Bread + pudding = Dessert blissOctober 11, 2006
Yes, it was only a matter of time until my husband concocted the perfect homemade recipe for bread pudding. He loves bread pudding. Even if he’s filled to the brim with food at a restaurant and groaning in his chair, if bread pudding is on the dessert menu he manages to find still more room in his hollow leg. Yes, I’ve no doubt that the extra consumption of puddin’ is probably equally parts pleasure and discomfort. “Ah, bread pudding, eating you is such exquisite torture.”
Me? I like bread pudding very much. But I’m an equal opportunity dessert eater. The fabulous thing about making bread pudding at home, though, is:
1) You use up all that stale bread in a manner other than french toast. (Yet another breakfast favorite of hubby’s.)
2) It takes about an hour to cook, giving you time to loosen your belt after dinner and actually enjoy dessert.
Plus, as I always do, I must praise my husband’s excellent and tasty bread pudding. Delicious creamy custard baked into every nook and cranny of now cake-like bread. And let’s not forget the all-important golden brown texture of the top, perfect for ramming your spoon through. This, of course, will send out a puff of steam — that signature of all truly magnificent desserts: It’s hot and fresh, and just for you. Read on for the recipe, puddin’ lovers.
There are so many foods born of one simple idea — waste not, want not. For people in the restaurant business, it can mean the difference between making a profit or finding a new occupation. For the home chef, it’s less important, but most still feel that twinge of frugality when they see an uneaten piece of food. I have little doubt that this is the origin of bread pudding.
Bread pudding is not complex, but it is probably one of my all-time favorites. Its texture and flavor just make me happy. This is one of the recipes I really enjoyed making; it put a big grin on my face.
That said, there is a tiny bit of know-how involved. Here’s a few quick things to deal with before the cooking:
First, the recipe uses a water bath. A water bath is when you partially submerge a baking dish in water. The purpose is to ensure that the items inside are slow to cook — and cook evenly without burning the outside. Be careful: The hot water can burn you after cooking, so be careful not to slosh.
Second, this recipe is a custard. In the roughest of terms, a custard is a milk and egg dish that is often baked or boiled. The result is a pudding-like consistency. In this dish, the bread is suspended in the custard liquid, giving bread pudding its signature texture and flavor.
Third, I use 10 oz. ramekins in this recipe. I like them because they make for an interesting presentation and large individual servings. However, you can adjust this to cook in a loaf pan or create smaller servings. The same principles apply; you will just need to monitor the cooking vessel. One of the signs I look for is browning on the top. It gives away how set the interior is. If it’s golden brown, odds are you are done.
Fourth, this recipe has terrific potential for modifications. You can adjust the flavor quickly with a few ingredients. I made a list at the bottom that might help you. It can also be reheated with little loss of texture or flavor. I gave instructions on how to do that as well.
Finally, I want to dedicate this recipe to Tessie. For those of you who don’t know, Tessie (not her real name, but close!) is my sister and was an early assistant when my wife and I started this blog. Like her big brother, Tessie loves bread pudding, chocolate chip bread pudding in particular. It was with her in mind that I began this recipe. She hasn’t tried it yet, but she will when she visits next.
Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
Yield: 4 large servings
Prep time: 15 min.
Cook time: 60 min.
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. butter (melted)
8 slices sandwich bread
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
2. Make the custard: In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except your bread and chocolate chips.
3. Cut your bread into roughly 1-inch by 1-inch cubes.
4. Using 10 oz. ramekins, lay down several cubes of bread, pressing it into the nooks and crannies. The bottoms is where a good deal of the custard is going to collect, so it’s important to have a thicker layer of bread here. Sprinkle a few chips and then add a bit more bread. Repeat adding another layer of chips and bread. You should have about five layers when you are done… (bread, chips, bread, chips, bread).
5. Now add the custard liquid. You will want to fill up each ramekin with as much liquid as it can hold. Pour to the brim of each one, wait for absorbtion, then make another pass with the remaining liquid. You may have extra custard depending on the texture of your bread.
6. Give them a water bath: In a roasting pan or large water-tight baking vessel, place the ramekins about an inch apart. After placing them in the pan, carefully add very hot water (though not quite boiling) until the ramekins are about half submerged.
(NOTE: If you have sturdy oven racks, I recommend filling the baking vessel with water while its on the rack and mostly in the oven. The less you are moving the scalding water around, the better.)
7. Bake in the oven for approximately 45-60 min. You will be able to tell when it is done by observing the top bread layer. When those pieces begin to brown, you can remove them from the oven.
(NOTE: When I do this recipe, I remove the ramekins and leave the rest in the oven to cool down. That water is boiling hot and the last thing you want to do is slosh it on yourself.)
8. Let cool for 10 min.
9. You can serve the bread pudding in the ramekins if you desire. However, I use a knife and cut along the edges and then turn it out on the serving plate. Top with cocoa powder and confectioners/powdered sugar. Enjoy!
These actually keep well overnight. So if you make too much or wish to prepare in advance, here is a tip. Once you are done cooking, let the ramekins cool until they are just warm, then cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. When you are ready to serve, place a ramekin in the microwave for 1 minute on high. Then turn it out onto a plate and cook for another minute on high. I found that the results were close to the fresh pudding I’d had the night before.
For quick flavor variations, just add one of the following to the basic recipe:
1 tsp. mint extract
2 tsp. fresh orange zest (approx. 1 large orange)
1 tbsp. Bourbon
1 tbsp. Grand Marnier/Cointreau
1 tbsp. Spiced Rum
2 tbsp. Kahlua