Wednesday, February 3, 2010


- Irving Berlin

Sisters, sisters
There were never such devoted sisters,
Never had to have a chaperone, no sir,
I'm there to keep my eye on her
Caring, sharing
Every little thing that we are wearing
When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome
She wore the dress, and I stayed home
All kinds of weather, we stick together
The same in the rain and sun
Two different faces, but in tight places
We think and we act as one
Those who've seen us
Know that not a thing could come between us
Many men have tried to split us up, but no one can
Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister
And lord help the sister, who comes between me and my man

* This is the song mom used to sing to Sue whenever she would come into our bedroom to the sounds of us fighting. And it never failed to make Sue laugh no matter how angry she was and no matter how hard she tried not to laugh.

My sister never ceases to amaze me. Her talents unfolding at an early age, I would watch in awe as she slipped into her dance costumes at recital time, mesmerized by the glamour and glitter, the satin and pom-poms and sequins, dreaming of owning – and wearing – such things myself - but never daring to – then watching her tap her way to stardom up on that stage. She jumped into the Girl Scouts quite young as well and loved it! Unlike poor little old me who loathed everything about Girl Scouts except the S’Mores and skipped out after purging my minimum sentence, she proudly wore her uniform and performed those Scoutly duties, earning badge after impressive badge, until she graduated high school. And at school? Well, let’s just say that every time my foot crossed the threshold of another classroom on every single first day of school, the teacher would invariably exclaim “Oh, you must be Sue’s sister! Well, in that case I know that we can expect great things from you as well!” And I would shrink and slide down under my desk knowing that I could never live up to those expectations.

Rare was the girl popular with both teachers and students, but boy was she! Teachers were overjoyed to have her in their classes and she was president of a gazillion clubs and Valedictorian of her class. Whew! Her awards lined the wall of the Family Room, best student in the nation, best this, president of that, highest this and star that. Top not only of her class but of every class in the country. Accepted into Medical School (and 3 of them) right out of high school. You name it, she did it! Candy Striper in her sharp, crisp pink and white striped uniform, Sunday School teacher, youth group president, her involvement and acclamations endless.

But in the Big Sister category, the story wasn’t quite the same. We weren’t close as we were growing up, no basking in the warm glow of sisterly love, no confidences swapped about makeup and boys, no sharing clothes or giggling over movie stars. Our relationship boiled down to classic sibling rivalry, them (Sue and Andrew) against us (Michael and me), face to face across the dinner table or side by side, push quickly coming to shove, in the station wagon on those interminably long family drives up to New York every summer. The only thing that we shared as sisters was a bedroom, a very small bedroom, invisible boundary line traced across the floor. She had sole use of the dressing table and I would watch her, now in high school, sit and do her before-bed routine or getting ready to go out, fascinated by her grown up paraphernalia, the big, chunky hair curler, scary-looking eye lash curler, creams and lip sticks, and I would watch in envy and awe. Peak under the dressing table and I would come nose to spine with books too hard, too intellectual and grown-up for me to read, open up her closet and stare at such a colorful array of the coolest, grooviest clothes imaginable. And on her trips home from medical school she could easily chase me from the bedroom by simply spreading out her textbooks, each opened to a page with some gruesome photo of a diseased body or selected bloody insides, eyeballs or whatnot, and she had all the privacy she desired.

And in the kitchen, why you don’t think she would have an Achille’s Heel even here? She showed us how to make sesame candy, pouring out the sesame-studded shiny golden cooked sugar onto the baking tray effortlessly, or the Chicken Noodle Casserole she learned how to make in Girl Scouts that we would clamor for.

