Crisp on the outside, silky and soft on the inside, loaded with dried fruit and fragrant with cinnamon: bread and butter pudding is a luscious end-to-a-meal pudding in truly English style. It's yet another thrifty way of using up leftover stale bread, but once you have tasted the result, you won't mind.
Bread and butter pudding is also a useful store cupboard standby. It is easily assembled and mostly looks after itself - a good option to have up your sleeve to feed unexpected guests.
As with many traditional English recipes, there are almost as many variations as there are cooks. But essentially, bread and butter pudding turns white bread, dried fruit, milk, eggs and sugar into a hard-to-resist winter dessert.
Currants and raisins are traditional, but grated mixed peel or even dried berries make a tasty addition. My version uses whole slices of white bread, but I've also seen it
with the bread torn into large chunks and even with slices of granary
bread, so try and see what you like best.
This is English pudding making at its most traditional. It requires no kitchen chemistry, no scrupulous weighing and measuring and the quantity of pudding you produce is only limited by the size of your baking dish!
That said, for four normal portions you'll need:
To feed four, first grease a large flat baking dish, about 1 - 1 1/2 inches deep. Then cut the bread into 8 medium to thick slices and spread with butter. Cut the slices into triangles, leaving the crusts on.
Arrange half the bread in the greased baking dish, then sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar and half the dried fruit on top. Cover with the second layer of bread and repeat with the sugar and fruit.
Next beat three whole eggs with about 300-350ml of milk or half milk, half cream. Pour the mixture over the bread and leave to soak for 10-20 minutes. (If you can't spare the time to soak the bread, it's not a disaster. The finished dish is still nice to eat, just not as silky.)
Bake in a preheated oven at Gas 4 (180°C / 350°F) for 20-30 minutes, until puffed up and golden.
Sprinkle with a little cinnamon or nutmeg and the last of the sugar.
For an extra crispy top, place briefly under a hot grill or broiler to melt the sugar. Or serve as it is with custard, pouring cream or vanilla ice cream.