One of the most simple meals that one can think of, across many countries and cultures, is undoubtedly bread. Even if a meal is slightly more elaborate than simply bread, the yeasty goodness can still manage to make its way in a dish, be it in the form of a sandwich, a hamburger, a hot dog or a pita bread. However, apart from the savoury dishes, bread also manages to find its way in a large amount of desserts.
In most occasions, when it comes to sweet dishes with a bread element, it can be traced back to a time where bread was considered as an essential part of the diet. Therefore, all measures were taken to make sure that no bread goes to waste and get thrown away. The recipes chosen today, traditionally use day-old bread or bread that is no longer fresh. This ‘no-waste’ way of thinking was spread in most countries, and for this reason, one can find many recipes containing bread, to make full use of it.
Malta – Pudina tal-Ħobż
This sweet, fruity, chocolatey cake is among the best local sweets you can taste in Malta, especially if it’s home-made. There is no fixed recipe or standard list of ingredients, but one has to go with a throw-all-you-can-find-in-the-pantry approach. The basic list would always include stale bread (obviously), chocolate and cocoa powder, fruit (dried or fresh), nuts, spices and any leftover or softened biscuits or cake. This amazing concoction is then baked and it tastes amazing both cold (if you have the virtue of patience) or straight from the oven. Even if the same person is making the ‘Pudina tal-Ħobż’ and using the same ingredients, it will never taste exactly the same, but you can rest assured that it will be delicious.
Italy – Torta di Pane
Similarly to the Maltese Pudina, the Italian Torta di Pane, or Bread Cake follows no standard recipe but is rather an opportunity to clear out the half-opened packets of nuts, dried fruit, cakes, biscuits and other sweets, from the pantry. However, every family usually has a go-to list of ingredients and method that makes their dessert different from any other family’s. This cake, which is sometimes called, ‘Torta di Pane Zero Sprechi’, literally meaning no waste bread cake, has a super soft interior thanks to the stale bread that is softened up in milk before adding up the delicious fruit and spices.
France – Pain perdu
One of the earliest versions of this eggy goodness can be traced back to the Roman Empire, and has made its way to the top spots for breakfast favourites, with a different name that was given in America…French Toast. The French name for this dessert, ‘pain perdu’, literally means ‘lost bread’, as it was a way in which people could make use of the bread that they had in the pantry for some days, instead of throwing it away. This dessert is fairly easy to make as it only requires a handful of ingredients. The stale bread is usually immersed in an egg, milk and concoction, fried and then served with icing sugar on top. Sometimes, vanilla, cinnamon or orange flavourings are added to the mixture. Then, the person’s imagination is the only limit when it comes to toppings as this dessert can be paired with so many different fruits and chocolates.
UK – Bread and Butter Pudding
Similar to the other puddings, this dish is usually made to use up any leftover bread, and it is one of the ultimate British comfort foods. It is also super easy to make as it only requires a few steps. Bread, traditionally sliced white loaves are buttered and cut into pieces, layered in a baking dish and drenched in egg, milk and vanilla. Sometimes raisins or other fruit can be added. Even though the traditional dish uses sliced bread, to achieve that triangular shape, any leftover bread can be used, or even croissants. It can be served warm or room temperature, usually with some jam on the side.
- ‘Where does French toast come from?’, Wonderopolis, available here [accessed 15/02/2018]
- ‘Pain Perdu’, 750g, available here [accessed 14/02/2018]
- ‘French Toast’, Wikipedia, available here [accessed 15/02/2018]
- ‘Ricetta Torta di Pane’, Il Cucchiaio d’Argento, available here [accessed 15/02/2018]
- ‘Bread and Butter Pudding’, The Splendid Table, available here [accessed 16/02/2018]
Written by Veronica Lynn Mizzi : Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). Graduate in the Maltese Language and Communication, and Master’s graduate in Translation and Terminology Studies from the University of Malta. Former journalist