Alsatian Bread Pudding (Bettelman)

For the second time lately, I’ve been surprised how great something I’ve made from Alsace has tasted. Something I’ve never made before, but looked good on paper. First there was the Alsatian Onion Tart and now there’s this Alsatian Bread Pudding. What is there about the traditional dishes of this region that suit my palate so well?

Alsace is in the northeastern part of France and for a long time the ruling of the area flipped back and forth between France and Germany which accounts for the Germanic influence. Riesling and Gewurztraminer wines are produced in Alsace. They’re really fond of pork and are pros at smoking food. Quiche Lorraine is another famous dish from Alsace.

I see a trend… it’s bacon. I’d say the answer to why I like Alsatian food so much is right there, as smoked pork, a.k.a. bacon, is one of the finest things of all time. No bacon in this recipe, though I’m going to guess that Alsatian Bread Pudding would pair with Riesling wine well. Next time I make this, I’ll test out my theory.

Here’s what happened.
Got some cherries.

cherries

Cherries.

And some bread.

bread

Bread.

There were eggs.

eggs

Eggs.

And there was sugar.

sugar

Sugar.

Began the assembly.
Cherries halved and pitted, become the bottom layer of the pudding.

cherries, halved and pitted

Cherries, halved and pitted.

Layered the bread on top of the cherries, then poured the egg/sugar/milk mixture over.

bread layer starting to soak up the eggs, sugar, milk and spices

Bread layer starting to soak up the eggs, sugar, milk and spices.

After resting, then baking, it became Alsatian Bread Pudding.

Alsatian bread pudding

Alsatian Bread Pudding.

One serving.

a serving of bread pudding

A serving of Alsatian Bread Pudding.

From French Farm House Cookbook, Susan Herrmann Loomis, 1996

Alsatian Bread Pudding (Bettelman)

This classic dessert is a cross between bread pudding and clafoutis—and to my mind, better than both. Puffed and lightly sweet and fresh, it is best with ripe-from-the-tree Bing cherries. Canned or fresh Royal Annes are an excellent alternative, however. (Do not use canned tart pie cherries—they’re way too pucker for this!) If you are using canned cherries, be sure to drain them well.

After baking, there may still be a bit of juice at the bottom of the baking dish. If this bothers you (it will be an aesthetic objection rather than a gastronomic one), serve the dessert with a slotted spoon.

The Bettleman falls as quickly as a soufflé, so present it immediately. Leftovers, though fallen, are delicious when served the next day.

2 cups fresh Bing or Royal Anne cherries, pitted
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick; 60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 thin bread slices (3/8 inch; 1 cm) firm white bread, such as Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread
4 large eggs
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
3-1/2 cups (875g) milk
2 tablespoons kirsch, or other fruit-based liqueur
Zest of 1 lemon, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Place the cherries in an even layer in an 11 x 9-inch (28 x 23 cm) oval baking dish.

2. Spread the butter evenly over one side of each slice of bread. Cut the slices in half lengthwise, and arrange them, buttered side up, on top of the cherries, overlapping them in concentric ovals so they fit in a single layer.

3 In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until foamy. Then whisk in the milk, kirsch, zest and cinnamon. Pour the mixture gently over the bread slices, and press gently on the bread so it is thoroughly moistened. Set the dish aside for 2 hours. Press the bread down into the milk mixture occasionally so it remains moist.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

5. Place the baking dish on a baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake in the centre of the oven until the Bettleman is puffed and a rich golden brown, about 1 hour and 5 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

6 to 8 servings.

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