Back home from a whirlwind trip to Venice with a new set of Covid-19 regulations that means it’s time for a lot of baking (and staying at home).
This is a savory bread pudding cake, which as far as I can tell isn’t really a thing but it is the best way I can describe it. Basically it is an excellent way to use up leftovers — stale bread, milk and eggs make the body of the cake, then add whatever you have in the fridge, leftover bits of cheese, some pancetta, that sort of thing. The bread part of the this savoury cake is based on the bread and apple cake that I wrote for the Financial Times during lockdown, I often make it when I have loads of stale bread lying around that I can’t bear to throw away (like all that sourdough we made during lockdown!), plus sugar, a couple of apples and a swirl of jam, but this savoury version has prunes, roast pumpkin, walnuts and caprino, a creamy, mild goat’s cheese.
It is inspired by a wonderful savoury cake by Rachel Khoo that a friend once baked me years ago that I can still taste when I close my eyes, it had prunes, goat cheese and pistachios in it and she describes it as perfect for a picnic. I added the roast pumpkin as a last minute thought as I had just bought a beautiful Mantova pumpkin (quite similar in terms of flavour and texture to Japanese kabocha pumpkins which remind me of eating boiled chestnuts) that are now in season.
Thick slices toasted with a blob of salted butter this morning for breakfast were heavenly. It’s like a sweet-savoury French toast. Because the caprino is so mild but tangy and the other ingredients are sweet, you could easily take this to the sweet side topped with some honey and butter, or give it a more savoury edge with layers of prosciutto or crispy pancetta, which would make a delicious lunch next to a salad of bitter radicchio. If you prefer it cheesier (a bit like these cheesy stale bread ‘tortine’) and decidedly more savoury, add a handful of Parmesan or a good melty cheese to the mixture before baking. It really is a blank canvas for whatever flavour combinations (or things hanging about in the fridge) that you happen to have.
Savoury bread pudding loaf with prunes, caprino and pumpkin
400 grams of stale country style bread or sourdough (about half a large loaf)
500-700 ml of warm milk
120 grams of pumpkin, diced (Kabocha, Mantovana or butternut squash are great)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
70 grams of melted butter
200 grams caprino (soft goat’s curd)
1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
Generous pinch of salt
100 grams of dried prunes, chopped roughly
70 grams walnut pieces
Roughly cut the bread into thick cubes and place in a bowl. Pour over warm milk (if you are using rock hard bread you may need up to 700 ml) and let sit until the bread is soft enough to crumble by hand (about 15 minutes or leave it overnight in the fridge if needed). If you have very hard crusts that don’t break down these may need to be cut off and discarded. You can also blend the bread mixture with an immersion blender or food processor, if you have it, but I usually crumble it by hand.
Cook the pumpkin in a small skillet in the olive oil over medium heat until well roasted around the edges and tender. Set aside to cool.
Heat the oven to 180 C.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, butter and goats cheese with a fork until roughly combined, and then evenly stir through the soft bread mixture along with the baking powder and salt.
Add the walnuts, prunes and the pumpkin and stir through the distribute evenly.
Pour into a greased and lined large loaf tin and bake for about 45 minutes or until the top of the cake is golden brown and springy to the touch. Delicious warm right out of the oven, but perhaps my favourite way is over the next day or two, cut into thick slices and toasted on a pan until browned then topped with very good butter. Keep leftovers of this cake wrapped well and store in the fridge.