Bread and butter pudding

An un-French dessert from the most French of Borough’s patisseries: Comptoir Gourmand

Bread and butter pudding. Readers of Friday feeling, if you’d asked us to name the most un-French of all desserts in the British cuisine, this would be it.

Traditionally made with stale bread (a contradiction in terms in France) this thick, carby wedge of currants, crust and custard is the proof of the pudding: the heaviest argument going for the French and the English to have different words for the same dish.

When did you last see ‘bread and butter dessert’ on a menu in Britain? Never, that’s when. Pudding is the very definition of it. So you can imagine our surprise upon finding it at the most French of Borough’s patisseries, Comptoir Gourmand.

Among the artistry
There it squats: a dense, crusty anomaly among the artistry of eclairs, financiers and mille-feuille. They’ve tarted it up a bit—they are French bakers after all—but for all its careful shaping and chic paper casing, it is still recognisable: it takes more than a fairy dusting of icing sugar to conceal the cosy communion of custard, plump ‘raisons’ and croissants.

The croissants work in this case not because they’re French, but because they almost ARE butter to begin with. The addition of more butter merely enhances the pudding’s inherent harmony.

So why are they here? “We made it for you guys—the British people,” manager Julien explains, gesturing around the Market. “If we did have it in France we’d have it at the end of a meal,” he continues doubtfully, and I suspect few French people do.

At any time
Meryl does though. She works on the stall, and eats it “at any time”, she smiles. “It’s best warm, but it is very good cold too. It’s moist and it’s gentle, not too sweet.” Then, unable to help drawing a comparison, “it is very like the French dessert I love: flambé.”