the Lethargy Bug. On Friday morning, Rusty chanced upon an escape for the big wide wonderful world beyond our gates. This time, he ran harder and faster as soon as  I caught up with him. He also broke the record of going past our neighbourhood security post, out yonder into the 'wild' but luckily low-traffic main road. Thankfully, the guard got onto his bicycle and gave chase, blocked his galloping advance using the bike while I trailed behind panting and jogging in my flip flops, leash in hand. Gosh, I must have looked comical.

Having felt cornered, Rusty finally decided it was better to run towards me than face off with the two-wheeled stranger. With a 'smiley' look and pink tongue sticking out, he simply thought it was great fun until I admonished and smacked him for giving me a 1km jog I didn't plan for. He certainly forced the Lethargy Bug out of me then, but because of my poor fitness level, I felt the effects later that day with some aching knees and calves. This brings to the Great Procrastinator Bug problem I've been facing when it comes to training Rusty to 'stay' when my auto-gate beeps open....

Finally, there's always stuff to clear up and organise around the house. And this is the part that all the aforementioned bugs have ganged up on me. Can someone please invent some sort of vaccine to immunise me from these bugs?



Monday, August 16, 2010

A True Duck Story from San Antonio, Texas

I got this via email and it's a nice story to share:

Something really cute happened in downtown San Antonio this week. Michael R. is an accounting clerk at Frost Bank and works there in a second story office. Several weeks ago, he watched a mother duck choose the concrete awning outside his window as the unlikely place to build a nest above the sidewalk.

The mallard laid ten eggs in a nest in the corner of the planter that is perched over 10 feet in the air. She dutifully kept the eggs warm for weeks, and Monday afternoon all of her ten ducklings hatched.


Michael worried all night how the momma duck was going to get those babies safely off their perch in a busy, downtown, urban environment to take to water, which typically happens in the first 48 hours of a duck hatching. Tuesday morning, Michael watched the mother duck encourage her babies to the edge of the perch with the intent to show them how to jump off. Office work came to a standstill as everyone gathered to watch.


The mother flew down below and started quacking to her babies above. In disbelief Michael watched as the first fuzzy newborn trustingly toddled to the edge and astonishingly leapt into thin air, crashing onto the cement below. Michael couldn't stand to watch this risky effort nine more times! He dashed out of his office and ran down the stairs to the sidewalk where the first obedient duckling, near its mother, was resting in a stupor after the near-fatal fall. Michael stood out of sight under the awning-planter, ready to help.


As the second one took the plunge, Michael jumped forward and caught it with his bare hands before it hit the concrete. Safe and sound, he set it down it by its momma and the other stunned sibling, still recovering from that painful leap. (The momma must have sensed that Michael was trying to help her babies.)


One by one the babies continued to jump.. Each time Michael hid under the awning just to reach out in the nick of time as the duckling made its free fall. At the scene the busy downtown sidewalk traffic came to a standstill.. Time after time, Michael was able to catch the remaining eight and set them by their approving mother.


At this point Michael realized the duck family had only made part of its dangerous journey. They had two full blocks to walk across traffic, crosswalks, curbs and past pedestrians to get to the closest open water, the San Antonio River , site of the famed "River Walk." The onlooking office secretaries and several San Antonio police officers joined in. An empty copy-paper box was brought to collect the babies. They carefully corralled them, with the mother's approval, and loaded them in the container.. Michael held the box low enough for the mom to see her brood. He then slowly navigated through the downtown streets toward the San Antonio River . The mother waddled behind and kept her babies in sight, all the way.


As they reached the river, the mother took over and passed him, jumping in the river and quacking loudly. At the water's edge, Michael tipped the box and helped shepherd the babies toward the water and to the waiting mother after their adventurous ride.


All ten darling ducklings safely made it into the water and paddled up snugly to momma. Michael said the mom swam in circles, looking back toward the beaming bank bookkeeper, and proudly quacking.


At last, all present and accounted for: "We're all together again. We're here! We're here!"


And here's a family portrait before they head outward to further adventures...


Like all of us in the big times of our life, they never could have made it alone without lots of helping hands. I think it gives the name of San Antonio 's famous "River Walk" a whole new meaning!