Take bred; frye hit in grece or yn oyle.
Put hit in rede wyne & gryne hit with reysons, & draw hit.
Claryfye honye with gleyr of eyron & watyr; scome hit clene & put hit to that othir.
Do therto clovys, macez, & gynger mynced & good poudyr & salt.
Loke hit be stondyng, & floresch hit with annise in confite.
from An Ordinance of Pottage, fifteenth century culinary recipes
Even though I am not generally a big dessert person, I do have a soft spot in my heart for bread pudding, in particular Creole bread pudding souffle with whiskey sauce. After all, that's what Poppa Trix and I had for our first anniversary lunch at Commander's Palace in New Orleans this past June, a dish he subsequently recreated (sans the souffle part) for my birthday. So when I came across this fifteenth-century recipe for medieval bread pudding - payne foundow - I was naturally curious to try it.
Not surprisingly, medieval bread pudding is rather different from its Southern descendant. Where the Creole variety tastes of heat and summer and warm breezes and vanilla, its ancient counterpart is scented with the spices of winter - cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon - sweetened with honey, and soaked in red wine. To me it tastes like winter and fireplaces and the Nutcracker. (I know I'm mixing historical time periods with that Nutcracker reference, but tell it to my tastebuds.) In other words, this is the perfect holiday dessert.
The origins of bread pudding can be traced back to the 13th century. Also called "poor man's pudding," the dish was basically a way to repurpose stale bread and make it palatable. Hmm, broke as I am, it's no wonder I feel such an affinity for this dish.
The recipe is taken from fifteenth-century culinary manuscript An Ordinance of Pottage; I consulted Gode Cookery's translation for my version. I changed very little except to halve the recipe - and it would still serve 4-6 people, in my opinion - and I used currants instead of raisins, since I had so many left over from Day 9's Ember Day Tart.
1/2 loaf stale whole wheat bread, torn into bits
1/4 cup butter
2 egg whites, beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/8 cup water
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup currants
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp powder douce
1/8-1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped into small pieces
Saute the bread crumbs in the butter until crispy and golden. Set aside. In a separate pan, bring the honey, water, and egg whites just to a boil, skimming any scum off of the surface. Add the honey mixture, along with all of the other ingredients EXCEPT the candied ginger, to the fried bread, and mix well. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until smooth, and the mixture is "stondyng," or stiff. Basically you want it to be able to hold its shape. If it's too soft, add more breadcrumbs, but if it's too stiff, add more liquid. Stir in the ginger last. You can eat it at room temperature or even cold, but I think it's better baked and hot out of the oven. If you'd like it this way, transfer to a ramekin or other similar dish and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the pudding gets brown and a little crispy on top.
Honestly, it's so rich that each little cup could easily serve 3 or 4 of all but the very piggiest of dessert lovers.
Enjoy your payne foundow, and I'll see you tomorrow for Day 12. I can't believe that tomorrow is the last day in the 12 Days of Feasting!