For years I've been intrigued by food from the very north of France, specifically around la Côte d'Opale. In part because, even in France, it's a cuisine that's often unfairly dismissed as consisting largely of variants of cheese on toast (Le Welsh), frites and mind-numbingly smelly cheeses such as Maroilles (it's actually a very fine cheese, honest). But the other reason was that the area is separated from the southern part of England by a very narrow stretch of sea and I was fascinated by the similarities and differences between the two styles of cooking.
I've included a number of recipes that I've gathered from the area in the blog before such as Carbonade Flamande, Turkey with Beer and Juniper, Tarte au Maroilles and, my absolute favourite, Gâteau Battu. But the pain d'chien perfectly demonstrates the similarities between British and northern French food. If you're familiar with British bread pudding then pain d'chien is not surprising at all. In fact, as if to emphasise the similarity, it's also often known as ‘Pudding au pain’ or even simply ‘Le Pudding’. Just as in Britain it's a frugal and no-waste way of using leftover bread or brioche (anti-gaspi as our French friends might put it). I just love it made with brioche that's a little past its best.
4 tbsp rum, or whatever soaking liquid you prefer
300g leftover brioche (or white bread) cut or torn into small pieces
600ml milk, full fat or semi-skimmed
80g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp apple purée
2 tbsp demerara sugar
Soak the raisins in the rum (or an alternative) overnight or, at least, for several hours.
Put the brioche bits in a heatproof bowl. Heat the milk, butter, caster sugar and vanilla together, stirring to combine, until nearly boiling. Pour over the brioche and mix in very thoroughly. Set aside somewhere cool for an hour or two.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan).
Add the eggs, apple purée and raisins to the bowl and mix in thoroughly.
Butter a 2lb (900g) loaf tin and add the mixture, making sure there are no air bubbles. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top.
Bake for 45 minutes until the top has taken on some colour and the pudding feels springy to the touch. Allow the pudding to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Cut into slices and serve warm, chilled or at room temperature as the mood takes you. Personally, I think it's best really cold and served with cold custard (sorry, I should say crème anglaise). Some people insist that it's better to wait a day before eating the pudding to get the best flavour and texture and I think they may be right.