Along with the sugar, milk, spices and chocolate, this recipe contains a story. Stories are fun. I like happy ending stories. Ones that leave me satisfied and induce a warm, fluffy feeling: Serotonin boosters. I can tell you’re in need of such a story to help you escape this grey mood of January and immerse you in a literary hug of caramelised sugar and custardy soft bread.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Once upon a time there lived a little girl who loved nothing more than those little burnt caramel ‘coffee biscuits’ that accompanied her parents’ drinks on holiday. She dreamt of a day when she could buy a whole box and eat them all day long. But as she grew older the dream faded and she became sad. The reality that they only came in individual packets hit her. It hit her hard.
Then one day, as she skipped down the aisles of Mr Sainsbury’s shop, a packet caught her eye. She had never seen something so beautiful. It almost glowed. As she stood on her tiptoes, reaching it down from the top shelf, she struggled to control her excitement. Was this what she thought it was? After all those years of sorrow, was this the multipack of her dreams? It was indeed.
Time went on and she came to learn the biscuit’s name: Speculoos. She found they were originally made in the Netherlands for St. Nicholas’ Feast. As she discovered more she started to dream bigger dreams. What recipe opportunities would this open up? As if her dreams had come true, her Fairy Godmother posted a recipe using such biscuits. There was just one difference: she used Speculoos spread.*
*For those not familiar with this, imagine smooth peanut butter but replace the peanuts with biscuits. Oh America, you’ve outdone yourself.
The now not-so-little girl started investigating this phenomenon and found dear Mr Sainsbury also stocked such a spread. She purchased it with the beans her mother gave her and spent the next month crafting a recipe she could call her own.
And this, dearest friends, is where the story ends.
This pudding is like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother to leftovers. It transforms dry, stale bread into the most beautiful winter warmer; full of oozy chocolate, custard with a hint of spiced rum, and a crunchy caramelized topping – it’s as if the Princess herself was in the pudding. But that would be carnivorous and weird. Forget I ever said that…
Speculoos and dark chocolate bread and butter pudding
Adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe
9 slices of thick, stale white bread
1/2 jar of Speculoos caramelised biscuit spread
25g dark chocolate cut into small pieces – ideally 75-85% cocoa solids
20g light brown muscovado sugar
2 x 15ml tablespoons dark rum*
125ml double cream
500ml full-fat milk
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
3 tsp. Demerara sugar
5 Speculoos biscuits
*although it may not appear to be that important, this is a key ingredient that completely alters the taste. Do try not to sub it out.
Lightly grease a pie dish with butter. Take your stale bread slices, remove the crusts, and cut each slice diagonally into 2 triangles. Spread one side of each slice with the biscuit spread and layer the triangles in the dish. Sprinkle the chocolate pieces over the bread.
Whisk together the eggs, light brown sugar, rum, double cream, milk, cinnamon and ginger. Pour this mixture over the bread pieces and leave the whole dish to soak for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to Gas mark 3/ 170°C.
After the pudding has soaked for the full time, sprinkle it with the Demerara sugar and bake in the oven for 50 minutes–1 hour. Once cooked it will have puffed up a bit and have a very slight wobble in the middle. Crush the Speculoos biscuits in your hands and sprinkle over the top of the pudding. Let the dish stand for about 5 minutes before serving.