It’s such a cliché to talk about time passing in the blink of an eye and how the years creep up on you and before you know it, you’re old. Yada yada. I’m getting bored just typing those trite phrases.
It feels a bit like a sucker punch to your gut to realize that- man, oh man- you really are getting old. Eric and I joke about it all the time- constantly telling one another that we’re not getting any younger. Sort of like if we just keep making light of it, somehow we’ll keep old age at bay.
While I know that’s not possible, seeing glaring evidence of your advancing age is hard to face. Nothing quite reminds you that you’re getting older like seeing someone you only remember as a small child now old enough to vote.
I experienced this recently when, after meaning to do so since its release, I finally picked up a copy of Hot & Hot Fish Club- A Celebration of Food, Family, and Traditions. I worked for Chris and Idie Hastings, the owners of Hot & Hot Fish Club, while in graduate school in Birmingham, AL. I started not too long after the restaurant opened; in fact, I think I was the very first hostess hired. Way back when female hosts were still called hostesses.
It’s been many years since I’ve seen Chris and Idie as I don’t get back to B’ham very often. Funny thing, though, when looking over the lovely pictures in the book, it didn’t appear that Chris and Idie had aged a bit. They both still look just as I remembered them.
But their sons… my jaw practically dropped when I saw pictures of them and realized they’re now grown up.
When I worked at H&H, Idie would occasionally bring the boys in to visit. I don’t remember exactly how old they were but I’d guess 2-3 and maybe 4 years, young enough to be carried around on Chris’s shoulders. I was astonished to see that they’re now as tall as he is.
Time marches on, doesn't it? Most days I don't mind but some days I just don't like it. Thankfully, my disgruntledness with this fact of life was easily abated. There's not much that can't be fixed by the warm comfort and rich satisfaction of bread pudding.
Strawberry Rhubarb Bread Puddingadapted from Hot & Hot Fish Club- A Celebration of Food, Family, and Traditions
I adapted H&H’s raspberry, white chocolate bread pudding recipe to make a lighter (well, as light as bread pudding gets), spring fruit version by subbing half-n-half for heavy cream and leaving out the white chocolate. I’m happy to report the strawberries I planted ripened up and turned a lovely bright red. While they were sweet and juicy, they weren’t particularly plentiful. I used the few that grew in this pudding but I had to supplement them with berries bought at the market. And I’m still on the hunt for that elusive, locally grown rhubarb I keep hearing about. It wasn’t at the market the weekend I planned to bake so I used Washington State, hot house grown rhubarb.
2 c heavy cream or half-n-half
1/2 c plus 3 T granulated sugar, divided
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 (16 ounce) fresh French baguette, cut into 1/2” squares
8 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced
8 ounces fresh rhubarb, sliced
1 T unsalted butter, room temp
1 c fresh whipped cream for topping
1. Combine the cream or half-n-half and 1/2 cup of sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Add scraped vanilla beans and pod to cream mixture and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and set aside. Allow to cool until warm to the touch.
2. Whisk the lightly beaten eggs into the warm cream mixture. Set aside to fully cool. Add the bread cubes and approximately three-fourths of the chopped fresh fruit to a large mixing bowl and pour in the custard mixture. Stir to mix. Press a piece of saran wrap directly on top of the pudding mixture and then use another small bowl nested in the mixing bowl to weight down the bread cubes so that they full soak in the custard. Allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 350˚ Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 x 8” baking dish with butter and sprinkle in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, turning on all sides to ensure that the dish is evenly coated. Spoon the pudding mixture into the dish and pour any remaining custard over the top. Top the pudding with the remaining one-fourth of the fresh fruit. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and set inside a larger baking pan or dish filled with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the pudding dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Take the pudding from the oven and remove the foil cover.
4. Increase the oven temperature to 375˚ Fahrenheit and return the pudding to the oven, and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from the water bath and set aside on a rack to cool slightly. Carefully remove the water-filled baking dish from the oven, discard the water, and set the dish aside to cool.
5. Cut the cooled bread pudding into equal squares and serve warm, topped with 1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly whipped cream.