The Beast from the East

We Brits are not adept at change.

Take this week, for instance. The fateful Beast from the East is looming above British towns and cities, terrifying people into their homes while icy winds as sharp as knives blast, and soft, light snow flutters down despite the blue sky and bright sunshine.

Whenever it snows here in Britain, everything stops. We can’t seem to cope. News bulletins issue warnings, the trains are delayed, schools close, office workers skip a day at the desk to build snowmen, and cars creep cautiously along snow-crusted roads. Day-to-day life stops and everyone rushes to the windows to gaze in childish wonder at the beginnings of a winter wonderland. (We also can’t cope with heat waves, fog and torrential downpours – just give us chilly, overcast weather and we’re absolutely fine.)

the beast from the east

I woke up this morning to a quiet, muffled world coated in snow, like a blanket of icing over a cake. I shuffled slowly to work, my boots crunching over the snow-drifts, as cars with icicles fixed to their wing-mirrors inched down the main road. All day, the temperature barely rose above freezing and people stumbled through the cold wind with pinched faces. I am now sitting in bed under a duvet, two blankets and two hot water bottles. I also have two nifty, re-chargable hand-warmers. I mean, come on people! It’s like The Day After Tomorrow out there. And as tomorrow marks the first month of spring, it’s no wonder we are all so under prepared.

To all those people who are out for dinner or drinks battling the sub-zero temperatures this evening I applaud you but I am not envious of your social life. Me and my hot water bottles are going to stay right here, along with my favourite warming treat which is ideal for a bitterly cold night such as this. Bread and butter pudding is a simple staple in my family for dinner parties, or in cake-form made with crispy croissants and chocolate chunks, but it is definitely a winter dessert, unlike the dinner scene in Atonement by Ian McEwan, as the guests sit sweating on the hottest day of the year, forcing down a roast then steaming bread and butter pudding. The souffléd yet crunchy bread is layered with custard which seeps into all the folds, creating a squidgy, moussey, melt-in-the-mouth texture, complete with a liberal coating of cream.

chocolate and cinnamon bread and butter pudding

This recipe is a combination of two. The maestro of bread and butter puddings is Delia Smith so I blended two of her recipes to make a chocolate bread and butter pudding for one, with a few tweaks, including a sprinkling of cinnamon streusel.

This is the change I am sure we Brits can accept.

Chocolate and Cinnamon Bread and Butter Pudding

Adapted from Delia Smith

Serves 1

1 soft white roll
15g butter, plus extra for spreading and greasing
30g dark chocolate
20g caster sugar
60ml whole milk
30ml double cream (optional – otherwise just use an extra 30ml milk)
1 egg

Cinnamon streusel topping:
10g plain flour
10g caster sugar
5g butter
Large pinch of cinnamon

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Slice the roll in half and spread a layer of butter on each slice before cutting each into chunks. Grease the inside of a loaf tin or small baking dish. Add one half of the chunks to the dish.
  3. Put the butter, chocolate, sugar, milk and cream in a pan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and chocolate has melted.
  4. Beat the egg in a bowl and slowly add the chocolate mix, beating all the while to prevent curdling.
  5. Pour half the chocolate custard over the bread, throw in the rest of the bread and top with the remaining custard. Push all the bread down to soak in the chocolate and leave for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, put all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and rub the butter into the flour and sugar to make crumbs. Sprinkle these all over the pudding before sliding it into the oven and baking for 30 minutes.
  7. Once set and slightly risen it is ready. Eat with cream or vanilla yoghurt.

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