by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage Good Comfort (Bloomsbury) Photography © Simon Wheeler
However tradition may have it, there’s absolutely no reason not to make a bread and butter pudding with brown rather than white bread. The result is nuttily tasty and seriously satisfying. The ‘plums’ in this recipe are actually prunes (dried plums, after all), which give it a tangy sweetness and reduce the amount of sugar required.
150g pitted prunes (or unsulphured dried apricots), roughly chopped
150ml cloudy apple juice (i.e. not from concentrate)
50g butter, softened
6 slices of slightly stale brown bread (about 275g in total)
4 medium eggs
50g soft light brown sugar, plus 2 tsp to finish
1 tsp vanilla extract
About 300ml whole milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Cream, to serve (optional)
Have ready an oven dish, about 2-litre capacity. Put the prunes and apple juice into a small pan, bring almost to the boil then take off the heat. Leave to soak for at least 20 minutes, ideally an hour.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4. Use the butter to butter the slices of bread on one side only. Cut the slices into pieces – triangles if the slices are square, or halves if they are rounded. Arrange the bread in overlapping rows in the oven dish, following the shape of the dish.
Tip the soaked prunes into a sieve set over a measuring jug to save the juice. Dot the prune pieces over and between the bread.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly, then whisk in the brown sugar and vanilla extract until well combined. Add enough milk to the pruney apple juice in the jug to make it up to 400ml, then add to the whisked egg mix and whisk again until smooth.
Pour this custard over the bread and prunes, making sure all the bread gets custard over it. Leave to soak for at least 10 minutes – ideally a bit longer, especially if your bread is quite stale. Use your hands to press the bread down into the custard a little, then scatter the lemon zest over the top, followed by 2 tsp brown sugar.
Bake the pudding in the oven for 30–35 minutes, until golden brown on top and the custard is just set but still a little wobbly. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving. You could have a trickle of cold cream with this, if you like!
Christmas boozy bread and butter plum pudding:
Replace 50ml of the apple juice with brandy and add 50g chopped candied peel to the prunes. Add 1 tsp ground mixed spice to the custard and grate both orange and lemon zest over the top of the pudding before sprinkling with the sugar and baking.