While in university studying “communications”, a wonderful degree for people who weren’t sure if they wanted to study philosophy, art, psychology, or business, a degree that promised reasonable marks for just showing up, I constantly worried over my country’s cultural existence.
A good part of my cultural exposure during my formative years were veiled by the elephant in the bed (the United States), if not because most of the products and entertainment was American, but by what the Americans had that Canadians didn’t weighed heavily on us, hence the excitement for a good exchange rate and a race across the border to buy groceries.
Growing up with regular trips to Kelsey’s and Harvey’s (albeit a Canadian hamburg chain) left me feeling like Canada was without a national anything aside from a flag that was difficult to recreate freehand, politeness, and Nanaimo bars. Uni profs were faced with multiple ranting essays about how the best way to define Canadianism would be a list of things we are not.
And though I work in a fusion restaurant, I am still in Canada and occasionally am faced with the urge to produce something that feels like Canada in your mouth. And aside from sprinkling butter tarts on everything, the only way I can do this is with maple syrup.
Considering Quebec is the main producer of maple syrup, and I’ve recently started replacing butter with duck fat (our confit duck main leaves us with a good deal of beautiful, underused fat) in many recipes. The first was madeleines. In London we made mads with olive oil instead of butter, which left them with a more tender crumb that held up over service, whereas butter mads must be eaten as soon as they are cool enough to not scald the tongue. Since I love substitution experiments, I finally decided to try duck fat. I glazed them in brandy as soon as the came out of the oven. They were delicious.
Since then I’ve been serving duck fat and orange financiers on the occasion when I don’t have the time/energy/creativity/patience for macarons, and a lack of brandy had me turn to Calvados for the glaze. This was a most excellent discovery.
The weather has made this week a dull one, and I couldn’t stop staring with some despair at the mounting pile of beautiful baguettes leftover from evening services. Every time this happens I have a fleeting thoughts of “bread” and “pudding” but it tends to be a nicer thought than practice so instead I force loafs into hands as staff shuffle out for the night.
This time, I thought, “fuck it”, so I made an apple, cheddar, and duck fat bread pudding sweetened with maple syrup.
I’ll note I consider this to be somewhat of French Canadian influence because it was common in Quebec for less affluent families to use rendered fats (drippings saved from cooking) in place of expensive butter on toast. The point of this dish is to keep costs low and use up leftovers, so old bread and duck fat are ideal for this exercise.
Apple & Duck Fat Bread Pudding
150ml Maple Syrup
70g Brown Sugar
125g Browned Butter
75g Clarified Duck Fat, with extra for greasing
1 Diced Apple, tart variety
80g Smoked Cheddar, Shredded
500g old bread
Smoked Cheddar Crumble
140g Whole Wheat Flour
100g Brown Sugar
50g White Sugar
60g Smoked Cheddar, shredded
Freshly grated Nutmeg
Salt to taste
Grease a 9×12 pan with duck fat. Slice your old baguette or cube old bread and set aside. If it is still soft, you can slice it and leave it for min of 4 hours before soaking. Line your pan with bread, then sprinkle liberally with apples and shredded cheddar, then finish with another layer of bread.
Brown your butter by heating it in a small pan on the stove past the boil. It will foam a good deal. Pull it off when the centre begins to brown. Add your duck fat to liquify, whisk in the sugar and set aside. Whisk the eggs and maple syrup into the milk, then slowly whisk in the fat. Pour the liquid over the bread and let stand for a minimum of 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 340F.
To make the crumble, place all ingredients into the bowl of a strand mixer and combine on med-low with the paddle until crumbly. Finish your pudding with a good layer of crumble, adding an even sprinkle of sugar if you’re feeling frivolous.
Bake for 50-65 minutes. The pudding with puff up a bit and pull away from the sides of the pan when it’s finished. It will also smell of duck fat awesome.
I served this with lightly pan seared apples finished with Calvados and Orient Apple Absolute and a local vanilla gelato.