Daisy Martinez shares insights of the family table and a wonderful Christmas bread

Daisy Martinez poses for a photo with my brother, Pete

On the Food Network, Daisy Martinez is the star of “Viva Daisy” a show that brings terrific Latin recipes to countless viewers. While the emphasis is on the food, never an episode goes by without mention of the family she prepares it for.

The Brooklyn-based, mom of four always speaks from the perspective of membership in a large and loving Puerto Rican – Italian family. In her appearances at the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library, family stories figure have figured promiently and her most recent appearance on the bitterly cold night of Dec. 14 was no exception.

For well over an hour, she regaled the audience with tales of how important table time is for her family. She repeated the familar tale of how she told her doctor husband Jerry he had to be home every night at 6 for dinner, no exceptions. He could go back to work after dinner, but he had to be there to share in the stories of the day and experience the food prepared with love for him and his children.

Daisy also talked of the Christmas, some years back, when she and her husband decided to replace presents with memories for their kids. She recalled that as a child growing up in Brooklyn in the heart of a large and warm Latino family, the memories were much more important to everyone than gifts.

“Christmas, I loved Christmas,” she said. “It wasn’t about presents it was about moms and dads and grandparents and 14 siblings all togther at one table. For an eight-year-old, that was wonderful stuff. That was Noche Buena.”

At first the kids were stunned by the news. But when they learned that the “memories” would be collected in places like Barcelona, Madrid, Peru and Mexico, they warmed to the idea.

  To share more insights about gathering memories around the table of her home, Daisy has written her second book, “Daisy’s Holiday Cooking,” an Atria paperback, which is a sparkling collection of recipes ranging from a cozy fall dinner to a Thanksgiving weekend brunch with at Latin flair to a festive Christmas Eve dinner and elegant New Years Eve celebrations and a traditional sweet bread for the Feast of Epiphany — Dia De Reyes.

Daisy selected her tempting “Cherry Cordial Bread Pudding” as a Christmas recipe for Keeping the Feast. I’ll be baking it this today and bringing it in to share with the foodies tomorrow. We’ll weigh in with the results (and I mean that sincerely) some time after lunch.

Photo from "Daisy's Holiday Cooking" by Daisy Martinez

Daisy’s Cherry Cordial Bread Pudding

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon unsalted butter; 6 cups heavy cream; 12 large eggs; 1 cup sugar; 2 tablespoons rum; one 11-1/2 ounce bag bittersweet chocolate chips; 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips; 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon; one 10-inch loaf challah bread, cut (crusts and all) into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups); 1 cup dried cherries (about five ounces).

Directions: using the butter, grease a 13-by-9 inch baking dish. Beat 2 cups of the cream with the eggs, sugar and rum in a large bowl until smooth. Heat the remaining 4 cups of cream in a medium saucepan until the edges are bubbling. Remove from the heat, add the bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chips and let stand for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the cinnamon.

Slowly pour the chocolate cream into the cream-egg mixture, whisking continuously until the two are blended. Add the bread, turning gently to coat with the chocolate custard mix. Let stand until the bread has soaked up as much of the custard mixture as it will hold, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how stale the bread is. While the bread is soaking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir the cherries into the mix. Pour the mix into the prepared pan. Bake until the edges are set and the center jiggles when you wiggle the pan — 40 to 45 minutes. let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving warm or let cool completely and serve at room temperature.

Daisy notes that day-old bread is best for this dish. It will be easier to cut into cubes and soak up more custard the next day.


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