And so on and so forth. Before we are forgotten, we will be turned into kitsch. Kitsch is the stopover between being and oblivion.~ Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
I don't often venture into the world of kitsch, but today I feel like something kitschy. Yes, I'm not always the classy babe you think I am.... guess that's what makes me interesting. Sorry, more interesting. It's July and I was surfing around the blogosphere to see who else had made bread pudding, traditionally a cold weather or winter dessert. There were exactly two blogs that posted up bread pudding recipes this month. I guess people are too busy chasing summer to bother firing up their ovens, and I just don't know what those people in the southern hemisphere (below me) are doing. Maybe their winter isn't cold enough to merit making a bread pudding. Who knows?
As for the weather here, it's July all year round. Or December, depending on your locale. In other words, we have one season - hot - and only two types of weather, dry and wet. So if I wait for the air to get cold to make a bread pudding, I'll probably wait forever. And forever is simply too long because I wanted to include a recipe in Mission: Food's Bread Pudding of the Month Club event, hosted by the ever charming Ms. Victoria.
So anyway, back to kitsch. In the midst of brainstorming possible bread pudding flavors, my eyes happened to rest upon a bag of popcorn kernels sitting on the kitchen counter. Having a constant stream of people in and out of the house all the time, we need staples like popcorn to keep them happy. And plenty of fruit too, but somehow they seem to reach out for the popcorn bowl far more than the fruit bowl. I needed to create another 'happy' dish for these discerning foodies, and it suddenly occured to me what that would be. Popcorn Bread Pudding. Flavored with popcorn milk, topped with more fresh, buttered popcorn and drizzled with salted butter caramel sauce. Won't something like this make you happy?
I don't want to write too much today as there's a bug in my throat that's causing me to feel a bit feverish. The 6 homemade ice cream tubs in the freezer may also have something to do with it. It's ironic that the temple I have for a body does not take well to frozen treats (darn it). I may have to give my ice cream maker (and nervous system) a rest these next few days while I ninja-kick these germs out of my system. Ice cream days will be back next week, I promise!
Salted butter caramel sauce à la David Lebovitz
I think this amazing video goes perfectly with my kitschy recipe today. It's Her Morning Elegance by Oren Lavie and it's the most successful stop motion video ever made. When I first saw it, I replayed it over and over (I still do sometimes), just to take in all the details. It has become a pop-art phenomena and if you haven't seen it, you simply must. The video was created from 2096 still photographs that were shot and sequenced to create the sense of movement. As I said, amazing.
Popcorn Bread Pudding with Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
Makes: 2 quarts (8 cups)
3 tablespoons butter, clarified butter or oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 teaspoon salt
1. Heat the clarified butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 or 4 popcorn kernels and cover the pan.
2. When the kernels pop, add the 1/3 cup of kernels in an even layer, then add the salt. Give it a good shake to coat the popcorn kernels in the butter/oil and to distribute the salt. Cover the pan again, but leave the lid slightly ajar to allow the steam to escape.
3. When the popcorn begins popping pretty constantly, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner keeping the lid slightly ajar, if at all possible, to let the steam from the popcorn escape. Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, immediately remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn into a wide bowl. Use this amount to make Popcorn Bread Pudding below.
Popcorn Bread Pudding
3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 quarts (8 cups) prepared buttered popcorn
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 slices day-old bread, chopped into cubes
Salted butter caramel sauce (recipe below)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
2. Heat the milk, cream, popcorn and sugar in a saucepan until just below the boiling point and starts to bubble. Remove and let steep for 30 minutes for the popcorn to infuse its flavor into in the milk. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down on the soaked popcorn to extract the remaining milk. Discard the popcorn. Whisk the vanilla and eggs into the cooled milk.
3. Butter four heatproof ramekins, and line the bottoms with foil. Divide the bread cubes into 4 portions and arrange in the ramekins. Pour equal amounts of the popcorn milk into the ramekins, let stand for about 15 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the milk.
4. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the tops are crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before turning out.
Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
(Adapted from David Lebovitz's Living The Sweet Life in Paris)
1 cup sugar
1 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon salted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1. Spread the sugar in an even layer in a large saucepan. Set over moderate heat and cook without stirring, until the sugar near the edge just starts to liquefy.
2. Using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, begin gently stirring, encouraging the melted sugar around the edges toward the center and delicately stirring up any sugar melting on the bottom as well. The sugar will start to look pebbly as it cooks, but keep going; it will melt completely as it turns amber.
3. Continue to cook until the sugar turns deep brown and starts to smoke. (Don't worry about any large chunks of caramel.) The darker you can cook the sugar without burning it, the better the final sauce will taste. It's ready when it's the colour of an old penny and smell a bit smoky.
3. Remove from heat and quickly stir in about a quarter of the cream. The mixture will bubble up furiously, so you may wish to wear an oven mitt over your stirring hand. Continued to whisk in the cream, stirring as you go to make sure it's smooth.
4.Stir in the butter and salt. Serve warm. If you like your sauce a bit thinner or less rich, add 1/4 cup water.
Storage: The sauce can be made up to one month in advance and kept refrigerated. Rewarm the caramel in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave.