This is a beautifully presented upside down custard dessert. The top is a homemade caramel packed with pears, the base is a simple custard flavoured with brandy. Baked in a water bath it could seem like a bit of trouble but it is well worth the effort.
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup (90g) sugar
8-10 pear halves, tinned
1 small white bread roll, dried
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
4 tablespoons apple or pear brandy
2 tablespoons crystallised ginger, finely diced
1 pinch nutmeg, to taste
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Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a small ovenproof dish with a lid.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan and add half of the sugar then caramelise stirring constantly. Remove the saucepan from the heat as soon as the mixture looks like caramel because if it gets too dark it will taste bitter. Scrape it into the bottom of the dish.
Using a small knife cut the pear into slices like fans; not cutting right through. Thickly cover the caramel with the pears; outsides facing down. (Be careful not to touch the caramel with your fingers, it's very hot.)
Cut the bread into small cubes and scatter over the pears. Set aside.
Bring the milk, vanilla, cream and remaining sugar to the boil. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl adding only a little milk at first. Then add the remaining milk in a gentle stream and mix well with the whisk. Add the apple or pear brandy and nutmeg.
Slowly and gently pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes; if you do it too fast, it will destroy the caramel layer. Press the bread cubes down so that they are completely covered by the milk. Cover the dish with a lid.
Put the ovenproof dish into a larger baking dish or tray and pour boiling water into it to approximately 1cm below the rim of the smaller and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour in the oven until the pudding is set.
Remove carefully from the oven and remove the lid. Allow the pudding to cool completely. (If you turn it over too early the caramel will still be too runny however it shouldn't be allowed to completely solidify.)
Loosen the edge of the pudding with a sharp knife and tip over onto a serving plate. Cool in the fridge before serving.