BREAD and butter pudding might just be a humble British dessert in many parts of the country but in Sheffield it takes on a bit of class. At one time you couldn’t go into any half-decent city restaurant and not find it on the menu.
It is still a firm favourite although perhaps not seen quite as much. Fashions change. But as far as this neck of the woods is concerned there’s a good story behind how a simple pudding was elevated into a fine dining dish.
This post has come together through a series of coincidences. Firstly, I reported late last year on the death of Chris King, founder of the former Charnwood Hotel, which was the high-end home of bread and butter pud. Around the same time chef Jamie Bosworth posted on social media that it was the 25th anniversary of the famous Bosworth Brothers baked apple bread and butter pudding recipe, originally created by his late brother Wayne.
Then I came across an old copy of Profile magazine, for which I used to write, from November, 1999. The main food feature was a bread and butter ‘cook-off’ between Cary Brown and Wayne, both in their time head chefs at the Charnwood. With two such highly talented chefs I knew better than to rate one dish above the other!
When Cary was head chef at the Charnwood in the late 1980s the menu was full of dishes with a French flavour but owner Chris wanted to offer guests something simple and comforting – and British – to end the meal. Cary came up with bread and butter pudding. Talking to him the other day, he recollects being influenced by his time at the Savoy Hotel and by Gary Rhodes in his Greenhouse days.
He turned in a super-eggy, creamy, luxurious dish which became quite a hit at the Charnwood. Cary moved on but when Wayne followed him into the hot seat a year or two later he was big enough and talented enough to dislike copying another chef’s recipe. So his was much that Cary’s was not.
“For a start I don’t like dried fruit like sultanas and raisins so they weren’t going in,” Wayne told me back then. “So I thought let’s use apricot jam and insert apple slices between the bread.” It turned out Cary didn’t like dried fruit either but used it because his customers wanted it.
The photoshoot was at Wayne’s then restaurant, Rafters, on Oakbrook Road, while Cary came up from Carriages (now Peppercorn) on Abbeydale Road South.
Both chefs, who had started out being slightly wary of each other, were by then great friends and were complimentary about each other’s version. “Cary’s is slightly sweeter and richer than mine,” said Wayne. His friend countered: “Wayne’ is more up to date. Mine is more classical.”
Both chefs took the recipe with them wherever they went and while Wayne dropped his for a time customer pressure got it back on the menu. Other restaurants copied one or the other or came up with their own versions. Cary’s dish is often served with a butterscotch sauce, the Bosworth version with sticky toffee sauce.
Since Wayne’s death it has been left to Jamie to carry the flame. And he’s updated it. “For about the last ten years I have been using brioche – it saves buttering bread – and is now richer from using a brulee-style egg yolk and cream using yolks instead of whole eggs,” he says.
And he adds Wayne nicked the idea of using jam and apples from his mother Gwen because the whole family disliked dried fruit. Judging from the then and now pictures he still garnishes it with three raspberries.
He dates the Bosworth version from the time he and Wayne took over Rafters in 1992, although they had obviously been cooking it much earlier at the Charnwood and the Chantry hotel, Dronfield. Like Cary, he still gets asked for it when running pop-up restaurants and catering for private parties. “If it’s not on the menu nine times out of ten they’ll ask for it.”
For old times sake, here are the original recipes from 1999.
1 medium sliced loaf, crusts removed
1 pt double cream
6oz caster sugar
5oz mixed fruit
4oz brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
Butter oven dish, butter bread, put one layer of bread on bottom and sprinkle with half the fruit and some of the sugar. Repeat. The top layer has no fruit or sugar. Cream eggs with remaining caster sugar and essence, pour over the bread and spinkle on brown sugar. Cover with tinfoil and bake in bain marie for 30 mins at 180C, removing the foil for a further 15 mins.
6 whole eggs
1 sliced loaf, crusts removed
3.5oz caster sugar
1 pt milk
½ pt double cream
1 vanilla pod, split
2 large Bramley apples, peeled and sliced
Spread slices with butter and jam and layer, jam side upwards, with bread, apple then bread. Repeat twice, ending with bread jam side down. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds together. Bring milk and cream to boil, pour over egg mix and whisk. Strain through a sieve over bread. Bake at 150C for 45-60 mins.
It’s a tempting recipe to play around with. I’ve used elements from both versions but prefer to make mine with leftover croissants or surplus panettone.
Still in the pudding club: Jamie (l) and Cary