I have a confession to make: I am a terrible Cuban. It’s true. Cubans everywhere change their ways when they emigrate but the one thing that they hold on to, aside from being loud, is the habit of eating Cuban food every day. I, on the other hand, do so rarely, and cook it even more rarely. It’s not that I don’t like it, I like it just fine, it’s that I find it rather time consuming. So, when I do make something Cuban, it’s usually a dessert. Of course, this has nothing to do with my sweet tooth….nooo… One of the desserts that I always associate with my mom and growing up in Cuba is pudin. Pudin is technically bread pudding but it is not at all like the bread pudding that the Americans and the British eat. The ingredients are the same but the preparation, texture, and consistency are very different.
This particular recipe is delicious, yet a bit different in flavor from what my mom usually makes. I used nutmeg, which I have never seen her use. The pudin was so good that even my husband, who hates bread pudding, loved it.
Pudin de Pan Cubano
1/2 pound of day-old brioche, cubed
2 cups of milk
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp butter, melted
For the caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 F. On the stove, bring a pot of water to a simmer.
In a large bowl, soak the bread in the milk with the nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Soak until the bread starts falling apart, approximately 15 minutes. Mash the bread with a fork to break up any lumps.
In the mean time, make the caramel by melting the sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Once the sugar is completely melted, cook it for a further couple of minutes, taking care not to burn it. Pour the caramel into a 6 cup metal mold and, working quickly, rotate the mold to cover the sides with the caramel. It will thicken very fast, then it will harden and may crack; this is OK.
Beat the eggs with the sugar and the melted butter, add to the bread mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared mold, place the mold in a roasting pan and pour enough hot water in the roasting pan to come halfway the mold.
Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes up clean, approximately 1.5-2 hours. Remove the mold from the water bath, let it cool before turning the pudin out onto a serving dish.
I actually used two smaller molds and made two small pudins instead of a large one. The molds used for this type of dessert are really just pudding basins like this or Charlotte pans in varying sizes. You may also use cake pans as long as are not the removable bottom type. I’d stay away from pans with grooves, shapes, etc. Be very careful when turning the cooled pudin onto a serving dish; make sure you use a dish with a lip as the caramel, which may be more abundant than in the picture, may spill.
I know that the pudin here is baked in a water bath, but I have to say that, as a child, I never once saw anyone make it this way. In Cuba, it is made in a pressure cooker. Of course, this has everything to do with adaptability; most people in Cuba have pressure cookers but no ovens. Every Cuban household in the United States has a pressure cooker too, and I thought about writing the recipe that way, but I realize that, aside from that community, most people do not have pressure cookers.