Every year my mom and two good friends plan a special Christmas feast for family and friends which they generously host and also cook for a large gathering of 30 to 40 people. This food themed festivity is always held in December before Christmas Day and every year has a different theme. For the last three years this culinary trio have decided to prepare a holiday feast centered around each of their heritages. One year was French, the next year Russian and this year was a Nordic-like Scandinavian theme.
The evening began with a Swedish holiday toast consisting of a ritual of rhubarb, sugar and Aquavit, a Swedish vodka. Each guest was given a peeled stalk of rhubarb which he or she then dipped in a small bowl of sugar, then took a bite of the rhubarb following it by a small swig of Aquavit from their crystal glass. Following this each guest cheerily shouted the Swedish word skål, which is much like Salud or Cheers and so the feast began. The rest of the meal was a smörgåsbord of dishing including wonderfully prepared Scandinavian traditional dishes such as Gravad Lax, salted and cured salmon, herring, and Glogg, a mulled red wine with cinnamon, sugar and cloves.
For dessert, Bread Pudding was served. I am still a little confused as to it’s Scandinavian origin. To my surprise when I looked up Bread Pudding on the internet I found it is a dessert that originates from 13th century England, and although British this particular recipe uses croissants for it’s bread ingredient thus placing it more squarely in France (perhaps because of my mom’s French ancestry she could not resist adding a French twist). The dessert, despite it’s seemingly confused origins, was absolutely delicious and several people have asked for the recipe. My mom invented her own variation of this very old dish and I am sharing it with all of you.
If you have any special holiday recipes you wish to share please feel free to comment below with your recipe. Wishing all of you a very happy New Year!
Apple Spiced Bread Pudding
3 extra large eggs
8 extra large egg yolks
5 cups half and half
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 croissants, preferable stale, sliced lengthwise (you can leave fresh ones out for a day or two to make them stale)
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup dried apples
1 cup granny smith apples, cored and cubed
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
Whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half and half, both sugars, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium size bowl. Set this mixture aside. Slice the croissants in half lengthwise. In a 10 by 15 by oval baking dish, place the bottom portions of the croissants in a circular pattern over the entire bottom of the dish with flat sides facing up. Then place the raisins, dried apples, and granny smith apples on top. Next place the top portions of the croissants over the apple mixture with the non-flat side of the croissants facing up, creating a pretty circular pattern. Pour the custard mixture over the croissants and allow them to soak for 10 minutes, pressing on them gently to really soak up the custard.
Place the baking dish in a larger dish. Pour 1 inch of hot water in in the larger dish surrounding the smaller dish with water. Cover the larger dish with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn’t touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 minutes longer or until the pudding is puffed up and the custard appears set. Once removed from oven let it cool slightly on a table top or baking rack.
Best when served warm but can be served at room temperature. Serve with Butter Rum sauce (recipe below).
Butter Rum Sauce
1 stick butter
1 pound box confectioners’ sugar
In a saucepan, melt the butter and gradually stir in the sugar. Add rum and heat until bubbly. Pour over each serving of Bread Pudding.