For my birthday back in July, my husband booked me in at an Artisan Bread baking course. Cuisine et Chateau is a Culinary Centre in Calgary with classes in almost anything food related and food tours in the South of France where attendants gather produce at the markets and cook together at the home of the French owners of the company.
The Artisan Bread baking course took place over two Sundays. The first lesson we learnt about yeasts, temperatures, the addition of salt (always after flour and water are combined!), the interaction of bleach on yeast (never use bleached flour with sourdough! or ever..), crusts and crumbs (a rich dough, with butter, egg or milk will never make a crispy crust) and cooking times (a sourdough loaf should have a deep caramelized brown crust to ensure full flavor of the sourdough). We also learnt four recipes that utilised specific techniques.
During the week we babied our new sourdough starters and returned the second Sunday to bake with them. I now understand why my last starter had so many failures, and have loved baking faultless loaves with my new, healthy starter ever since. My favourite recipe is Pain de Campagne, a very simple overnight dough using just starter, flour (wholewheat and rye), water and salt, and it is made every week in my kitchen without fault.
My second favourite was this challah – a truly decadent dessert of a loaf which we learned the six strand braid on. One of the two braids I made was enjoyed by the river on my cycle home from the course – I simply couldn’t resist the smell and warmth emanating from my backpack. The other braid was just asking to be made into a bread and butter pudding.
I was surprised to find few Canadians knew what I meant when I told them of this Bread and Butter Pudding. Turns out it is a British dessert that caught on in NZ, like most British things. The pudding is generally a method for using up stale bread, however I found fresh bread to work just fine too. Traditionally it would be made with sandwich slices, full cream and served with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. I substituted challah, added chocolate and plums and did not have cream so figured milk and egg would make a fine custard – I was right. Enjoy!
Plum Challah Bread & Butter Pudding
one loaf of challah, torn into chunks (about 3 cups)
1 tbsp butter, melted
dash vanilla extract
1.5 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar/honey
dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
3 plums, sliced
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Beat together the eggs, butter, vanilla, milk and sugar/honey until smooth and custard-like. Add the torn challah and fold together until all the bread is moistened. Stir through the dark chocolate and plums and press into a cake tin or baking pan. Bake for around 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out (fairly) clean. Serve warm with yogurt or enjoy chilled.