The joys of baking... during a Covid-19 lockdown

Many people under lockdown in countries across the globe are turning to baking their own bread. — Pictures by Kenny Mah
Many people under lockdown in countries across the globe are turning to baking their own bread. — Pictures by Kenny Mah

AUCKLAND, April 4 — Reading stories about panic buying during the current Covid-19 pandemic fills one with dread.

Reading stories about panic buyers wasting the precious food stores they’ve been hoarding fills one with disgust.

And so it was earlier this week when I read about how unopened loaves of Gardenia bread were discovered in a rubbish pile. [https://www.malaymail.com/news/life/2020/04/01/photos-of-unopened-gardenia-loaves-in-rubbish-pile-spark-online-outrage-aga/1852433]

Those photos also filled me with alarm: I wouldn’t want to be squandering these scarce resources myself.

If I’m going to be buying bread and unable to finish it, I best find ways of using the stale bread.

Throw away mouldy bread, yes. There’s no saving that aside from composting. But stale bread isn’t bad; it’s just not fresh.

Nothing quite like homemade bread with the spread of your choice to ward off the isolation blues.
Nothing quite like homemade bread with the spread of your choice to ward off the isolation blues.

As it is, many people under lockdown in countries across the globe are already turning to baking their own bread. Hashtags such as #BakeCorona, #breadmaking and #quarantinebaking are trending on social media.

There’s nothing quite like homemade bread with the spread of your choice to ward off the isolation blues.

But, again: Don’t waste stale bread! They can be frozen and repurposed for your next delicious meal.

Tossed in oil and garlic, they make exciting croutons for a salad or some congee.

Soaked in water then squeezed dry, stale bread can be transformed into panzanella, a Tuscan salad — just add red onions and tomatoes, and dress with olive oil and vinegar.

And oh, is there anything more English than good old-fashioned bread and butter pudding? It’s also the ultimate comfort food, something we appreciate as we spend more time at home than we ever did before.

BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING

One of the best things about bread and butter pudding is how it uses up day-old bread.

Fresh bread would soak up the milk and cream too quickly and turn everything into a soggy mess.

Not only is this very economical during difficult times, making use of everything we have in our pantry is the right thing to do.

Don’t waste stale bread! They can be frozen and repurposed for your next delicious meal.
Don’t waste stale bread! They can be frozen and repurposed for your next delicious meal.

Any leftover bread would work: from white bread to croissants. Sourdough chunks hard enough to double as bricks? Use them here!

Do make sure the butter is at room temperature before you intend to begin. Otherwise, if taken directly from the fridge, you’d be waiting a fair bit before the butter is spreadable. (Though time is what we all have right now, so yes.)

Traditionally sultanas or raisins are used, but chocolate chips are what we had in the pantry and they’re a welcome touch of decadence to this homey dish.

Don’t have fresh milk and cream at home? Maybe experiment with canned evaporated milk or santan? I haven’t tried that but now is as good a time to be playful in the kitchen as any.

Ingredients
4-6 slices leftover bread, cut into cubes
50g butter
50g chocolate chips
Ground nutmeg, for sprinkling
Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling
300ml milk
100ml cream
2 whole eggs
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bread and butter pudding, with an extra dollop of chocolate peanut butter.
Bread and butter pudding, with an extra dollop of chocolate peanut butter.

Method
Spread one side of your leftover bread slices with butter, reserving some to grease the dish later.

Cut the buttered slices into bite-sized cubes or chunks. (This isn’t traditional, I know but I find it creates more crusty bits than the triangular half-slices method. And who’d refuse more crusty bits right now?)

Grease a 1 litre oven-proof rectangular dish with the remaining butter.

Arrange a layer of the buttered bread cubes enough to cover the base of the dish, followed by a loose layer of chocolate chips.

Dust this bread-and-chocolate layer lightly with nutmeg and cinnamon. Keep going with this style of layering until you have used up all of the bread. Set aside.

Add the milk and cream to a saucepan. Gently warm over low heat, but do not let it boil. Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and the vanilla extract and whisk lightly till pale and airy.

Pour the warm milk-cream mixture over the eggs, making sure to whisk continuously until everything is incorporated.

Next pour this custard mixture evenly over the bread layers until it’s all used up. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sugar and more nutmeg and cinnamon, if desired. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180C.

After 30 minutes, place the pudding dish into the oven. Bake for 30–40 minutes, or until the top of the custard is golden brown.

Serve warm, ladling as much as desired into your plate. A scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side would be divine. (I didn’t have any on hand but a dollop of chocolate peanut butter did wonders!)

For more Weekend Kitchen stories and recipes, visit http://devilstales.com

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