We finally started getting closer after dad passed away and I was living in France. She flew over and visited us for 2 weeks and it may have been the best 2 weeks I have ever enjoyed in France. We shopped and visited museums, we drank thick hot chocolate at Angelina’s on La Rue de Rivoli and ate Moules Frites in Dieppe. We saw where Jean D’Arc was burned in Rouen while sucking on apple candy and made deep, dark, sinful Chocolate Tartlets together at the house in Bois Colombes. We made homemade citron pressées and sipped them in the garden while having what may have been our very first heart-to-heart. And since this visit we have only grown closer, our relationship punctuated by marriages and births, travels, family reunions and, sadly, deaths. She carried me through our brother’s illness and death with her constant phone calls and her endless supplies of jokes, turning everything around and upside down and keeping me laughing through the worst of times, telling stories, bringing back memories and gossiping like nobody can. Now we find each other on Skype, still amazed at the Jetson-like form of communication, allowing us to laugh and giggle, talk and show each other our dogs. And thank heavens for our brilliant doctor, too: we have been calling her for diagnoses, prognoses, questions to research and her opinion for these past 20 years. And she pulls through with flying colors every time! And hasn’t once complained!

And we have discovered our common passion for food. She cooks like nobody’s business, trying to cook healthy, lower calorie, vegetable-heavy meals and nice rich, decadent desserts. She clips recipes out of magazines and collects them wherever she sees a tempting one. She is as brave in her kitchen as she is in real life, throwing herself with gusto into anything that intrigues her. She recently made homemade marshmallows which even have me scared and running, joyously chewing them for my viewing pleasure while we Skype. She made macarons for our Mac Attack and had fabulous results even though she doesn’t even own a pastry bag for piping! She has baked my yeast coffee cakes with grand success. And now I am waiting for her to send me recipes that she remembers from our childhood.

And she sent me this recipe for Chocolate Custard Bread Pudding about 20 years ago and I have decided to make this luscious pudding using my homemade Challah for our Monthly Mingle that I am hosting this month and whose theme is Bread & Chocolate. Luscious and dark, this is just the kind of dessert I love. And every time I open the fridge I sneak another spoonful of the Bread Pudding like a child stealing candy from mom’s purse. And enjoying every single guilty mouthful.


1 ½ squares (1 ½ oz/ 45 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 ½ cups (600 ml) whole milk
2 eggs
½ cup (115 g) sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 – 4 cups stale bread cubes *

* I used homemade Challah and filled a glass measuring cup up to the 4-cup mark. Next time I will use 5 or 6 cups: less bread will give you more custard, more bread and you will have a breadier, denser, chewier pudding which I prefer.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 1 ½ quart (1 ½ litres) baking dish.

Heat the chopped chocolate and the milk together in a large, heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring, until all of the chocolate is melted.

Beat the eggs just until they are foamy then beat in the sugar and the salt.

Add the chocolate/milk mixture to the eggs gradually, stirring vigorously. Stir in the vanilla. Add the cubes of bread and press them down, stirring, until all of the bread is soaked in the chocolate mixture. Allow the bread pudding batter to stand for 10 minutes, stirring and pressing down the bread cubes occasionally.

Grease a 1 ½ quart (1 ½ litres) baking dish. Pour the pudding into the baking dish and place in a water bath** and bake 50 minutes until slightly puffed and the pudding is firm.

** I didn’t place the baking dish in a water bath but next time I will. Mine separated a bit.

Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or ice cream. Keep the rest in the refrigerator, the pudding gets denser and more satisfying, the flavor evolving into something like a wonderfully elegant candy bar.

And as Sue wrote on the bottom of the recipe: Yum Yum!

Thanks, Sue!


Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I've never eaten Challah before. I love the idea of chocolate flavoured bread pudding. Lovely to hear how close you are to your sister. Do the dogs bark at each other on skype?

Anonymous said...

you love your sister!

Cristie said...

I have a dear sister as well, and there isn't anything better! I love your post and all your wonderful pictures- they are the best. Yummy chocolate pudding.

shayma said...

Jamie, i am at work and just had to have a peek at this recipe- and then i got drawn into the story, so beautifully written about how love can grow between two siblings who may not be that close as children. i love the way you describe that meeting you had when she flew in to see you and my eyes got watery when i read about the loss of your brother. i love my two sisters to death and cannot even imagine a life without them, they are my best friends, so i can only begin to imagine what the loss of your brother must be like. you are lucky to have forged this wonderful relationship with your sister. with a sister who makes such a gorgeous bread pud'- why not? :) x shayma

diva said...

u and your sister have a beautiful relationship. My elder sister and I weren't close when we were young. In fact, we fought like animals but i do hope our relationship will continue to grow and get stronger as the years pass. What a gorgeous bread pudding. Seems like Sue is a genius in every area but so are you Jamie! Thanks for sharing such a heartwarming story with us. x

KennyT said...

