We have now moved house in France and are settling in, which means getting to grips with an old house and all its little surprises, not to mention the previous owner’s appliances, most of which are more than ten years old.
The cooker is a monster of a thing, with gas hob and gas oven. If my new hob and oven on the English side of the channel can be called “Beauty”, this is definitely The Beast! Curiously, in France this type of cooker is known as a “piano”.
On one of our last visits to the house before we took possession, the owner showed me the “knack” of firing up the oven and opening the door. This involved opening it by about a quarter of the way, yanking it outwards and then shoving it down completely.
Something told me that yanking an oven door was not the normal way to open it and I sensed disaster looming. This added to my initial reservation about the practicality of heating an industrial sized oven to cook a small two person lasagne or a sponge cake. We like entertaining but this oven was meant for Big Cooking Indeed!
It didn’t take long for the disaster to occur and the oven door hinge broke, leaving the door permanently ajar at a jaunty angle.
So that was that.
Luckily we had a spare cooker. The original from our previous little holiday home had been donated to friends for use in their gites and was currently in retirement in their barn. So we fetched it back and it now stands perfectly comfortably under the stairs in the new kitchen. We use the gas hob of the monster and the electric oven of the old cooker and this arrangement works fine. Eventually we will go in search of a new “piano”.
Before the monster oven died we only managed to cook a lasagne and a casserole in it. As soon as my old cooker was safely installed I felt much happier and the first thing I made was an apricot brioche pudding.
This is basically a bread and butter pudding using brioche instead, with some fresh apricots (or plums) tucked in between the brioche slices.
The idea is an adaptation combining ideas from a recipe for plum bread and butter pudding which you can see here, and a panettone b&b pudding which you can see here. I made it a while ago using a mixture of fresh plums and apricots but for this one I used a tin of apricot halves which also worked well and of course required much less preparation.
It was delicious and even Nick, who doesn’t really like bread and butter pudding, enjoyed it, which is why I made it the second time!
8-10 apricots, 6-8 large plums, or a mixture of apricots and plums, halved and stoned, or a tin of apricot halves, drained.
2-3 tblsp caster sugar if using fresh fruit
1 brioche loaf
softened butter for buttering the sliced brioche
140ml double cream
1tsp vanilla extract
2tblsp caster sugar
If using fresh fruit preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6. Butter a suitable baking dish.
Put the halved, stoned fruit cut side up in the dish and sprinkle ½tsp caster sugar into each one. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are cooked and tender. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C / 140° fan / gas mk 3.
While the plums are cooking prepare the brioche by cutting it into enough thick slices to fill the dish. Cut each slice in half as a triangle and butter one side of each triangle.
Whisk the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar together in a bowl or jug.
Remove the cooked plums and any juice from the dish and arrange the triangles of brioche flat side down, point and buttered side upwards. Tuck the fruit in between the triangles, distributing evenly. Any cooking juices from the plums can be poured over the pudding.
Pour the egg mixture over the pudding and press the triangles down slightly with the back of a spoon or fish slice.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the custard is set and the brioche is browned at the tips.
Serve warm with cream or ice cream. Dust with icing sugar before serving if you like.