Bread and butter pudding with a bonus: Žemlovka

One of Ash’s all time favourite foods is bread and butter pudding. We have a system of keeping the ends of all of our loaves of bread until we have enough to make a big version of this simple dessert, so that Ash can drown his in a river of custard and rave on about how good it is with every mouthful. A world without bread and butter pudding, for him, would not be a world worth living in. In fact, he’s just uttered, ‘You have to worry about any culture that doesn’t include bread and butter pudding.’

A few weeks ago, whilst flicking through the Good Food channel’s offerings, we came upon an episode of the Hairy Bikers’ ‘Bakeation’ in which they were travelling through Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, and whilst in Slovakia they made zemlovka, a traditional Slovakian dish that resembles bread and butter pudding, with the bonus addition of fresh fruit (e.g. apples or pears). Needless to say, it’s been on our ‘to make’ list ever since, and this weekend finally brought us to Slovakia on our cooking challenge.

However, it turns out that Si and Dave made quite a simplified version of this dish (which the Slovaks would not just eat for dessert, but also for breakfast or even dinner). It turns out that to make a properly traditional zemlovka, one must also include cottage cheese in the middle and meringue on the top. Not ones to shy away from a multi-layered dessert, we applied an ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ approach and made sure we did this dessert (and the Slovaks) justice. We ended up with a combination of the Hairy Bikers’ recipe and one from Slovak Cooking.

Žemlovka

Ingredients
1 lb apples (or other fruit if desired)
1 pint milk
2 eggs
Stale bread (enough to make up two layers of your baking dish)
300g cottage cheese
About 5 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Vanilla extract
Small handful of raisins
Cup of cold tea
Butter
Small handful of breadcrumbs

Method
1. Soak the raisins in the tea for about half an hour.
2. Core the apples and grate (by hand or in a food processor). Mix in 2 tbsp icing sugar, the cinnamon and the soaked raisins.
3. Prepare the cheese filling by mixing the cottage cheese with 1 tbsp icing sugar.
4. Make the sauce by mixing together the yolks from the eggs, the milk, 1 tbsp icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla. Save the egg whites; you will be using them later.
5. Grease a baking dish (ours was approx 13×9′) with butter and sprinkle a light layer of breadcrumbs all around the dish. Place enough bread to cover the bottom of the dish in the sauce, let them soak for a few seconds and squeeze out any excess liquid. Lay them out on the bottom of the dish to make the base layer.
5. On top of the bread, spread out the fruit layer, and then the cheese layer on top of that.
6. Put the top layer of bread in the sauce and allow it to soak up all of the liquid, then layer it on top of the cheese. If not all of the liquid has been soaked up, carefully pour it all over the bread.
7. Bake at 180C until golden brown – about an hour.
8. Beat together the egg whites and about 1 tbsp of icing sugar into stiff peaks. Spread over the cooked pudding and bake for another 10 minutes until the meringue topping is golden brown.
9. Serve with cream, ice cream, sour cream or just on its own. Can be warm or cold.

Zemlovka

Zemlovka

Slice of zemlovka

This delicious dessert (which, literally translated, means ‘bread pie’) has all the good parts about bread and butter pudding with the added bonus of an apple-cinnamon layer, which in Miranda’s opinion makes all things better. We will definitely make this again next time we have enough leftover stale bread, although would probably do away with the cheese layer and the meringue layer, as we didn’t really think they were necessary. At least now we know that, should the Empire collapse, Ash could always move to Slovakia to make his life still worth living.

Hungary next!

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2 thoughts on “Bread and butter pudding with a bonus: Žemlovka

    • Bread and butter pudding is very British and is basically a way to use up stale bread with other store cupboard ingredients! Our method of keeping ends of loaves is a good way to build up a store of stale bread (weird as that sounds). Definitely worth a try, and this one with the added apple was great!

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