Along comes another British dessert where its origins are based on frugality.  The bread and butter pudding.  This crafty little pudding, popular not only in Britain but around the world, was apparently created back in medieval times as a way to use up old, stale bread.  Who knew that thriftiness could be so tasty?

In its simplest form, bread and butter pudding is made with plain white stale bread, raisins or currants, milk, egg and a sprinkling of nutmeg.  For something more decadent, you can substitute a rich, buttery brioche or croissant for the bread, some cream for the milk, and spike with alcohol for a more grown up version.

The traditional version of this dessert was a regular pudding in my household growing up.  And a favourite.

For my version to showcase as part of ‘British Desserts’ month, I wanted to give a nod to the flavours of another of my favourite British dessert, the Sticky Toffee Pudding.  So instead of using a store-bought bread, I baked up a version of my own sweet bread, injecting all the date and spice flavour typical of this popular pudding.  The final baked pudding was then served with a healthy dose of homemade butterscotch sauce.

The result?  The essence of the bread and butter pudding was importantly sustained, but the spice ladened bread, and the rich, buttery butterscotch sauce, certainly made for a slightly more self-indulgent pudding.  A perfect treat for the cooler Brisbane winter evenings.

{ Sticky toffee bread & butter pudding } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

Quick note  – do not confuse the humble bread and butter pudding with its heavier and richer cousin, the bread pudding.  Both are equally delicious, but they are different desserts.

* Ingredients *
6 slices of spiced date bread (recipe following)
Butter to spread
2 cups of milk
2 eggs

* Directions *
Butter the bread, and cut into slices.  Place buttered side up, in layers, into a greased overproof dish.  Warm the milk to almost boiling point.  Whisk the eggs and lightly pour the warmed milk onto them, stirring at the same time.  Strain the mixture over the bread.  Bake at 180C/350F for 30-40 minutes, or until set and lightly browned.  Serve with butterscotch sauce.

Serves 4

{ Butterscotch sauce } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

* Ingredients *
1 cup (220g) brown sugar
125g / 1 stick butter
1 cup (250ml) cream

* Directions *
Combine the sugar and butter into a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat.  Once butter has melted and the sugar starts to dissolve, stir in the cream.  Bring the sauce to almost boiling point, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes.  While simmering keep stirring to ensure a smooth consistency.  Serve warm.

{ Spiced date bread } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

This recipe takes around four hours from beginning to end.  You will need to plan accordingly but the taste will be worth the effort.

* Ingredients *
1 cup milk
¼ cup water (110F/45C)
3.5g / ½ package dried yeast
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon mixed spice
4½ to 5 cups of plain, all purpose flour
¼ cup / ½ stick of butter, melted
1 cup chopped, fresh dates
1 egg, lightly beaten

* Directions *
Warm the milk in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edge.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 110F/45C.  In the meantime, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.   Stir in the milk, sugar, salt, beaten eggs, spice and 1 cup of the flour.  Beat the mixture until smooth.  Add 2 more cups of flour and continue to beat.  Continue until the dough is glossy.  Add the melted butter and stir well.  Add a further 1½ cups of flour and continue to beat well.  Stir in the remaining ½ cup of flour bit by bit until the dough is stiff – you may not need to add it all.  Knead in the chopped dates.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.  Then knead the dough lightly until it is smooth and glossy.  Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, lightly spraying the top of the dough with oil to prevent drying.  Allow to double in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.  Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled, about 1 hour.  Turn out onto a floured surface.  You should have roughly have between 2.4-2.6lb / 1.1-1.2kg of dough in total.  Divide into three equal parts and shape to make three separate loaves, and place into lightly greased loaf tins.  Let rise for 20-30 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Brush each loaf lightly with egg and then bake for 20-30 minutes.