The news lately seems filled with stories about situations in which religious institutions, business owners and even individual citizens are forced to evaluate when their loyalty to their business or their government is in conflict with their loyalty to their faith. Most likely, this dilemma has been played out in small ways every day across the country, but recent changes in our federal laws have made this a hot topic.
It so happens that we celebrate a saint this month whose story exemplifies this dilemma well. St. Thomas More was forced to prioritize his loyalty between two kings – the king of England and his King in heaven.
More was a brilliant lawyer and a distinguished judge – so well-known, in fact, that he was appointed lord chancellor of England. But despite the pressures of this title and his courtly duties, he refused to approve King Henry VIII’s request to unjustly divorce his wife, nor would he acknowledge that Henry VIII was the head of the Church in England, instead of the pope. He was imprisoned and beheaded in London in 1535 for remaining firm and true to the teachings of the Catholic Church. This self-sacrificing saint should be an inspiration to all of us who are forced to evaluate when the laws of the land conflict with the laws of the Church.
Before I began writing this, I was in search of a good bread pudding recipe for a special guest we are expecting in a few weeks. But bread pudding is a rather rich, heavy and warm dessert, one best served during the winter months, not June. While pondering this English dessert, however, I found a way to take inspiration once more from this English saint, whose feast day is June 22.
St. Thomas More was considered “a man for all seasons.” He was a statesman, a scholar, a politician and a lawyer. His more personal attributes included being a family man, prayerful, quick-witted and a friend to the poor. With St. Thomas More on my mind, I was able to conjure a recipe for bread pudding that features summer berries and ice cream, making it a little more refreshing and lending itself, like the saint we remember this month, to all seasons!
Berry Bread Pudding
- 6 mounded cups of challah or brioche bread, cubed (preferably a day old)
- 2 cups fresh mixed berries (plus more for garnish)
- (blueberries, raspberries, cut strawberries or any combination)
- ¾ cup sugar (plus more for coating pan)
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of allspice
- pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar (for garnish)
- Vanilla ice cream
Butter an 8” x 8” pan and coat with sugar. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium to large mixing bowl, combine eggs, heavy cream, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Beat for 30 seconds or just enough for a smooth consistency. Set aside for a minute or two, to reduce the air bubbles on the surface.
Add the cubed bread to the custard mixture and gently toss until all pieces are coated. Add the mixed berries and gently fold until evenly distributed throughout mixture. Add mixture to the sugar coated pan.
Bake for 45 minutes or until light golden brown on top and custard is set. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving. Cut into squares and top with fresh berries, powdered sugar and ice cream.
Michelle DiFranco is a designer and the busy mom of two children.