My mother tells me of a dessert that is a hot fave in most Goan
households. She says it tastes best when made with stale bread and that it
requires no oven. Each time she tells me how her grandmother made bread
pudding, I find myself dreaming of this moist pudding with just the right
amount of sweet custard and caramel sauce.
A centuries-old dish, the bread pudding has humble roots, and is said to have evolved out of necessity, as a means of using up leftover, stale bread. It is considered a good throw-together dessert using what is available in any non-baker’s pantry. Interestingly, modern-day bread puddings are made from artisanal breads, like brioche or whole-grain and multi-grain loaves and at times even croissants, which drastically deviates from the dish’s austere origins.
Besides the bread, other ingredients such as milk, cream, eggs, a fat such as an oil or butter, sugar or other sweeteners, a few spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla—find their way into this comfort food. From there you can get as creative as you like. The best thing is you don’t have to look far for a good version, defined as a moist, creamy (but not eggy) interior and a crisp top crust. It can be found in my nana’s kitchen. Here’s her recipe:
Step 1: In a small non-stick pan, add around 4-5 tablespoons
of sugar and add enough water so as to not dilute the sugar while at the same
time not leaving it at just a few drops. On a medium-low heat, keep stirring till
the sugar melts and caramelizes. Keep aside.
Step 2: Add around 7-8 tablespoons of sugar to about 4 cups
of milk of your choice. We haven’t really experimented with dairy-free milk
yet, so tread with caution. Give this a good stir before bringing the milk to a
boil. Take off heat add a pinch of salt, 3-4 whole cardamom pods and then soak 3-4 of your
paos or bread slices in the milk till it cools.
Step 3: Ditch the ladle and instead use your hands to mash
the bread well. Next, add about two to three beaten eggs. Mom tells me that
when she tried imitating grandma’s pudding, she couldn’t master the custard. It
would either curdle or not set up properly. Usually adding another egg or two
would help, but give the pudding an eggy flavour. The cardamom pods and vanilla
essence act as an egg-masking agent. However, grandma shares that the best way
to go about this is by getting rid of the egg whites and just using the yolks. Doing
so will still help you achieve a rich, silky custardy pudding with no trace of that
Step 4: When the bread has soaked enough in the custard, pour
this mixture in the caramelized dish. Cover with the lid, and place this in a
water bath before steaming it on a stove for a little more than half an hour. You
could also modernize things up by instead pouring the batter onto a baking dish
and popping it into an oven and letting it bake for about 40 mins at 176-degree
Step 5: Let it cool completely and then chill, before carefully
flipping it on a serving plate. At our home, we prefer having it chilled with a
scoop of vanilla ice cream. However, on a cold winter or rainy night, nothing
like biting into a warm slice of nana’s