Cypriot Inspired Bread Pudding

Last time I made bread pudding, amongst the wave of Good Old British nostalgia that overtakes me every time I make it, there was a small voice whispering to me as I stirred the milk into the chunks of bread.
“Maybe this would work with other flavours. Maybe this would work with tahini. Thought about rose yet?”

I’m used to this voice, it’s there a lot. Usually when I’m cooking one thing, concentrating on that night’s dinner, it wanders up, nonchalantly commenting on how next time I could always add…and so it goes. Welcome to the food world inside my head.

I tried to ignore it but these things never go away. The only way to stop the record stuck on repeat is to make the thing and get it over with. It’s hard to explain to people this compulsion to make a recipe that’s in my head, but that’s what it is. Better to just make it, bring it into being, and give my brain a bit of peace until the next time.

So. Tahini bread pudding. I wanted it to have Cypriot flavours, so plain old bloomer loaf would not do. Turkish oval fingerprint bread however, that worked. It’s the bread we get in Cyprus to have for breakfasts, and we love it.

The soaking liquid. Sheep milk? Goat? No. Almond. Cypriots do love their almonds.

Next up, tahini. I laid in an extra supply as I wasn’t sure how much I’d need. Not all tahinis are created equal. The one I found was beautifully creamy, but still pretty vehement in its sesameness.

Brown sugar and oodles of cinnamon just had to go with the tahini. Echoes of the swirled tahinopita my father used to bring home from the Greek bakery on a Sunday afternoon, which I’d eat slowly from the outer ring inwards until reaching the extra cinnamony part right in the middle. That’s the very best bit.

Orange blossom water, and rose water. Yep, definitely needed those. Sultanas, without question because they are in a traditional bread pudding, and I love them.  Sliced almonds, those went in as well.

Dried rose petals for a more musky hint, to add to the bright flash of rose water.

I put in 1 tbs grape molasses just to darken the colour a bit, but that’s totally optional.

Off I went.

1/2 a loaf of Turkish bread, roughly 300g cut into very small pieces
Approx 1 pint/570ml almond milk to soak the bread though you may need less – judge it as you go
1 cup/ 350g sultanas
1/2 cup/55g sliced almonds
1/3 cup/75g demerara sugar
3 tbs cinnamon
1 cup/250ml tahini + warm water to thin if needed
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp orange blossom water or orange extract or zest of 1 orange
3 tbs dried rose petals
3 tbs olive oil
2 medium eggs

Garnish for the top
Ground pistachios
Slivered almonds
Demerara sugar
Crystallised rose pieces

Put all the bread pieces in a large bowl.

Pour over the almond milk, turning the bread over to moisten it all. There must be no pieces left dry.

Let that sit and soak for 15 minutes, then stir it again to make sure all the pieces are soggy.

Add in the sultanas, sliced almonds, demerara sugar, cinnamon, tahini, rose water, orange blossom water (or orange extract or zest of 1 orange) and the dried rose petals.

Mix it all well, cover and leave to sit for a few hours, or even overnight.

After it has sat, mix it all again, adjust your cinnamon if you want (as in MORE OF IT which is the usual cry in this house).

Stir in 2 beaten eggs, and the olive oil, then pour into a solid greased square tin.  DO NOT USE A LOOSE BOTTOMED ONE. I always panic that it looks too runny, and then it’s always fine.

Sprinkle the top with more sugar, rose pieces, ground pistachios, almonds, whatever you wish.

Bake at 170C for 45 minutes, or until slightly puffed and set.

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