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IMBB 11: Red bean paste bread pudding

I've been a sporadic follower of the "Is My Blog Burning?" series of thematic food blog world cooking days. I didn't think I was likely to participate. But today when I woke up, I found that sometime when I was away and not following the online world, the deadline for the current round became today, and the theme was "Beans". And this morning, of all mornings, I knew exactly what I wanted to try making for such a theme.

Back in December, when I was putting Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art through its paces, I discovered how easy it is to make my own chunky red bean paste, and how very, very good. Red bean paste, made from azuki beans, is a staple of Japanese desserts, a classic for eating with green tea. I slathered mine over toasted mochi (rice cakes) last month, and had half a bag of unused beans left over from my efforts. Red bean paste is often sandwiched between two pancakes for an pretty little snack (dora-yaki): I tackled a variant which wandered into my thoughts this morning, red bean paste bread pudding. (Did I mention I've never made bread pudding either? But I've been meaning to for ages, since I knew it wasn't too complex, and I love it.)

First, you'll need some chunky sweet red-bean paste. I used the recipe from Japanese Cooking. Note: This recipe makes 2 cups of red bean paste, at least four times more than I needed. (But it means I can eat it with other things this week too...) The only ingredients are a cup of azuki beans, a cup of sugar, and water.

Wash the beans, put in a large saucepan with plenty of water, bring just to a boil, and drain. This is all part of washing the beans.
Put about three cups of water into the saucepan, with the beans, and cover. Simmer over medium-heat until beans are very soft. It takes me about 1.5 to 2 hours to get them soft enough. Check on the water levels occasionally and top up if necessary - you don't want the pot boiling dry, or the beans won't be soft! The water should be almost entirely reduced by the time the beans are done.
Add the cup of sugar and stir over low heat. The beans should be soft enough that some will disintegrate with the stirring. The finished mixture should be thick, with half-crushed beans.
Although the recipe doesn't call for any more cooking after adding the sugar, both times I've made this I've continued to cook it for another half hour or so, as I changed my mind about whether or not the mixture was soft and squishy enough. Off and on, I'll squish the beans down with a wooden spoon or even a potato masher.

For the bread pudding itself, I mostly used the basic Joy of Cooking recipe, in part because it served fewer people than its other bread pudding recipes, and there's only so much I can eat all by myself! For both elegance and convenience, I made the pudding in individual baking dishes, so I can reheat them over the next several days. The Joy promises it'll keep nicely that long, and I'm counting on it. Because I was making mini-dishes of bread pudding, I went to the extra work of cutting the bread to fit the dishes. Each dish contains two circles of bread, each a different size.

Ingredients list: Butter; enough bread to respectably fill your baking dish of choice - I used circular excerpts from half a loaf, the Joy recipe calls for 12-16 oz. for a 2 quart baking dish; 4 large eggs; 3/4 cup sugar; 1 tbsp vanilla; 1 tsp ground cinnamon; 1 tsp ground nutmeg; 3 cups of milk; powdered sugar

Butter the baking dish(es). Cut bread into half inch cubes, or whatever other size you'd like to use. Lightly toast the bread, if it is not stale.
Thickly spread chunky red bean paste on the toasted bread pieces, making a sandwich out of pairs of bread. Because I was using bread cut to fit the dishes, the centimeter-thick layer of paste stayed in its sandwhich layer. Put the layered bread and paste into the making dish(es).
Whisk together thoroughly. the eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and, if you like, a pinch of salt. Whisk in the milk.
Pour the liquid over the bread. Let stand for 30 minutes, pressing the bread down into the liquid with a spatula or spoon to help it absorb the liquid. (I kept spooning little bits more of the liquid onto the puddinglets as they aborbed it.)
Preheat the over to 350°F.
Baking the puddings in a water bath until puffed and fairly firm in the center. If you're doing the full-sized recipe, it's about 1 and a quarter hours. My version took half an hour.

