Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pineapple Bread Pudding

I love pineapples. Quite a bit of my early teens was spent sitting on our front steps scooping pineapple rings out of a can with a fork and eating them, while my friend Robin and I watched cars go by. We lived in a small suburb... watching cars go by was a way to pass the endless amount of time that summer seemed to be, since we couldn't go to the beach until the weekend.

Unlike big hair, Wham!, and acid-washed jeans, my love of pineapple has stood the test of time. It is quite versatile, but one of my favorite ways to eat it has to be sliced into huge, watermelon-like wedges, or tucked into this bread pudding. My kids love this for breakfast the next day, but I love it when it is still barely warm.

Pineapple bread pudding

2/3 cup granulated sugar

5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

4 eggs

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple, in its own juice, drained

6 slices white or wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350F; butter an 8x8 pan; set aside.

Cream the butter and granulated sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Add salt and stir until well blended. Add pineapple, stir until mixed thoroughly, then stir in bread cubes. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Small-Batch Red Currant Apple Jelly

Since I moved to the wild tropics (also known as Florida), I'm a bit thrown back at the endless summery season here. The great bonus, of course, is the abundance of local fruit and veg all year around.

I happened upon a couple of half-pints of red currants on offer at my local grocery store. I snatched them up and headed home to make the tart, versatile jelly that I love so much. Slather it on toast, croissants, or mix it with a bit of Dijon mustard and glaze some chicken breasts with it.

You'll find that the measurements don't require a certain amount of currants, but as long as you have at least a cupful, you can make enough of this ruby red jelly to last you for a week or so. This recipe doesn't require any additional pectin, it will softly gel thanks to the apple. The jelly is unprocessed, and is unsuitable for long-term storage.

Small-Batch Red Currant Apple Jelly

1 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled and grated
minimum 1 cup red currants, stems removed
1/3 cup water
granulated sugar

Prepare several layers of cheesecloth in a sieve, and place it over a liquid measuring cup In a nonreactive pan, heat the water, apple, and currants until it comes to a simmer. Gently crush the berries with a spatula or a spoon to encourage them to release their juices. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and scrape into the cheesecloth-prepared sieve. Allow to drain. Resist the urge to press the solids into the cheesecloth; this will result in cloudy jelly. If cloudy jelly doesn't bother you, of course, go right ahead and squeeze the last essence from the simmered fruit.

Measure the liquid. Wash out the nonreactive pan, and pour the liquid back into the pan. Add the same measure of sugar as there is liquid to the pan. I had a little under 3/4 of a cup, and added enough water to bring it to 3/4 cup. Have a couple of clean heat-safe glass containers (I use Pyrex 6 oz. custard cups, but feel free to use a proper canning jar). Heat the juice and sugar to a rolling boil, stirring. Keep an eye on it, as it does have a tendency to boil over. Once the mixture boils, time 5 minutes for a batch under 2 cups of liquid, and 10 minutes for a batch over 2 cups of liquid. Pour hot liquid into the glass jars, and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Eat within a couple of weeks, if you can manage to make it last that long.