Scottish Bread Pudding

Food is the most primitive form of comfort.” — Sheilah Graham

Second only to a perfect bowl of homemade soup, Scottish bread pudding is pure comfort food. Simple and satisfying. I remember waiting patiently at the kitchen table while my frugal Scottish Grandmother, an Orkney Islands native, turned stale bread and a handful of raisins into a Saturday night treat.

Though I don’t have Grandma Ruby’s recipe, I was able to find several bread pudding recipes online. Combining the best of three, I improvised a dish that would have made Grandma proud. My holiday dinner guests — both Irish, by the way — told me it was the best bread pudding they’d ever had. Several Facebook friends asked me to share it, so here it is.

Meanwhile, I’d enjoy hearing about the comfort foods — or special holiday dishes — your family enjoys. Merry Christmas to all …. Yours, aye!

SCOTTISH BREAD PUDDING

Ingredients:

10-12 thick slices of bread, cut into 1″ squares and left out overnight

1/2 stick of butter

1/2 cup of golden raisins soaked overnight in 3/4 cup of good whiskey; reserve whiskey

4 large eggs

2 cups half-and-half (or whole milk)

3/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Butterscotch sauce (purchase ready made)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking dish with butter, then melt remaining butter in a cup in the microwave.

Line the baking dish with layers of bread squares, then drizzle with the melted butter. Drain the whiskey from the raisins and reserve it in a bowl. Sprinkle the soaked raisins over the bread.

In medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour the mixture over the bread, then lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture. (Just as my grandmother did, I find it helps to make this dish ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for a few hours, giving the flavors time to meld and to ensure all liquid is absorbed in the bread.)

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly tapped. Cut into square servings while warm. Heat the butterscotch sauce to use as topping (about 1/2 cup, depending on how many you’re serving) on the stove; stir in the remaining whiskey while it gently heats.

Pour the sauce over the top of each serving and add whipped cream if you like. Makes 10 servings, but some guests will ask for seconds.

A Scottish fling

It’s guid to be merry and wise. It’s guid to be honest and true. It’s good to support Caledonia’s cause, and bide by the buff and the blue!” — Robert Burns

Remember the old Saturday Night Live sketch starring Mike Myers as the curmudgeonly owner of an import shop named All Things Scottish? As the routine progressed, shoppers would walk in and ask for items that weren’t remotely Scottish in origin — Scotch Tape, for example. Or — gasp — they’d unwittingly request goods made in Ireland.

“If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!” Myers’ character would shout, pushing the offending customers straight for the door.

If you’re a real fan of all things Scottish, Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, will speak to your inner bagpiper.

As the granddaughter of immigrants from Scotland’s Orkney Islands, I couldn’t resist a peek at a review copy of this handsome new guide. Illustrated with color photos of Scottish castles, clan lore, and national foods, it’s already provided hours of entertainment while serving as a test of my knowledge of the old country.

From ancient folklore to modern recreational pursuits, author Jonathan Green answers any question you might have about Scotland and its people. And even if you’re not of Celtic ancestry, you might like to know how deeply Scottish roots still grow in American soil. Just for fun, see if you can answer the following questions:

–Why is there an Aberdeen, a Dundee, and a Glasgow in the United States?

— We all sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, but what does it really mean?

— What does the ubiquitous hamburger giant have to do with Scottish clans?

— Who was the real Macbeth … or was there a real Macbeth?

— Why is Scotland known as the home of golf, and what’s the origin of a “caddie”?

— Why was Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling adopted by Scotland as one of their own?

Scottish Miscellany would make an idea Christmas gift for armchair travelers as well as for the devoted Scots in your family. Likewise, if you’re planning a real trip to Scotland, this book will help pinpoint key sites for your visit. It even includes a short pronunciation guide to help translate a brogue. So, grab a copy, pour yourself a cuppa tea, break open the shortbread, and enjoy! — Cindy La Ferle