Dolce Firenze & Pride and Pudding Cookbook

A wonderful thing arrived on my doorstep the day before flying back to Italy: an advance copy of Regula Ysewijn’s Pride and Pudding (Murdoch books). A beautifully designed book devoted to the history of British puddings, both savoury and sweet, it’s been a labour of love for Regula aka Miss Foodwise (who not only wrote it but also did all the design, styling and the photography) and her husband Bruno Vergauwen (who did the absolutely stunning illustrations throughout). It is out officially this week on April 6, 2016.

Pride and Pudding cookbookPride and Pudding & Artusi

Looking through the book, there’s no doubt about Regula’s talent: she has made puddings of all manners and epochs incredibly good looking with her wonderfully moody photographs full of exquisite vintage props and books. Even haggis looks handsome when seen through Regula’s eyes. I think one of the things that is so wonderful about this visual history of puddings is to see so many photographs of dishes that we may only know about through written recipes that don’t have accompanying images.

Flipping through the book, I couldn’t help but get excited about my own favourite historical Italian cookbooks (namely, Pellegrino Artusi and his 1891 Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well), and see those parallels between historic British and Italian cuisine.

Take, for example, zuppa inglese, a classic central-Italian dessert that Elizabeth David calls “a trifle much glorified”. The similarity to British trifle is so startling that its name, “English soup”, comes as no surprise. Nevertheless, its origins are well-debated and the Italian regions that claim it as their own are many – I’m with the Italians who believe fervently that it is a national dish that dates back centuries, simply named in honour of the English.

Artusi's Dolce Firenze

Artusi’s cookbook, which is considered the “Bible” of classic Italian cuisine, is actually peppered with British recipes (notably named “all’inglese“, or in the English style), from pastine pel the (tea cookies) given to him by an Englishwoman called Mrs Wood, and other dessert preparations like ribes all’inglese (English style blackcurrants), mele all’inglese (‘English style apples’, a sort of apple pie) and of course ‘plum cake‘ (Italians still use this name to refer to pound cake) and quattro-quarti all’inglese, which is an actual pound cake, studded with currants.

It’s no surprise that a book of historical British recipes and a cookbook written in late nineteenth century Florence (where Artusi lived most of his life and where he wrote his cookbook) has some crossover – during the second half of the 1800s foreigners made up a third of Florence’s population and most of these were British expatriates. Artusi and Regula both share recipes for Toad in the Hole/lesso rifatto all’inglese, Apple Charlotte/ciarlotta di mele, semolina pudding/budino di semolino and amaretti-filled puddings (Artusi’s is covered in zabaione) too.

But there’s another recipe of Artusi’s that I have always found intriguing. It’s called Dolce Firenze, or sweet Florence. And it is a bread and butter pudding.

I knew at soon as I flipped through Regula’s book that I wanted to make the bread and butter pudding. It’s simple and homely, instantly comforting and always satisfying. It’s quick to whip up and cheap to make, too, so in my book it’s always a winner.

I picked up Artusi’s book, all tattered and pages brittle with age, and flipped it open to the page with the recipe for Dolce Firenze. Having come across this dish in Florence without a name to it, he ventured to name it after the beautiful and antique city where he first tasted it (he also has a Dolce Roma and a Dolce Torino). Although it won’t honour the “illustrious city”, he says, the humble dessert can excuse itself because it’s a good “family dish” (which is a way of describing what we might call “comfort food” in English) that will satisfy sweet-tooths for relatively little cost. Like I said, a winner.

Bread and butter pudding or "Dolce Firenze"

Artui’s name for this dessert never caught on – and neither did the dish, actually, as it’s still unknown and unheard of in Florence (surprisingly for a city whose cuisine is so very good at using leftover bread). When I made this and offered it to my Tuscan mother in law to try, she was immediately enamoured of the comforting simplicity of this delightful “new” dish and wanted the recipe, asking me to translate it for her from Regula’s book. I smiled and told her, don’t worry, it’s in Artusi!

