Celebrating James Joyce

Bread and Butter Pudding.

Ireland Hopping | By Margaret M. Johnson

Davy Byrnes, “Dublin’s literary pub,” is synonymous with James Joyce, a regular visitor to the 21 Duke Street premises where he developed a special relationship with the friendly but abstemious proprietor. The Joycean character most associated with the pub is Leopold Bloom, the main character of “Ulysses,” who enjoys a lunch of “gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy” (still on the menu). Since the publication of the monumental novel in 1922, there has been a constant literary pilgrimage to Davy Byrnes, but none more important than on Bloomsday, June 16, the day the novel took place in 1904. It’s an event looked upon with great relish by Dubliners, who retrace Bloom’s odyssey each year, many in Edwardian dress, others as Joyce himself or as one of the characters in popular episodes.

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Another fitting excuse to honor Joyce at this time of year is his famous collection of short stories, “Dubliners,” which celebrated its centenary year in 2014. As one who writes about food, one of my favorite stories is “The Boarding House,” where Mrs. Mooney “sat in the straw arm-chair and watched the servant Mary remove the breakfast things. She made Mary collect the crusts and pieces of broken bread to help to make Tuesday's bread pudding.” A classic in Ireland and Britain, and perhaps a favorite of Joyce himself, bread and butter pudding is a year-round and versatile dessert. On this important date in Joyce history, bread pudding is even a good substitute for birthday cake!

Celebrating James Joyce.



If there’s one sweet you can count on finding in an Irish pub, restaurant, coffee house, or café, it’s bread pudding in one form or another. This recipe is as close to “standard” as it gets, but there’s always room for a substitute to the raisins (see Variations that follow), an alternative sauce, or just a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar. If serving with the custard sauce, make it a few hours in advance and chill.


1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup Irish whiskey

3 large eggs

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 vanilla bean

8-9 slices firm white bread, crust left on

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

Custard Sauce

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 vanilla bean

5 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1. Make pudding. In a small bowl, combine raisins and whiskey and let soak for 1 hour. Coat an 8-inch baking dish with butter flavored cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out seeds, and stir them into eggs mixture.

3. Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter. Cut slices in half diagonally and arrange half the bread, overlapping slices, in bottom of baking dish. Drain raisins and sprinkle half over bread. Repeat with remaining bread and raisins. Pour eggs mixture over bread and let stand for 30 minutes, pressing down with a spatula to make sure bread absorbs liquid.

4. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place baking dish in a large baking pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of dish. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until pudding is set and top is browned. Remove baking dish from water bath and let cool for a few minutes on a wire rack.

5. Make custard sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and cream. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out seeds, and stir them into milk.

6. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and then reduce heat to simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Stir into cream mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until mixture thickens and coats back of a spoon. Strain into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until chilled. Can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. (Makes about 1 1/2 cups).