Cut slices, or gently unmold by sliding a knife around the edge of the pudding and holding upside down.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and nutmeg.

The result was a light pudding with a very rich taste. Bread pudding is comfort food, and the fluffiness of this version of it made it very easy to eat. I'm afraid the photos don't do it justice, since I'm still learning to use the digicam under variable lighting conditions, but it should give you a good idea. Also, the fresh-from-the-oven photo above shows the puddings when they're still puffy: they collapsed right after I took it.

And I get to eat four more of them!


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 24th, 2005 12:35 am (UTC)
Last year (back in the days when we had a kitchen!) I made three abortive attempts at making red bean paste. Both recipes called for overnight soaking of the aduki beans. The first time, I forgot them and they split and smelt bad when I remembered them - the bowl was put in the larder, which wasn't immediately visible. The second time, I got as far as making the paste, but it turned out almost gritty, not smooth at all - the beans weren't soft, and tasted like sugar-coated uncooked beans. The third time was similar, although I cooked the beans for hours and hours in great hopefulness.

Your bread & butter puddings look FANTASTIC. I'm so tempted to try again, using your recipes. I love this post. :)
Jan. 24th, 2005 12:50 am (UTC)
Thank you!

Looking over what I wrote and what you wrote, it occured to me that I actually cooked the bean paste a little longer, as much as half an hour, since I continued to cook them after adding in the sugar. I checked on them regularly and kept squishing them down to make them more paste-like, and add water if necessary. They're done whenever you want them to be really, and a recipes you can taste right out of the pot to see if you like how they are yet. I don't know if the sugar is the source of your graininess, but if it is, keep cooking afterwards so that it dissolves.
Jan. 24th, 2005 02:02 am (UTC)
This looks wonderful!
I am so inspired -- maybe we can get together and whip up something brand new and shiny together sometime!
Jan. 24th, 2005 05:46 pm (UTC)
Re: This looks wonderful!
Sounds like fun! It'll have to be after I submit though - the harder I work, the sooner we can do this.
Jan. 24th, 2005 03:34 am (UTC)
That sounds delicious - I love red bean paste and I love bread pudding!
Jan. 24th, 2005 06:49 pm (UTC)
from Maria
This has got to be my favorite typo ever: "Whisky in the milk."
So appropriate to the topic at hand. But seriously, I wonder how it would taste?
These look delicious.
Jan. 24th, 2005 07:06 pm (UTC)
Re: from Maria
Thanks for catching the typo - even if it was a nice one! I'm not a big whisky fan in general, but I think that it could work well in a custard, especially if the bread pudding had a sour or more savory topping to it. Whisky custard with a lemon curd sauce, maybe?

Personally, I'd be more interested in trying, say, amaretto bread pudding.
Jan. 26th, 2005 02:20 am (UTC)
Hi Shana - your little bread puddings are beautiful! I've never had sweet red bean paste, but it's popped up several times now in IMBB and I'm really curious to try it. Thanks so much for participating in IMBB 11!

Jan. 26th, 2005 06:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Yum!
Thank you! Sweet red bean paste is a comfort food for me these days, especially the chunky version. The smooth paste is more elegant, and both are quite versatile - as you know from all the entries which included it!
Jan. 27th, 2005 03:28 am (UTC)
Hi, your bread pudding looks so good! And I still have a lot of tsubu-an leftover from making my mame-daifuku. I will definitely give this a try. Thanks for the recipe!
Jan. 27th, 2005 03:29 am (UTC)
Hi, your bread pudding looks so good! And I still have a lot of tsubu-an leftover from making my mame-daifuku. I will definitely give this a try. Thanks for the recipe!

Jan. 28th, 2005 04:23 pm (UTC)
Love breadpudding!
Love bean paste, and love bread pudding. Here you go and put them both together beautifully! I love it!

Jan. 28th, 2005 05:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Love breadpudding!
Thank you! I was delighted to find they worked so nicely together.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )