1950s Bread Pudding

There is one dessert-type food that dates back to the 1000s and I don't think it's changed much since then, to be honest.

And that's Bread Pudding.

Bread Pudding, photo: Jo Romero

Throughout history, we've been able to get hold of bread fairly cheaply. But there's always been a need to be frugal with it. Nowadays, it seems to go mouldy a couple of days after its sell by date. Less refined, traditionally made bread will last a little while longer and go stale before it goes mouldy. And so puddings like Bread Pudding were invented, to use them up. 

Stale bread is the bread to use if possible for this, as it will suck up all the flavours from the milk, raisins and sugar. This bread I made with my fourteen-year old and it's gorgeous. It's based on a 1950s recipe that was handed down to me within my family, and it's absolutely the taste of my childhood. 

Websites mention that this form of bread pudding has been made since Norman times, but it's difficult to find any precise primary sources that mention it. We know that Henry VIII enjoyed a pudding called 'Aleberry', which seems to have been a looser, slightly more liquid pudding of ale, stale bread and sugar. And Medieval cooks made custard, so it's not too much of a stretch to think that they might have used the eggs and milk in recipes like this to bind the bread mixture, add some seasonings and make a batch of bread pudding. Going back further, an Egyptian recipe for Om Ali is very similar to our bread pudding. And Bread and Butter pudding - a different dish using slices of bread, butter and marmalade baked in a custard - dates back to the eighteenth century. I've found a Victorian recipe that uses much of the same ingredients we use here, except they add suet - I use butter. 

A frugal, waste-free bake that you can make with most of what you have in the cupboards, I bet. Some like it warm, with cream or ice cream - I love it cold and wobbly, straight from the fridge. 

Bread Pudding 
Makes 8 portions 
Roughly 600g stale (or fresh) white bread, crusts removed
half a mug of milk (or more, depends on your bread)
half a mug of brown sugar 
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
a good handful or two of your favourite raisins
half teaspoon ground mixed spice 

In a bowl, break up the crustless bread and pour in the milk. You want the mixture to be squidgy - not saturated, and not too dry. Add a little more milk if instinctively you feel it needs it. Add the sugar and the butter, egg, mixed spice and raisins and stir until evenly mixed. 

Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper and pour the dough into it. Dredge with a little more sugar on top if you like, and then bake at 180ÂșC for 45-60 minutes until firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely and then cut into portions. Store in the fridge, it'll stay good in there for 3-4 days. 

Check out more of my historical recipes here and see what else you'd like to make!
You might also like: A Recipe for Tudor Marchpane, Tudor Maids of Honour and Roasted Apples