Sunday, September 27, 2015

Italian Cake with Pears and Stale Bread

At Whole Foods, they used to sell a cake called croissant pudding. It was made out of leftover croissants, which the store could not sell on time. The pieces of the croissants were baked in a kind of pudding made from eggs, cream, sugar, and butter. It was absolutely delicious and certainly very fattening.

While looking for the recipes on how to use bread that was getting stale, in several Italian cookbooks I found a similar recipe for the croissant cake but made of old bread. In Italy it is often served for breakfast, or as a dessert. But those recipes I found were much lighter than a croissant pudding. The Italian cake was made from white country bread, milk, eggs, and most importantly pears. Pears not only made the cake moist but also lighter and very well suited for the fall season.

This recipe was invented long ago in a poor countryside where nothing was wasted. And, as it is so often in the Italian cuisine, this very simple idea yielded a very tasty cake. So, yesterday morning, I made that cake using all the old country bread I managed to collect over the last week and a couple of very ripe pears. First, my entire house started to smell wonderfully and soon I enjoyed a slice of a still warm cake with my morning coffee and later again with my afternoon espresso.

Pears and Stale Bread Cake

1 lb of European style old white country bread (or baguette) crushed into smaller pieces,
2 cups whole milk,
3 eggs,
1/2 cup sugar,
1 tsp vanilla essence,
3 ripe pears,
1/2 cup raisins,
5 tbsp unsalted butter,
1 tbsp lemon juice,
1 tbsp brown sugar,
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg.

1. Place pieces of crushed bread in a large bowl and cover with milk. Let it soak for an hour turning the pieces from time to time so they all become moist. If after that time there is some extra unabsorbed milk drain it out.

2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Soak the raisins in warm water until they get plump, drain them out.
4. Peel off pears, core and cut into small cubes. Mix with lemon juice and add to the bread following with raisins.
5. In another bowl beat sugar and eggs, adding at the end 3 tbsp melted butter and vanilla essence.Pour the mixture to the bread with fruits and mix.
6. Grease a round baking form with 1 tbsp of butter. Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar.
7. Transfer the bread mixture to the form. Brush on top a tbsp. of melted butter, sprinkle tbsp. of brown sugar and grated nutmeg.

8. Bake for about 60-70 minutes until cake is dark brown.
9. It's best if you could serve when it is slightly warm but it still great when it turns cold.