I hate winter. Maybe if I lived somewhere with a drier climate, I wouldn’t mind the cold months as much. But down here it rains a lot in winter, making that sloshy sort of wet cold that penetrates your clothes and burrows all the way into your bones. Add that to the fact that the Southern version of playing god amounts to overzealous manipulation indoor temperatures, resulting in the same outcome during the most extreme months: frozen sweat (outdoor sweatlodge to indoor polar bear habitat in the summer, and indoor sauna to outdoor meatlocker in the winter). It’s a cold you can’t shake off with your overcoat and store in a closet upon entering your home. It kind of clings to you, and even if your house is already bone dry and pleasantly toasty, it could take hours to be truly warm again.
So what’s a gal to do? Bake the pain away, after the jump.
The first thing I do when I get home in the winter months is take a birdbath. This is basically just filling up the tub with about 1 foot of hot water and crouching in it for a few minutes, splashing away the sweat (you’d think my body would eventually adjust to extreme temperature fluctuations, but it just never does) and warming up my body quicker than I could by simply standing under the heat vent and cussing. There’s no point in taking a real bath yet, but I’m getting to that. Next, I’ll wrap myself in a fluffy-soft towel (if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll stick the towel in the dryer for a few while I’m birdbathing) and just hang the fuck out for a few. Because it’s the little pleasures in life, like being freed from the constraints of bras and socks and underpants and clothes for a little while, that keep me from having a massive mental break and going all pre-funeral Chuck Bass on everybody. Uh anyway, then I go into the kitchen (still towel-clad) and cook some shit.
A really great thing to make on those bleak winter days when you’re just pissed for no real reason is bread pudding. It’s easy as hell to make, it’s carby, it’s warm and soft, and it fills your house with the most amazing smell. Bread pudding is like a puppy; it’s really hard to stay mad when it’s around. The best part is that BP is unlike a puppy in that it will never ever shit on your rug. So there’s that.
* 1 pound French bread (the firmer the better, I use day-old French bread because recycling isn’t just for rich folk and my mama raised me right)
* 3 1/4 cups milk (some people will tell you to use heavy cream in your BP. Those people are named Mario Batali and moderation never occurred to them, so just use milk, k?)
* 3 eggs
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 cup chopped pecans
* 1/4 cup raisins (if you’re into that sort of thing. For true comfort food, substitute with Ghiardelli white chocolate chips)
* Rum Sauce (not bourbon or whiskey sauce, got it? You could make it with Frangelico or Chambord or some dessert-y something, but never whiskey. This dish is delightfully simple and unrefined, but it still has a balance. To sully this dish with that sour mash flavor is like using a persian cat to wipe the tobacco silt out of your ashtray. Not recommended.)
Tear bread into medium pieces. Do not slice the bread. You’ve had a shit day doing unfulfilling work at a thankless job (listening to the all-Rod-Stewart channel over the loudspeaker), the weather is shit, you haven’t seen the sun for more than 10 minutes at a stretch in like a month, so you deserve to let off a little steam. Grab that loaf with your paws, imagine it’s the creepy, perverted Vietnamese guy from 2 offices down who walks by your desk all day long and openly ogles you, and RIP that shit. If bread is still soft in the middle, just place it out on a cookie sheet and go for a nice long walk/jog/run. Real French bread is amazing in it’s ability to get stale with the quickness. When you get back from your exercise, put the bread into a large bowl and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Mix milk, lightly beaten eggs, and vanilla. Add to bread mixture, folding in slowly with your hands (provided they’re clean), making sure all of the bread is coated. Doesn’t have to be too even, some bits will be drier. Place 1/2 mix in casserole. Layer pecans and raisins/white chocolate, if used. Top with the rest of the mix. Insert into 350-degree oven and spend the next 30 minutes watching really bad TV (housewives of Atlanta, anyone?) or watching that pug video from FourFour on repeat until it’s time to take the BP out of the oven. By this time the smell of cinnamon will have penetrated your trademark winter gloom, your mood will have greatly improved, and your husband will be home.
Prepare Rum sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar. 6 tablespoons butter, melted. 1/2 cup buttermilk. 1 tablespoon (or more!) Rum. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. 1 tablespoon white corn syrup. 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a saucepan mix all ingredients. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. It should be served while warm, but you’re an adult and refuse to eat dessert before you’ve even had dinner, so….
…. Prepare frozen pizza according to package directions. Pelt Mr. Panda with kisses while he’s too weak with hunger to rightfully swat you away for being annoying. Slice and consume pizza. Mr. Panda will claim to not want any of your bread pudding, and you realize that carbo-loading will do nothing to improve your crap day, so you scoop up a little dollop of pudding (it’s still warm!) and begin relishing every bite with your eyes closed. Just when you begin to feel pathetic in that uniquely Cathy comic sort of way, open your eyes and see that Hubs has sunk his entire face into the BP dish with a barely audible *smoooooosh* (like the sound a beanbag makes when sat upon). Realize that you talk about your husband, a grown man, as if he’s a featured regular on Cute Overload. Figure you’ll stop doing it when he stops acting like it. Live vicariously through his lightning speed metabolism and vow to take the remaining pudding to work. You are not a caloric underminer, though, you’re just spreading the joy.