I’ve been on a bit of a Regency kick recently and was browsing online scans of 19th-century cookery books (as one does). I came across this recipe that caught my fancy and I thought I’d give it a go. I love playing with old recipes!
Newmarket Pudding is from The Housekeeper’s Instructor (1805 edition) and is very similar to many modern bread pudding recipes.
TRANSCRIPTION: Newmarket Pudding. Slice and butter a French roll: put it into your mould: between every layer put some dried cherries. Take half a pint of cream and a pint of milk, eight eggs, six ounces of fine sugar, a glass of brandy, some nutmeg, and lemon-peel. Let your dish or mould be nicely buttered; and when done, you may turn it out into the dish you serve it in. A Muffin Pudding may be made the same way.
As you can see, this recipe isn’t as precise as most modern cookbook recipes. Newmarket Pudding is in the Baked Pudding section of the text instead of the Boiled Pudding section, so that gives an indication of how this is cooked (since this recipe omits that info). I selected to start with this recipe since it does bear a strong resemblance to modern baked bread puddings. I have zero experience with boiled or steamed puddings so I figured this was a good starting point.
- Bread, 1 loaf sliced – I took a look at the “French” bread recipes in this cookbook and some others from around the same time period and they appear to be an enriched dough with milk and butter. I didn’t bake the French bread recipe exactly as it is in this recipe collection but I did use a modern bread recipe that used milk and butter. That recipe created two loaves and I used 1 entire loaf for this recipe. You don’t want to slice the bread too thin, but you also don’t want the slices so thick it doesn’t absorb the custard mixture.
- Butter, 1/8 cup – The dish is well greased with butter as well as each slice of bread is buttered before being layered. I used unsalted butter because that’s what I had on hand but I think salted would be what would be used since the recipe omits any salt (I did add some to my custard mixture to make up for the lack of the salt in the butter.
- Dried cherries, 5oz – I used one 5oz package of sweetened, dried cherries but I think this is really up to you and how many cherries you want in your pudding! Looking at the recipe for dried cherries in the text, they would most likely be sweetened dried cherries.
- Cream, 1 cup
- Milk, 2 cups – I used organic whole milk for this recipe. A note on the measurements, I am using a US pint measurement (the UK didn’t switch to the Imperial gallon until 1826 which is when some of these measurements diverged).
- Egg, 8 eggs
- Sugar, 3/4 cup (6oz) – I used organic cane sugar. In 1805 it could have either been cane sugar imported in from the Caribbean colonies or possibly sugar processed from sugar beets. I’m guessing it’s probably more from sugar cane since that was such a huge import item from the West Indies at this time.
- Brandy, 3oz – The calls for a “glass” of brandy. Now, this is a bit difficult to determine since a glass wasn’t necessarily a standard measurement. Wine glass sizes have changed dramatically over the years. An article in the Guardian (link) about a study of wine glasses over the last 300 years, states that the average wine glass during the early 1700s held 66mL compared to 449mL in the 2000’s. I went with 3 oz (~89mL) because that is an easier measurement for my measuring tools and the graph in the article indicates some of the glassware they examined from this time period was hovering around the +/- 100mL mark.
- Nutmeg, 1 tsp grated – The recipe just indicates “some” nutmeg. Honestly, I don’t really measure my nutmeg in general, I just grate it until it looks (and smells) good enough, which I figure is probably what they’re doing as well. This is the only spice in the pudding so you want enough to give a pleasant flavor but you don’t want to overpower the custard. I grated 1/2 a nutmeg for this recipe which probably ended up being ~1 tsp.
- Lemon zest from 1 lemon – Again the text isn’t specific here so I think this is more a “too taste” measurement. I used the zest from one lemon.
- Salt, 1/4 tsp* – The recipe doesn’t call for salt; however, the butter used in the original recipe was most likely salted for preservation and therefore didn’t need any additional salt.
*If you use salted butter, omit adding salt to the custard mixture.
In a bowl, I whisked together the eggs, sugar, milk, cream, brandy, nutmeg, salt, and lemon peel.
I thoroughly greased my baking dish with plenty of butter as instructed. I sliced the bread into roughly 1/2″ slices and buttered one side. I placed the slices butter-side down on the bottom of the dish and sprinkled dried cherries on top. After a couple of layers, I added some of the custard mixture so the bottom layers would get plenty of custardy goodness. I continued adding layers of buttered bread, cherries, and custard until the dish was almost full and poured the remainder of the custard mixture on top. The last layer was a layer of bread (butter side up).
The original recipe leaves off any baking instructions so I examined some modern bread pudding recipes and I opted for a 350 degree F (~177 degree C) temp for 60 minutes. You want the internal temperature of the pudding to be 160 degree F (~71 degree C) or for a knife inserted to come out clean.
I was really pleased with how this pudding came out and it’s definitely something I’m planning on making again. I don’t have a proper pudding mould so I just used a baking dish so the turn out of the pudding isn’t as pretty as it could be. But it did come out (there were several moments of uncertainly there) and held it’s layered shape. I probably overcooked it slightly, but I wanted to be sure that the center was cooked through. The flavor was very nice, the custard mixture is very reminiscent of egg nog. The dessert itself isn’t overly sweet, the sweetness mainly coming from the dried cherries so that was a nice pop of sweetness and flavor with every bite. This recipe did make quite a bit of custard, I probably had about 1/3 of the custard left so it could probably be a bigger pudding, just have more bread and cherries.
I thought having a rating system for the different recipes I play with could be a fun addition to these experiments. So, I determined on 6 rating categories:
- Taste: How I personally think it tastes.
- Preparation: How easy was this recipe to prepare. Three stars is easy prep and 1 star is more difficult/cumbersome.
- Ingredients: How easily accessible are the ingredients? Could I find everything at the regular supermarket (3 stars) or did I have to go to a specialty grocery or order online (1 star)?
- Weirdness: To a modern taste, how weird is this dish? I am looking at this from the point of view from someone who lives in the US (since that’s where I am).
- Would Make Again: How likely am I going to make this recipe again.
- Spousal Rating: This is a special category where if I feed it to my husband he’ll give me a thumbs up or down.
I did mark this recipe with easy prep and easy to find ingredients. While I did bake my own bread for this recipe, one doesn’t have to. You could easily use a loaf from a bakery or grocery store. You just want it to have enough structure that it won’t turn to mush in the custard but soft enough that it will absorb the custard.
Next time I want to try to find a better mould to see if I can get this to look a bit prettier since it came out looking like a cylindrical monolith of sliced bread. I also might slice the bread just a tiny bit thinner. Some of my slices were a bit thick but I don’t want the bread to get mushy. I also will cut the crust off the bread. The original recipe didn’t specify that but I think that would improve the texture overall since the crust didn’t soak up the custard mixture as well as the rest of the bread. I served it with a drizzle of cream (but it would be great with whipped cream or ice cream). My husband said he generally doesn’t like bread pudding but he gave his thumbs up to this recipe!