Have Quince? Make This! (Apples and/or Pears would also work)

A bunch of leftover-sliced baguette, a bit of ricotta and a bowl of quince turned into this magic yesterday. The idea for this cook-with-what-you-have Ofenschlupfer (say that five-times in a row, quickly:) came to me as I was biking home from a bi-monthly breakfast I cook, with said leftover baguette in tow. Ofenschlupfer is a German variation of bread pudding and I grew up eating it in the fall made with apples. But quince! Quince, with all their tart, fragrant, wonder take this to another level. I just had a bowl of it for lunch. I could not help myself!

I tossed this together without referencing any Ofenschlupfer recipes but the basic combination of egg, milk, sugar, spices, bread, and fruit is pretty forgiving and you could just as easily dice stale bread instead of keeping the slices whole, substitute apples and or pears (bosc or other variety that will holds its shape when cooked) and change up the spices. But do be on the look-out for quince!

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Quince Ricotta Ofenschlupfer (Bread Pudding)

 

For the quince:

4 medium quince, cored and peeled and cut into chunks (quince are very hard and this takes a bit of doing but it’s worth it, I promise)

2 strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler)

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

 

For the custard:

3 large eggs

1 cup (whole) milk

2/3 cup ricotta (that’s what I had leftover–you could add up to 1 cup for a slightly richer version)

Zest of half a lemon (or whatever you didn’t use for the quince), finely grated

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Couple pinches salt

 

8 ounces sliced bread/baguette (nothing too whole wheat or dense here)

Butter to grease the pan

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons turbinado (or regular granulated) sugar

 

Preheat oven to 350

 

Put the quince, strips of lemon peel, 1/3 cup sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook gently, covered, for about 7-10 minutes until the quince are just tender but still holding their shape. The time may vary a bit depending on your quince but check often since some turn to mush quickly.

 

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs with the milk, ricotta, grated lemon zest, spices, sugar and salt.

 

Generously butter an 8 x 13 or comparable baking dish. Put a single layer of bread in the dish. Pour half the custard over the bread and top it with half the quince. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with quince and drizzle any liquid from the quince over the top. Gently press down on the whole thing to make sure the bread is soaked. Dot top with butter and sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 30-40 minutes, but check a bit earlier, until the custard is almost set. Remove foil and bake until set, finishing under the broiler for a little more browning. Serve hot or warm for dessert or breakfast, lunch or dinner!

 

 

Olympics, McDonald’s, Michelle Obama, and Savory Bread Pudding

The beginnings of Savory Bread Pudding -- the addition of some Winter Greens pesto makes this dish even better.

I love watching the Olympics, that is, I love the actual races, performances, personal stories and all the emotion and physical rigor and determination that culminates in these two weeks. I tend to go on longer runs myself during the games. I stay up too late watching just one more qualifying speed skating race, and I read the sports section every morning.

I do not like the staggering number of commercials (actually it’s not a staggering number, it’s the staggering frequency with which the same dozen are broadcast). And I particularly dislike the McDonald’s commercials that say things like, “Eat like an Olympian!” and have smiling, sporty children running around their swanky apartments with little red happy-meal boxes! I’m sure some Olympians do eat fast food but I would imagine that the majority of them do not.

My three-year-old has been watching the coverage with us sometimes and so he is seeing these commercials for the first time which brings me, somewhat indirectly to Michelle Obama’s recent unveiling of her fight to end childhood obesity. She has an ambitious plan and the President has pledged 1 billion dollars to get better food into schools and fund other areas of access and education that really could make a difference. These issues are close to my heart and the work I and many others have been doing through Slow Food for years and through our current Time for Lunch campaign. I am excited to see more national attention paid to this issue that affects all of us in one way or another. And this brings me back to my very own kitchen and the daily routine of cooking dinner.

I’m not surprised that parents take their children to McDonald’s. It’s cheap (in some ways), and it’s there, everywhere, in fact and children devour it. My son turns his nose up at the food I prepare all the time and I know he would devour french fries and hamburgers every night if the opportunity arose. But when he exclaims (after some perseverance on the parents’ part) “I DO like beans!” with a big smile on his face I am reminded of what constant exposure to vegetables and fruits and home-cooked food does for children, and parents. I could write a book on this but to wrap up this post and get to my final point, let’s briefly talk about a dish my son needs no encouragement to devour. Savory bread pudding! It is the answer to my 5:30pm-what’s-for-dinner? prayer when I have two hungry “men” circling the kitchen. The stale half-loaf of bread in the fridge, the carrot and onion, the remainders of a bunch of cilantro and a few cups of milk and maybe a handful of grated cheese. These humble and almost ever-present ingredients turn into a moist, savory dinner in no-time and no-one needs convincing to clean their plate!

Oh and if you want to take a cooking class on other kid-friendly meals, check out my Sunday, Feb. 28th class!

Savory Bread Pudding

Bread soaking in the custard of eggs and milk

You can use almost any vegetable you have on hand and you can add bacon or sausage if you like as well. You can make it drier with more bread or more custardy with more milk and/or eggs.The point is don’t feel you have to follow the below quantities and just use the technique to use up whatever you have or use your favorite veggies/herbs.

Serves 4-6.

5 eggs

3 cups milk

5-6 large slices bread, cubed (or varies ends for a total of about 5-6 cups of cubed bread)

½ an onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

couple of sprigs of parsley, chopped

grated cheese (cheddar, or parmesan or crumbled feta or goat cheese) (optional)

salt and pepper

I had leftover chard stems (from making Winter Greens pesto) and chopped those up with the onion and carrot to saute and add to the custard.

Preheat oven to 375 (or 400 if you’re in a hurry). Cube the bread. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and milk. Salt and pepper generously. Heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan, add onions and carrots and sauté for a about 10 minutes until golden and the carrots are cooked through—the finer you chop the carrots the faster that will be! Chop the parsley and add parsley and veggies to bread mixture. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish, top with grated or crumbled cheese, if using and bake for about 30 minutes, or until set and slightly browned on top. Again if you’re in a hurry turn on the broiler for the last few minutes to get the cheese and top nice and crusty.

P.S. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of the pudding right out of the oven. We must have  been in such a hurry to eat it that I forgot to take a picture. It was nice and golden-brown and bubbly!