This is truly touching, I wish to know your sister too, Jamie!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A beautiful post! A pity my relationship with my sister is not like yours (we don't see one another anymore)...

That pudding is fantastic!



lisaiscooking said...

I don't what took me so long, but I've only recently come around to bread pudding. But, now that I have, I'm a big fan. This chocolate version look amazing!

La Table De Nana said...

It is a sweet story AND photos..Lucky you a sister:)

Nicisme said...

Lovely post and great bread pudding. I like the chocolate version the best, could eat the whole lot!

Happy Cook said...

We are three girls and we did fight a lot when we wer elittle, but then when we got teenagers we bacame like friends. And now even though one is in India and one in US and me here we are really close.
I love the idea you used the home made challah for the pudding. I think bread pudding is a real comfort food especially in these cold days.

AmyRuth said...

A wonderful story, beautifully narrated life story. I love that you both have found the glue in your life to bring you back to each other. What a gift when it means the most to you both. Bread pudding, love it. Chocolate? The Most!!!

Cookin' Canuck said...

What a beautiful post about your sister! It's always nice to hear about siblings growing closer as they grow older. The bread pudding looks mouth watering.

The Cooking Ninja said...

Siblings fight all the time. I was the youngest and I always got bullied by the older siblings. My sis who is 2 yrs older than me was and still is my protector and defender. We have a very strong bond since we were little. I would do anything for her and vice versa. We used to be very close to our oldest sister but over the years, things changed and now there's an ocean separating us and her - perhaps it is the age gap. I hope one day the 3 of us can be closed again like we used to in the past.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Love the post about your sister. It's nice that you are so close. Thanks for sharing the story about your warm relationship.

With 99% cacao your bread pudding has to be fantastic.

5 Star Foodie said...

A great write up about your sister and thank you for sharing this delicious bread pudding recipe, it looks outstanding!

Cathy said...

What a lovely post. My sister is pretty special too and I can't imagine my life without her. Chocolate bread pudding...this must be the perfect food.

Mary said...

What a lovely story, Jamie. The bread pudding sounds wonderful and will be perfect for your Bread and Chocolate get together.

gastroanthropologist said...

My sister and I are complete opposites and sometimes we are sleeping in the same bed because we can't bear to be apart and sometimes we don't talk for weeks. She's pretty amazing but the girl can't really cook. Mudpies (like the ones you make outside with mud) pretty much sums up our joint cooking efforts!

She sold me on Chocolate Custard and totally sealed the deal with bread pudding on top. Rich breads are amazing from bread pudding. I've had the wonderful fortune of getting a load of bars of gold (valrohna, so maybe better than gold?). I'm dedicating this Sunday to chocolate so adding this to my list of things to make!

Alessio Fangano said...

As always a nice dreamy post. I bet Sue is as proud of you as you are of her :-)
I never made bread pudding but after reading this recipe, it is something I have to put on my to do list!

SallyBR said...

What a wonderful post this was!

Heavenly Housewife said...

I simply adore your childhood pictures, they have such a sense of happiness to them. They make me smile (as does the chocolate custard bread pudding).
*kisses* HH

Peter M said...

Jamie, what a wonderful homage to the relationship you have with your sister.

Bread pudding with your challah of last week, can it be anything but delish?

sarah said...

My colleague and I were just talking today about bread pudding. I haven't even tried it before (not fully British yet, I guess). But this seems like a winner. Can you eat bread pudding at room temperature? Or is hot really the only way?

Rambling Tart said...

Ah, such good memories you brought back with this post. :-) I love that song. Watched that movie over and over growing up. :-) Such a lovely story and this pudding looks delicious. :-)

Nina said...

