Bread pudding alla Ticinese

This delicious traditional treat has its roots in the sunny italian-speaking canton of Ticino in the south of Switzerland, from where it was passed down through my grandmother Irène’s cuisine. The preparation may take a bit of time, but it’s pretty much foolproof. The only skills required are mashing and waiting.

Source family recipe  Difficulty trivial  Time a few hours, but only about 20 min of that is actual work; the rest is waiting  Serves 4–8 people depending on appetite, keeps a few days in the fridge.

Ingredients

  • 250 g hard dry bread
  • 1 l milk
  • 150 g fine sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 70 g sultanas or big blue raisins
  • 50 g pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp grappa
  • cinnamon powder
  • 50 g pine nuts
  • butter

If you don’t have dry bread at hand, you can cut fresh bread into thin slices and dry it in the oven. Just pile up the slices so they don’t cover each other too much, heat them up (something like 150°C will do) and open the hatch every now and then to allow the steam to escape. If you have the time, you can also just leave the slices lying around for a night. Use actual bread, not toast. Actual bread comes in a loaf and has a crust rather than just a skin. I believe it’s called «artisan bread» in the US, as if to brand it as a luxury product. It’s not a luxury, it just seems so because the spongy bread substitute filling the rest of the supermarkets is so pitiful in comparison. If you have the choice, half-white bread is ideal; otherwise white bread (like baguette) will do.

Grappa is an Italian brandy distilled from grapes left over from wine-making; you can use any similar spirit in its stead. I use pisco, for instance. I’m sure even rum would work fine.

Preparation

Rinse the raisins in cold water to get rid of the wax coating, drain them off, and soak them in the grappa.

Heat the milk in a high cooking pan until it steams (it doesn’t need to boil). Turn off the heat, crumble the dry bread into it, and leave it to soak.

Once the bread has absorbed the milk, mash it into a coarse pulp. The original recipe calls for a passe-vite, but a simple potato masher will do. (I advise against using a blender; the mass is not liquid enough. I nearly broke my blender trying that.)

The masher is a Dutch torture device. The Dutch use it to torture all the flavor out of food, then proceed to torture their guests with the tasteless food. It can be put to good use, though.

Then add the sugar, eggs, first batch of pine nuts, and the macerated raisins (including the grappa), and mash them together with the bread pulp. You’ll need a lot of cinnamon; I recommend a piled-up teaspoon as a starting point.

Pour the mixture into a pie mould. The original recipe asked to butter the form first, but I got better results when I forgot to do that the first time. Then sprinkle the second batch of pine nuts as well as some butter flakes all over the surface.

Ready for baking.

Bake the pudding for some 1.5 hours at 180°C until the surface has acquired a healthy brown complexion. It will puff up quite a bit during baking due to steam being released inside, but after the baking it will return to its original height.

The pudding is in principle ready for consumption right after baking, but will require a spoon at that point. If you let it cool, it should become solid enough for pieces to be cut and held in hand. This is particularly true if you refrigerate it, which is a pleasant way to eat it in general, and a necessity for keeping the pudding for a few days.

Enjoy!

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