Dolce Firenze bread and butter pudding

Artusi’s “Dolce Firenze” (or bread and butter pudding)

Like Regula mentions in her recipe, bread and butter pudding recipes are aplenty in vintage books and they are all very similar. Artusi’s Dolce Firenze is no exception. Artusi calls for toasted “pane sopraffino”, a soft, white bread that would have been similar to an old fashioned French pain mollet, while Regula likes to use stale hot cross buns. In a similar manner, I think this would also be good for using up left over colomba (the Easter cousin of Christmas panettone). Regula’s recipe uses currants instead of sultanas (which I prefer too) and includes soaking the currants in water or rum overnight (a good idea to avoid them burning, though I only soaked them 10 minutes prior to baking). Artusi only calls for milk but Regula also uses a small portion of double cream. Regula calls for mace rather than lemon zest and she uses a lot less sugar – just a couple tablespoons. I used half the amount of sugar that Artusi calls for below and found it was sufficient. But I absolutely love the use of lemon zest in this pudding.

  • 60 grams of soft, white bread (about 3 slices)
  • butter, as needed
  • 40 grams of sultanas
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 grams of sugar
  • 500 ml milk

Slice the bread into thin slices, toast lightly, then butter both sides and place in a round, heatproof dish decent enough to present on the table. Over the top of the bread, drop the sultanas and sprinkle the lemon zest. Beat the eggs well in a bowl with the sugar, then add the milk. Pour carefully over the top of the bread without touching the slices. Place the dish in the oven (Artusi’s instructions are for a woodfired cooking range; I baked mine at 180C) and bake until the bread slices begin to turn golden brown and the custard is set and pleasantly wobbly. Enjoy warm.

Pride and Pudding cookbook

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Comments

9 Responses to “Dolce Firenze & Pride and Pudding Cookbook”
  1. What a wonderful post, and I enjoyed all the Artusi dotted through. It is so very intriguing to see so many similarities between Italian and English food, but not surprising as well. Thank you so much x

  2. Carmen Pricone says:

    Lovely book review Emiko. It prompts me to turn to those pages in Artusi’s book and give pudding a go. Yours looks delicious and very comforting on a cold Melbourne day like today. I will check out this book too. Thanks x

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Thank you Carmen! Artusi’s and Regula’s books are both full of lots of treasures, this would absolutely suit a cold Melbourne day! So wonderful when freshly warm out of the oven!

  3. I might give it a try next week and see how it goes.

  4. Rosemarie says:

    What a wonderful discovery you made with Dolce Firenze Emiko! I love English puddings and have a particular soft spot for Bread and Butter Pudding. What a nice surprise to find that our friend Artusi has a recipe for it! I’m intrigued by this Dolce Torino too for obvious reasons…

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Ha I thought you might like Dolce Torino. I was very tempted to make that too, actually. I’ve always had my eye on Artusi’s Dolce Firenze and this was the perfect opportunity to try it out! A true bread and butter pudding if I ever did see one!

  5. Mike Thomas says:

    Always really enjoy your posts but….. Italians inventing trifle! Next, the French will be telling us they invented crème brulee (earliest known recipe for ‘burnt cream’ is to be found in Cambridge, not France). I love Italian food and think their cuisine superior in many many ways (the same goes for the French) but the British are, and always have bean, good at puddings. To misquote Matthew Fort – a food expert, especially Italian food – the British contribution to the world of food is their glorious puddings. Or something like that anyway – you get the gist. There does seems some reluctance amongst our European cousins to admit that we, the British, may have something over them food wise. I do hope the book includes bread pudding, which, in my opinion, is better than bread and butter pudding. Bread pudding, as my nan made it: dark, sweet, spicy, gelatinous, a real treat, yet thrifty in a way that bread and butter, with it’s cream and butter, isn’t.

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