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Puddin’ on the ritz

Rival bakers Nunn and Susan Roth invite their peers to enter the Island Gallery bread pudding bake-off. - JULIE BUSCH photo
Rival bakers Nunn and Susan Roth invite their peers to enter the Island Gallery bread pudding bake-off.
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

Put on the apron – a bread pudding bake-off will raise money for Helpline.

It started with a friendly conversation about bread pudding and ended up a full-blown competition.

At Winslow’s Island Gallery, Susan Roth and Jack Nunn fell into a “who makes the best bread pudding” verbal volley, but never put it to the test.

“An artist said, ‘Why don’t you have a bake-off’ and since we didn’t have a show planned for the month, we decided to do it,” said Roth, who works at the gallery.

After thoughtful consideration, Roth and Nunn, a consultant, decided to open the competition to the community at large and make it a benefit for Helpline House. Marilyn Gremse, food bank manager, called the bake-off “a nice little tie-in, being food and the food bank. We very much appreciate this.”

The idea “was such a small thing that is gaining so much momentum. It’s that warm fuzzy thing,” Roth said. “In January, everybody has the blahs. The weather’s horrible this time of year, so bread pudding sounds good.”

Roth has heard that bread pudding is popular in local coffeehouses, which perhaps explains why restaurants like Winslow Cafe, Harbour Public House, Four Swallows, Doc’s and the Metro Cafe have signed up for the contest.

The competition will be fierce, and not just the one between Roth and Nunn, whose wife, also named Susan, owns the gallery. Susan Swannack-Nunn is staying out of the fray, saying bread pudding is her husband’s specialty.

Roth is supremely confident that her bread pudding will top them all.

“I can’t improve on my recipe,” she said, declining to divulge anything about her ingredients.

Such talk doesn’t faze Nunn. He believes his secret recipe, based on a pudding from a favorite restaurant in Washington, D.C., will be the one tasters love.

“These people are saying they have all these good bread puddings,” he said, with a shake of his head. “I’m bringing in voters from Chicago.”

The rules are simple. All entries must be homemade – “No ringers are allowed, no T&C-produced confections” – and delivered to the gallery by 6 p.m. the day of the bake-off.

Each pudding will be assigned a number by a neutral party and placed on a tasting table. Judges – anyone who pays $1 per sample – will have a taste and write down the number of their favorite pudding and put it inside big jars. There is no limit to the number of samples a taster may buy.

Since this is a serious competition, with a prize and bragging rights attached, Roth strongly expects cheating.

Who will reign supreme in the bake-off? There are so many varieties of this dish – sweet and savory – which dates back to medieval times. Although almost everyone starts with stale bread, milk or cream, eggs and sugar, some people favor a dense version topped with hard sauce (i.e., whiskey); others prefer a lighter, fruit-filled affair or even a cheese center.

Despite what people say about their concoction, the proof is, of course, in the pudding.

* * * * *

Comfort contest

The first Bainbridge Island Bread Pudding Bake-off takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Island Gallery; submit an entry form to the gallery no later than Feb. 1.

All puddings should be family-sized and delivered to the gallery by 6 p.m. Friday. Each pudding will be assigned a number by a neutral party. Results will be tabulated when the bread puddings have been consumed or the 8 o’clock hour strikes, whichever comes first.

The top categories, based on number of votes, are: first and second place for pros; first and second place for amateurs; and first and second place for best overall. Each taste is $1.

All proceeds benefit Helpline House. For more information call 780-9500.

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