My maternal grandmother, Della, wasn’t much of a cook. Forever dieting, she invested far more time into maintaining her dress size than she did perfecting her brisket recipe. However, when pressed into kitchen service, there were a few dishes that she could make tolerably well. She knew how to cook a pot of oatmeal so that it was thick and creamy, had long ago mastered the art of broiling a steak and made the best bread pudding around.
Bread pudding was a staple during Della’s childhood. After being orphaned, she and her siblings were raised by an aunt and uncle. The pressures of feeding three growing children meant that food had to be inexpensive and filling. Stale bread cooked in custard and sweetened with dried fruit checked both boxes and tasted good to boot.
Throughout her later years, bread pudding was the one thing that my grandmother just couldn’t resist. Any time my grandparents would eat out and it was on the menu, my grandfather would order it as his dessert. When it arrived, he’d nudge the dish my grandmother’s way. She’d insist that she was entirely satisfied with black coffee and then proceed to eat half the serving in small bites.
Before you start whisking your custard, read these tips
- Competitor Andrea Gaskins's Apple Crisp Bread Pudding
After four weeks of savory showdowns, bakers finally took the spotlight on Ultimate Recipe Showdown last Sunday. The Cakes and Desserts competition was a sweet tooth’s fantasy: Layer cakes, cupcakes, crisps and cobblers, brownies (topped with cookie dough!) and more.
Food Network Kitchens’ Katherine Alford, our in-house URS judge, is back this week to share some tips for baking perfection. And for those days when there’s barely enough time to preheat the oven, she gives her favorite quick and simple dessert ideas.
FN Dish: This round can be tough timing-wise, since most of the cakes have to bake and then cool down enough to be frosted. Any tips for speeding up this process when you’re in a time crunch and need to get the frosted cake to a party?
Katherine Alford: Cakes really do need time to ripen. Not just for icing, but also for flavor. Smaller is better obviously, like a cupcake—they cool down quicker. But always cool a cake on a rack out of the pan, and cool the layers separately. Pop it in the fridge first to cool it down and then move it to the freezer.
FN Dish: Cupcakes are huge right now. Can you make any cake recipe into cupcakes, or are there some that don’t work as well? What should you keep in mind when using a cake recipe to make cupcakes?
KA: Simple cakes often work as cupcakes, but not always. I think chocolate works better. Don’t over-fill the molds and bake for less time. Sarah Copeland, one of our recipe developers and a cupcake expert, suggests, too, that dense cakes (like carrot cake) make better cupcakes. The airy sponge cakes just get flat and tend to leak over the sides. Thick cake batters (dense cakes) hold their shape better and sometimes even dome a touch in muffin tins.
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