Jamie the choc pudding looks great.. i love anything chocolaty,liked the idea of using challah.

Barbara Bakes said...

I would be sneaking bites of this if it was in my fridge too. Sounds like a great recipe!

sunita said...

Jamie, for a moment, I thought you were describing me looking up in admiration at my sister, who is quite older to me. I could easily place myself in your position. In fact, it was somewhat exactly like you described it. But I'm glad to say that we are quite close now.And I am happy that you are so close to your sister now. And thanks to Sue for the recipe.

And as for your pudding,it looks delicious; chocolate can never go wrong ;-)

Sophie said...

I so ove your childhood pictures,...hahhaha,..

What a grand post this is, dear Jamie!

The chocolate custard pudding looks FABULOUSLY TASTY!

Jamie said...

@sarah - Bread pudding changes (ever so slightly) both flavor (melding together) and texture (denser) as it cools to room temperature and then chills in the fridge. The chocolate flavors was much more intense when it was warm and worked better, in my opinion, with unsweetened whipped cream to temper it. Room temperature is perfect and this bread pudding I actually preferred the second and then the third day chilled, dense and chewy from the fridge - the flavor was less intense and dark and more like a wonderful milk chocolate candy bar. I also preferred the texture.

Sarah said...

Utterly amazing Jamie, both the relationship you have with your sister and the pud! It won't be long until I give this one a bash I daresay!

I have a sister, but we're not particularly close and never have been, i hope we grow together like yourself and your sister in times of need to find something fresh and inspirational in each other. <3 <3

Tinky said...

I'm with the rest of the gang in applauding the spirit of the post AND the look of the photos and the pudding. I think you should enter it in my charity pudding contest next year (probably October 30). Keep it in mind, please! And enjoy the bread and chocolate! The URL for the contest is

Sari said...

I love as you write about your sister. I always wanted to have a sister. But I have two brothers. I love them anyway! :) It's really sweet as your relationship had developed and you are very close to each other now! What a delicious recipe you got from her! It looks wonderful. And it's a great way how to use a stale bread. I love it.

Elra said...

Bread pudding is delicious, add chocolate to it, is a pure bliss!

Katy ~ said...

You are fortunate to have a sister. I lost mine when she was age 3 and I was age 5; to this day I still miss her. I love my girlfriends, some of whom are like family, but still they are not like my sister. I'm so glad to hear that your relationship has become enriched as time went on.

That chocolate pudding is decadent!

Deeba PAB said...

What a nice rendition to your sweet, accomplished sister. I love your way with words, darling girl, love the way you tell the tale. It's engaging,jerks the occasional tear...and keeps me giggling too! EVOCATIVE ... sweetness, as gorgeous as the bread pudding!
Thank you for helping us meet are a talented buncha gals!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I made my first challah recently and I thought it was fantastic! Similar to brioche but so much easier and less buttery too which can only be a good thing. I loved reading about you and your sister too! I can imagine some of those textbooks would have frightened you immensely! :o

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

What a fun post!
I was an only child, but always wanted a sister.
I do have Rosemary Clooney singing that song though, and Bette Midler too! Love it!

Gloria said...

This look fantastic Jamie, I love your post! x gloria

catty said...

what a sweet little story of you and your sister! i love it :) and I do love little personal posts like this once in a while!

Jeanne @ Cooksister! said...

What a wonderful tribute to a sibling! I feel equally close to my brother and it is such a gift - I know many people who do not get on that well with their siblings. The pudding looks like decadence personified!

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, you are ever the vivid storyteller. I could relate to the part about ditching Girl Scouts as soon as possible. And, who couldn't sympathize with being in unspoken competition with an older sibling? I am glad that you and Sue are becoming close, and man, I can see how a recipe like this luscious chocolate custard bread pudding could seal that bond. Yum yum, indeed.

Michael said...

Wow! Just by looking at the pictures really made me hungry. That sure is one mean chocolate bread pudding. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I would surely give this a try. I would go really well with a cup of hot coffee made from my new pod espresso machine at home. Kudos!


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