If you are a fellow cheese-fan (and who isn’t?) then this is the recipe for you… a gorgeous, golden, puffy, fluffy Cheese Bread Pudding which has all the nose-in-the-air appearance of a fancypants cheese souffle but in reality is so easy to make that it feels very much like cheating. I used to avoid giving the recipe out because I found it so embarrassing to admit that no carefully constructed roux or delicate folding-in of fragile egg whites was involved… until I realised I was doing everyone a favour by providing an alternative to the nerve-wracking experience that is a dinner-party souffle. There is nothing more dismal than a souffle that doesn’t rise to the occasion, all because you looked at it funny; they are such finnicky oversensitive little things.
Anyway, the faux-souffle; the secret is to really beat the bejeezus out of the egg/milk mixture and not to open the oven while it’s building up it’s volume. It’s supposed to go particularly well with roast meat (like a Boozy Bird), but it’s so popular that I serve it with just about anything (my sister described it as “toast that Jesus touched” – I think she was a little overwhelmed by the whole experience).
Ring the changes with different cheeses, as long as there’s far too much of it you can’t go wrong. This faux-souffle is cheesier than a Pauly Shore movie (and if you don’t get this joke then I urge you to go out and find the movies Biodome, Son in Law and California Man and watch them with immediate effect).
For one large Savoury Cheesy Bread Pudding:
1 long stick of French bread, or 1.5 – 2 baguettes, of the stale crusty variety
Lots of butter, for spreading
200g cheese – I recommend a mix of a nice sharp Cheddar, Mozzarella and Parmesan as a start
Crushed garlic – about a tablespoon (optional)
3 large eggs
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
A bit more cheese, since you will have been nibbling off the initial 200g
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, then grease a suitable receptacle with butter – I use a large round glass dish, which won’t look horrible on the table once the pudding is done.
Then slice the bread into 1cm thick slices. Eat the pointy end bits with some of the butter – you are the one doing all the hard work here, you need to keep your energy levels up. Now for some unadulterated gluttony: butter the bread lavishly on both sides of each slice. If you are using the garlic, sprinkle a little on some of the slices.
Exercising huge restraint, grate the cheeses. Wear a bib if necessary.
Place a layer of buttery bread in the bottom of the dish, followed by a sprinkling of cheese. Continue layering (like a lasagna – but so much better) and end with a nice dense layer of cheesy goodness, and embellishments of your choice if preferred – I added finely chopped parsley, for some pizzazz.
Now, summoning Herculean strength, beat the eggs, milk and seasoning together until frothy and foamy, and your arm feels like the bones have been replaced with elastic bands. The best way to do it and save your arm is to put it into a bottle, seal tightly, then shake it like crazy, until you are exhausted by the effort. And just when you’re think you’re quite done, give it five more minutes.
Pour this aerated egginess over the assembled bread pudding, and allow it to sink in for just a few minutes. Then pop it into the oven (not too close to the top as it can rise very high and you don’t want it touching the element – unless you enjoy cleaning burnt remains off the inside of the oven) and watch magic happen – it will start to puff and puff some more and become a rich gold colour. It will be done after 45 minutes and should be served fairly quickly as it will deflate a little on cooling. Not that this will change the taste of course, but it is very impressive when it’s in all it’s souffle-y glory and you can expect some spontaneous applause at the table.
Normally I have my nose wedged into a book while eating but in this case, full attention must be paid, and sufficient quantities should be eaten to necessitate a nap shortly after consumption…
“A meal without some cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye”
– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, late 1700′s famous French philosopher, gourmand, and avid cheese lover