What else can you do with jars full of jam or jelly besides the inevitable toast or peanut butter and jelly sandwich? In summer, when our island garden has us swamped in strawberries or I have a bowl of raspberries threatening to molder quietly away, jam is one of two options; I can freeze the berries or make jam. After a point, I have all the frozen berries I think I will use; then I give into the jam-making urge. Then, of course, I have appealing little jars full to eat or give away. And so do other people, which sometimes means that even if I am generous, I risk ending up with more jam or jelly than I began with.
I certainly did not grow up with jam in bread pudding. I learned this recipe from Kerine Spence, a wonderful Jamaican cook who worked at the same bed-and-breakfast inn I worked at for a while. Kerine specialized in innovation with food and cooking equipment. Where a modern American cook would acquire a bunch of spe-cialized tools, she used a wine bottle for rolling pastry, pounding and crushing everything from nuts to garlic and lobster claws, and with a small paring knife, cut onions and celery into the finest dice I’ve ever seen.
To make her version of bread pudding, she took slices of slightly stale baguette, spread them with butter and raspberry or strawberry jam, laid them in a baking dish so that they overlapped, then poured the egg, milk and sugar mixture over the bread. It was pretty with the colorful jam and tasted wonderfully tart and sweet.
A baguette is really the right sort of bread to use because of the chewy texture and because it makes neat oval petals overlapping in the baking pan. Make sure that the sweetened egg and milk mixture covers the bread. If it doesn’t, add a little more milk.
This is good served hot with ice cream, or cold with a little cream dribbled over it.
Kerine’s Bread Pudding
Yields 6-8 servings
1 small baguette cut into ½-inch slices
½-¾ cup jam
3 cups milk
2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Grease 9×13 baking dish. Lightly butter and spread a bit of jam on each slice of bread. Lay them in the baking dish so they overlap slightly, and make one layer. Whisk together milk, eggs, sugar and cinnamon. Pour this over bread in the baking dish and allow it to sit for a half-hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pudding for a half-hour or until pudding is set. Serve with cream, whipped or dribbled, if you wish.