Madam Salisbury’s Plum Pudding (Catharine Dean Flint Cookbook)
Half a loaf of bread soaked two hours in one quart of milk. Butter the size of an egg. Two heaped spoons of sugar and seven eggs beaten with the sugar and strained on to the bread after it is cold. Pint bowl full of raisins – two tea spoons salt. One even tea spoon cloves a little cinnamon. Bake two hours.
A Bread Pudding (Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796)
One pound soft bread or biscuit [crackers] soaked in one quart milk, run thro’ a sieve or cullender [colander], add 7 eggs, three quarters of a pound sugar, one quarter of a pound butter, nutmeg or cinnamon, one gill rosewater, one pound stone raisins, half pint cream, bake three quarters of an hour, middling oven.
Cold Sweet Sauce (Sarah Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841)
Take equal quantities of butter and sugar; beat them together till they are perfectly smooth; add a little wine; make the mixture in a lump, and set it in a cool place for fifteen minutes: grate nutmeg over it.
Both of these puddings are best served hot, but they don’t have to be served as soon as they are baked. If more convenient, let them cool to room temperature and then cover them with (or wrap them in) foil and refrigerate them for up to a week. To serve, reheat them, still in foil, in a 300-degree oven for about 20 minutes. When wrapping an unmolded pudding in foil, spray the foil first with cooking spray to keep the pudding from sticking to it.
Any firm supermarket white bread (such as Pepperidge Farm or Arnold brands) or any homemade or bakery white pan loaf will work fine here. In testing, I used Mrs. Flint’s simple recipe for white bread (1 quart milk, 2 quarts flour, and a teacup of yeast). It is adapted below.
Both of these puddings are similar to today’s bread puddings with raisins, albeit firmer and smoother in texture and with antique flavors. I am partial to Simmons’s pudding, mostly because I am fond of rose water, especially in combination with cinnamon and raisins. But some of my friends have been captivated by the cloves in Madam Salisbury’s pudding, which might bear to be stepped up to a full half teaspoon. (I measured by the period teaspoon, which was three-fourths of a modern teaspoon.) Whichever you choose, the sauce is essential. It is what we today call “hard sauce” but with granulated rather than confectioners’ sugar, which makes it more interesting.
Madam Salisbury’s Plum Pudding
Cut 1/2 pound white bread in slices, and then cut the slices in 1/2-inch cubes. Bring 2 cups milk and 2 tablespoons butter almost to a simmer, pour over the bread, and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Break up the bread, particularly the crusts, with a fork or whisk. (This will happen more readily if you refrigerate the bread mixture, covered, for 12 to 24 hours after it has cooled.) In a separate bowl, whisk until blended 3 large eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, 3/4 teaspoon fine-textured salt, heaped 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. If you wish, whisk in 2 tablespoons brandy. Add the bread mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir in 1 cup raisins. Turn the mixture into a generously buttered 9- X 5-inch loaf pan or other ovenproof dish with a capacity of at least 8 cups. Bake in the center of the oven, at 350 degrees, until a cake needle inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes for a 9- X 5-inch loaf pan, less time if using a broader shallower mold. If you wish to unmold the pudding for serving, let it cool for 20 minutes and then loosen the sides with a knife and turn it out onto a plate. This serves 6 to 8 people.
Amelia Simmons’s A Bread Pudding
Cut 1/2 pound white bread in slices, and then cut the slices in 1/2-inch cubes. Bring 2 cups milk and 4 tablespoons butter almost to a simmer, pour over the bread, and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Break up the bread, particularly the crusts, with a fork or whisk. (This will happen more readily if you refrigerate the bread mixture, covered, for 12 to 24 hours after it has cooled.) In a separate bowl, whisk until blended 3 large eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon fine-textured salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Whisk in 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup rose water, preferably Middle Eastern.* Add the bread mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir in 1/2 pound (about 1 1/2 cups) raisins. Generously butter an 8- X 3-inch springform pan or round cake pan or other ovenproof dish with a capacity of at least 9 cups. (If you wish to unmold the pudding, line the bottom of the pan with parchment and butter it as well.) If using a springform pan, set it on a tray to catch drips. Bake in the center of the oven, at 350 degrees, until a cake needle inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes for an 8- X 3-inch pan, less time if using a broader, shallower mold. If you wish to unmold the pudding for serving, let it cool for 20 minutes and then loosen the sides with a knife and turn it out onto a plate. This makes 8 generous servings.
*The rose water flavor is quite mild, but if you can’t abide rose water, use brandy instead.
Sarah Hale’s Cold Sweet Sauce
Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon fine-textured salt in a medium bowl and whisk or beat with a hand-held electric mixer until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in 2 to 3 tablespoons brandy, white wine, or rose water a little at a time, being sure that the mixture does not curdle. Scrape onto a small dish, shape into a cone, and grate over additional nutmeg. This sauce can be made at any time on the day of serving. Keep it at cool room temperature, covered with an inverted bowl.
Mrs. Flint’s White Bread
In a large bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon dry yeast in 1/3 cup lukewarm water, then stir in 2 cups lukewarm milk. Add 1 1/2 pounds all-purpose flour and 2 1/4 teaspoons fine-textured salt and mix into a soft dough. Knead the dough until smooth and putty-like, adding as much additional flour as necessary to prevent sticking (probably 2 to 3 ounces). Form the dough into a ball, place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until tripled, about 2 hours. Fold the dough in half, deflating it, and let rise, covered, until doubled, about 1 hour. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a loaf in a generously buttered 9- X 5-inch loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Bake in the center of a 400-degree oven until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees, about 45 minutes. Cool the loaves on racks, set on their sides. Each baked loaf weighs 1 pound 5 ounces.