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Bread Pudding Review

  He’s on a roll

Andreas Petrides achieves perfect balance in his bread pudding.

       Each morning Andreas Petrides begins his gorgeous, apple-crusted bread pudding the same way.

       He peels his apples, the skin unwinding in yellow curls, then slices them and simmers them slowly in butter and sugar until they caramelize.

       Then he cuts the bread. He does this a particular way, too – sawing the airy rolls in half, then lengthwise, then into one-inch chunks.

       Perhaps I should back up here because it is these springy rolls that are the foundation of his extraordinary bread pudding – and they have a different beginning, starting at Coppola Bakery on South Eight Street.

       Coppola delivers them to the Sandwich Stand at the Reading Terminal Market, which uses them for lunchtime cheesesteaks and hoagies.

       The Sandwich Stand is across the aisle from Petrides’ stall, Andro’s Gourmet Foods, where the selections typically outrank homey bread pudding. There are gingerbread cakes topped with fanned poached pear, an irresistible mushroom pate, squash and beet soups, and prepared entrees from pistachio-crusted salmon to Swiss chard stuffed with lamb and rice.

       (Have I mentioned that Petrides is of Greek descent, the son of a United Nations chef long based in Cyprus? You may have passed him – a graceful man of slight build given to wearing a dark bicycle-racing cap.)

       The hoagie rolls? Each evening, if there were any left over, the Sandwich Stand was carting them to the Dumpster. And each evening, Petrides felt a twinge. Could he possibly have the surplus? He asked the stand’s owner, Bill Dellaratta. Of course he could!

So that is how there came to be a small pan of bread pudding at Andro’s every morning – and soon another very large pan, cut into hefty blocks that often sell out by noon.

       There are styles and styles of bread pudding. In New Orleans, Commander’s Palace kicks it up a notch, serving a bread pudding soufflé with whiskey sauce. Locally the Union League has offered a luscious, custardy bread-and-butter pudding for a century.

       Petrides agonized over his recipe, settling on a precise blend of milk, cream and half-and-half. Adding lots of plump golden raisins. Perfuming it with a hit of cognac or dark rum. Plus, he has a secret: As the bread soaks in the milk and eggs, he crushes several handfuls, ensuring that the pudding’s finished texture is moderately firm but still a little spongy.

       It is the perfect consistency – not too dense, not falling apart, not soggy, the top layer of sliced apples cooking to a butterscotch glaze, the raisins creating small sweet pockets.

       After is has baked for an hour, Petrides slides it from the oven to cool. It stands six inches tall at first, then settles a couple of inches – a pudding’s prerogative. Its rumpled apple crust shines. Its sides are a sunny French vanilla.

       It is a proud brick of the city, a hunk of Philadelphia soul: caramelized apple and golden raisin bread pudding – the hoagie roll’s last stab at marching in the fancy brigade.

Rick Nichols, Philadelphia Inquirer

January 7, 2001