When Clotilde agreed to contribute a recipe to this series, I was absolutely thrilled. Her recipe for a surprisingly simple French bread pudding from the Alsace region of France is every bit as glorious as I anticipated, coming from this long-time food blogger and cookbook author. I have a special place in my heart for Clotilde's exemplary food blog, Chocolate & Zucchini, not only for it's superb photos, thorough recipes and joyful culinary prose, but because it's the first food blog to grace my computer screen. I believe the year was 2006 and Clotilde had been writing about food for a few years, always accompanied by a photo she took and a great story about how she learned to make that particular dish or a family memory associated with the food. Ever since this first click, Chocolate & Zucchini has captured my attention and brightened my day. I've learned about French food idioms, tried fantastic recipes (her oven roasted ratatouille is a must) and followed Clotilde as she grew into a full-fledged food writer and cookbook author. I credit Clotilde as well as a handful of others in catapulting my interest (then obsession!) in food blogging.
About this breakfast Clotilde says:
I am particularly fond of recipes that make a thrifty use of leftover ingredients, and this Alsatian bread pudding (bettelman means "beggar" in the Alsatian dialect) is a delectable way to give a second life to brioche or bread that's past its prime. It is a recipe I included in my book on Paris restaurants and food shops, Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, and it's adapted from a recipe given to me by Christophe Vasseur, the extraordinary baker who runs the Paris boulangerie Du Pain et des Idées. It makes a really good breakfast or brunch dish that you can assemble and bake the day before, and warm up again slightly in the morning.
I loved this elegant breakfast because it has the look and taste of something that took a long time to prepare, but in reality, it's very simple and easy. With a little bit of forethought, this bread pudding can be assembled in the evening, refrigerated, then baked in the morning and served at a relaxed brunch. It has a hint of sweetness and richness from the egg, but doesn't feel heavy or cloying. It's just right. I used leftover wheat raisin bread for this bread pudding recipe, and it worked really well, especially with a dollop of masarpone cream.
Apple Bettelman (Alsatian bread pudding)
1 1/3 to 1 2/3 cups (320 to 400 ml) milk
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 pinch fine sea salt
1/4 cup (25 g) dark raisins
2 crisp and juicy apples, about 10 ounces (280 g) each, such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, or Jonagold, peeled and diced
12 ounces (340 g) stale brioche, challah bread, or croissants, cut in bite-size cubes
a pat unsalted butter for greasing
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Combine 1 1/3 cup (320 ml) of the milk with the sugar and the vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk mixture, cinnamon, rum, salt, raisins, and apples. Add the brioche and stir well to combine. If the brioche is quite dry and seems to soak up all the milk, add the remaining 1/3 cup (80 ml) milk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and preferably an entire day, stirring the mixture again once or twice in the intervening time.
When ready to bake the bettelman, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a glass or ceramic medium baking dish (such as a 10-inch [25-cm] oval dish or an 8-by-8-inch [20-by-20-cm] square dish) with butter, sprinkle with sugar, and shake the dish to coat.
Fish the vanilla bean out of the brioche mixture, scrape the seeds with the tip of a knife, return the seeds to the bowl, and discard the bean (or: rinse, let dry completely, and slip in a jar of sugar or a bottle of olive oil to flavor them). Add the eggs and stir well to combine. Pour into the prepared dish, level the surface with a spatula, sprinkle lightly with sugar, and put in the oven to bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is set and golden brown.
Let cool and serve, slightly warm or at room temperature.
Variations: Bettelman can also be made with cherries and kirsch, instead of apples and rum. You can also add 1/2 cup (80 g) chocolate chips (add them along with the eggs), or use chopped dates, figs, or prunes in place of the raisins. You can also substitute leftover baguette or country-style bread for part of the brioche. The bettelman can be baked in muffin molds; reduce the baking time to 25 minutes then (note: I prepared the pudding in individual muffin tins, with great results!).
Thanks Clotilde for contributing to our Breakfast with a Blogger series!
• Visit Clotilde's blog: Chocolate & Zucchini
Related: Coconut Milk Bread Pudding
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross, photo of Clotilde provided by Clotilde)