Ever since I was little my sister, my cousin Allison, my Aunt Susie, my Mom, my Grandmom and I have always gone out to tea during the holidays. There are pictures of me in fancy little dresses, from the age of about five to the present day. Except for now, I wear skirts. Every time we go, we exchange gifts and bask in the delicacy of tradition, as well as the beautiful detail put into the high tea experience. From the porcelain cups to the miniature cucumber sandwiches, to the feeling of being dainty, feminine, and bourgeois. But we don’t go to tea to keep up appearances. We go to keep up with cherished friendships and family bonds. There really is nothing like gathering around the circular table, ordering your own teapot or sharing it, and catching up over scones, sandwiches, and pastries. It’s the reason we started going, and it’s the reason we always go back.
To be clear, we do not always return to the same place. I’ve enjoyed tea at a variety of locations; many good, only a few not so much. One particular locale, however, has always been, and I believe always will be, the epitome of tea time perfection to me.
I was young, younger than seven, and I wore a white dress with black glittery polka dots. My socks had frills, and I wore black patent leathers. I didn’t really know what tea was, and I didn’t really know why we were going. I was mostly upset that my Mom tried to make me wear tights. I was clearly more of a socks girl.
We drove into a very fancy place, and someone pointed out Benjamin Franklin on top of a building. There were lights in the shape of snowflakes, and they hung on lamp posts, glittering amongst the evergreen and candy cane hues.
Once out of the car, we entered a gorgeous old-seeming building made of marble and other fancy things, like diamond chandeliers. The dark wooden table at which we were seated was topped with a thin film of glass, and I had to be very careful with my tea cup, into which I plopped one, two, three sugar cubes. Before the entrance way, several small gingerbread houses stood tall, taller than me, though they fit easily into the grand building. Laced with candy cane posts, brightly colored lights, and the most amazing glittery snow I’d ever seen, these gingerbread houses screamed, or rather sang gently to the tune of Jingle-Bells, Christmas cheer. Happiness. Presents. Love. I felt truly magical, running around in my fancy dress, and drinking fancy tea like Grandmom in this great big beautiful place.
The only edible item I can recall from that afternoon, other than the tea, was a dessert so magical, so delicious, that I couldn’t wait to have it again. It was the only food item I looked forward to when I learned we’d be going to tea for several years to come. And it never did come prepared so specially, or exactly in that same way. Though most most of the time, we went to different places, and it didn’t come at all.
This magical dish, this hazy reminder that causes hunger pangs in both stomach and memory, was a simple bread pudding from The Ritz Carlton-Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. It was creamy, it was warm, it was gooey and so very sweet. I wanted second helpings from the very first bite.
When I discovered the several-day-old kaiser rolls sitting on the kitchen counter, that decadent dessert popped instantly into memory, and I knew that I’d have to at least try to recreate the dish. I searched Google for the simplest recipe I could find, and settled on this recipe. It was simple, it required little preparation/effort, and it also stayed within the limitations of my pantry.
It was my first time making a bread pudding of my own, and with such simple ingredients, it was impossible to go wrong. I followed the recipe directly, and made only a few minor adjustments.
The ingredient are as follows:
2-3 cups of several-days-old, but not yet stale, bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut your bread into bite-size pieces, and place into a greased 8 x 8 inch square baking dish. (I did add a chopped nectarine to the bread at this point, but I wouldn’t recommend it; I only added it because it was turning over-ripe.)
3. Drizzle melted butter over bread. (I actually didn’t read this step and mixed the butter into the milk/egg mixture! It still turned out fine, but it the butter would have spread out more evenly if the cold milk and eggs hadn’t re-hardened the butter).
4. Beat eggs, and combine with milk…
Stir until thoroughly combined.
5. Pour mixture over bread and melted butter as evenly as possible. Press bread into liquid mixture, making sure that each piece of bread absorbs some of the liquid.
5. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool for 10.
Serve, and enjoy the sound of jingle bells ringing in your ears.