The Hoax: Croissant and Prune Bread Pudding Recipe

Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Julie Delpy, Hope Davis
(R, 115 min.)

"And, after all, what is a lie? ‘Tis but the truth in masquerade."
Lord Byron

There’s such an appeal in his bad boy charm, you’re likely to root for Richard Gere’s Clifford Irving, the literary liar who almost bilked his publisher out of a million dollars for a faux “autobiography” of the famously reclusive Howard Hughes. We’re in on the con from the get-go, every sweat-soaked second of near discovery, as well as Irving’s bold-faced lies, brilliant rebounds and brazen betrayals.

It’s a little like taking Dad’s new convertible for an unauthorized joy ride. You know you’re going to get caught, but you can’t resist the incredible allure, all the sweeter because it is forbidden. And it is no coincidence that Irving drives a spiffy leather-seated Mercedes convertible, bought on credit from an advance that fizzled.

His comeback is a plan so audacious, reckless, and inspired, it seems that it might succeed, for the utterly reclusive nature that makes Howard Hughes such a scoop also precludes his learning about the book, let alone his coming forth to dispute it. Or at least that’s the logic that ropes in Irving’s rather decent best friend and research assistant, Dick Suskind, played with just the right amount of guilty fear and awkward deceit by Alfred Molina.

By hook and by crook, they land on some useful nuggets of the real deal, which Irving fabricates into pure gold. It is the unctuous Irving who keeps any stooges entertained while poor Dick is charged with stuffing government documents down his pants, or rushing off to Xerox an entire manuscript penned by a Hughes associate while Irving pretends to be editing it for spelling errors. It is the skillful interplay between the two leads - Gere’s flying by the seat of his pants spontaneity, Milano’s reluctant moth drawn to the flames mentality – that elevates the film, and makes you want to watch them finagle themselves through their tissue of lies one more time.

But after all their clever thievery, the treasure trove of documents arrives unbidden at Irving’s door, and its mysterious return address seems somehow tied to the real Hughes, who Irving begins to think is tacitly supporting him now. He becomes obsessed with the project, adopting Hughes' middle part, mustache, and speech patterns as he translates his information into a series of taped interviews.

But as with all pathological liars, the difference between truth and illusion becomes more and more blurred, and the feats to keep the big lie afloat necessarily more and more spectacular. Anyone familiar with the ruthless ways of the publishing world cannot help but enjoy the ease that they capitulate to Irving’s instructions for a proposed visit by Hughes. The top three stories of their office building are emptied –the windows covered with tarps, the carpets rolled up, and a pentagram-like drawing inscribed on the roof in anticipation of the cash cow’s arrival by helicopter. Irving maneuvers his way out of this with bravado so simple its works.

But this isn’t after all, Risky Business, where adolescent hijinx neatly unravel themselves just before Mom and Dad arrive home. Instead, we have other unravelings - of relationships, trust, and perhaps even of sanity itself. Ultimately, the joy ride in the lovely convertible becomes a more somber one in the back seat of darkened sedan as it pulls away from the courthouse.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

One of the more inspired fictions cooked up by Irving concerns the reclusive millionaire’s first meeting with them. Even the very nervous Dick Suskind has his story to tell, one that seems so strange that it must be true.

Hughes, seated on a white-veiled bed, his hair long, his robes almost Ghandi –like, reaches out gaunt hand and deposits a single prune in Dick’s hand. “He gave me a prune,” Dick rehearses aloud in the cab beforehand, and then rushing it out as soon as he meets the prospective publishers, sounding almost like a dim-witted child.

Of course, Gere’s Irving is up to the task of weaving the rest of the story around this early outburst, and indeed, its very simplicity seems to ensure its authenticity.

The challenge for your Different Drummer is to make this much-maligned fruit into a delectable dish. I believe I have found my answer in elegant bread pudding, made with rich croissants instead of bread, with the prunes soaked in French brandy.

Croissant and Prune Bread Pudding 

By Aïda Mollenkamp

Bread pudding is a favorite around here, so we decided to make an extra indulgent version using croissants instead of bread. Paired with Armagnac-soaked prunes and a rich custard, this is a simple and elegant dessert.

What to buy: We found that fresher croissants make for a silkier pudding, but this recipe is also a great way to use up stale ones.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup good-quality pitted prunes (6 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup Armagnac or brandy
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar for pudding, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 to 6 croissants (about 1 pound total), torn into 2-inch pieces

Instructions

  1. Quarter prunes and combine with Armagnac in a medium bowl. Set aside and let soak for at least 10 minutes. (The prunes will plump slightly but will not absorb all the liquid.)
  2. Heat oven to 325°F and arrange rack in the middle. Strain prune mixture, reserving prunes and Armagnac separately.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together reserved Armagnac, half-and-half, milk, eggs, egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract until well combined; set aside.
  4. In a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, evenly distribute croissant pieces and prunes.
  5. Pour custard mixture over croissant mixture and allow to soak for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring about 8 cups water to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  6. Evenly distribute remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over bread pudding. Set the filled baking dish into a larger roasting pan and add enough of the hot water to reach 1 inch up the sides of the baking dish.
  7. Bake until custard is set and top is lightly browned, about 1 hour. Serve warm, at room temperature, or refrigerated, topped with ice cream or 

Caramel Sauce

Recipe Source: Chow.com