If you are one of those people who need precise measurements and instructions - then please, look away now. If the recipe calls for ten plums and you only have eight, and this sends you into a panic, then this is not the post (nor indeed, the blog) for you. If the recipe says caster sugar and you only have the usual white stuff, and this makes you nervously rush out and buy the caster to be safe - or you find another recipe instead - then ... oh dear.
I can't do away with recipes entirely, but I've become a bit of a freewheeler (I get this from my mother). I 'adapt' a recipe because I have natural yoghurt in my fridge, not milk, or because I think one tablespoon of vanilla will set my teeth on edge for a week, so I knock it back to one teaspoon (and wonder if it was a typo).
I've heard about people who are too scared to tweak a recipe in these ways - and really, they are merely tweaks - and I'm sure it comes down to a lack of experience in the kitchen, and knowledge about ingredients and what substitutions can easily be made. Or a lack of confidence in their skills, which is surely linked to experience. Get a few years of regular baking under your belt and you'll learn how recipes and ingredients can work for you.
I'm convinced too that eating (and your attitude to food and eating) is tied up in all this. Enjoying eating and knowing and trusting your own tastebuds translate into the confidence to have a bit of a play with things once you're cooking yourself. What do you think?
So this recipe started by flipping through a library book and spying a bread and butter pudding made with, yes, bread, and dried apricots. Pah - why dried when I had a stash of apricots I'd roasted, all meltingly rich and soft? Why bread when I had a softly spiced panettone in the freezer, sliced and eager for such an occasion? I borrowed the book for the ideas alone.
The custard I also played with. Why two cups of milk and only half a cup of cream? Let's tip the ratio the other way and make it richer. But seriously - one tablespoon of vanilla? That stopped me in my tracks and seemed oh-so-excessive (and you may know by now I'm usually generous with my measurements). So I looked at my recipes for other similar puddings and altered what I did.
And instead of one large baking dish, I made two smaller ones - simply because I'd bought this gorgeous red one at the Habitat sale and was excited (yes) to try it.
So here goes, writing a recipe for you when so much of it was done by seeing what I could fit into the dish and making things up as I went along!
Roast apricot panettone pudding
Idea from the vanilla and apricot bread and putter pudding cake in Julie Le Clerc's 'Simple cafe food'. This pudding is for my friend M, who loves a Habitat sale as much as I do.
- About the fruit: I used a regular takeaway container of roasted apricots (halved, sprinkled with a little brown sugar, and cooked in a 180 oven til soft and cooked through; at least half an hour). I think this pudding would work well with fresh apricots so ripe they're almost jam. I'm sorry I can't be more precise about quantities, but I just stuffed as much of the fruit in as I could.
- About the bread: I used almost a whole 500 gram panettone that I'd sliced thickly (frozen and thawed out). Again, I put as much of it in the bakign dishes as I could. Use any bread, especially something sweeter like a brioche or even croissants.
- Grease a large baking dish, or two smaller ones as I did.
- Pop the bread slices in, standing sort of upright. Stuff your fruit in between each slice.
- Now make the custard: in a large bowl, whisk together 5 eggs, 1 cup cream, 1 and 1/2 cups milk (need I say it? Full fat), 1/2 cup sherry, 1 tspn vanilla and 1/4 cup sugar.
- Ladle this over your bread and leave for about half an hour, so the bread can soak some of it up. Feel free to play with your food at this point, prodding down the bread or spooning the custard and dribbling it over again, all to help the soaking process.
- Towards the end of this soaking time, preheat your oven to 180. Baking time will depend on the time of your dish, but mine took around 1 and 1/2 hours for the custard to set but remain squidgy (an admirable quality in such a pudding). I would advise checking every half hour, and covering with foil if it looks like the top may burn.
- Serve warm and soft, or fridge cold and a little firmer (but just as nice).