Bread pudding, once known as poor man’s pudding, has come a long way since its humble beginnings. It evolved as a use for stale bread. Today’s bread puddings, however, take advantage of fresh, gourmet breads, such as brioche, and include expensive ingredients, such as vanilla beans, flavored liquors, gourmet cheese, or pecans. It has shaken its modest origins and now shows up on the dessert menus of upscale restaurants and creative home cooks.
For us it is the ultimate comfort food and we love how versatility it is. The dish is made by layering bits of bread (or leftover muffins, croissants, buns, you get the idea) with any imaginable addition from fruit, to liquor, to spices, to leftover chocolate, in a dish and soaking it in a custard sauce before baking. It bakes up golden and fluffy and as if that isn’t enough it is often drizzled in creamy flavorful sauces. Seriously, what’s not to love?
Start with a basic bread pudding. I usually tear a loaf of challah bread into a large bowl. In a medium saucepan heat 3 cups milk (or half and half, or 2 cups milk and 1 cup heavy cream) with 3 tablespoons butter just until butter is melted. Pour over bread and let sit 15 minutes to cool. In a small bowl whisk 3 eggs with 1/2 cup sugar until it is smooth ad thick. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla (or vanilla bean). Gently mix into the bread mixture. Let the bread sit and soak, making sure that the bread is sufficiently moist before it goes into the oven. Pour the mixture into a greased pan or casserole. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes, or until puffy and no liquid is visible when a knife is inserted. Let cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
Add Some Yum:
Serve with fresh berries and a basic vanilla sauce.
Raspberry Bread Pudding:
Follow the basic recipe but add 1/2 pint fresh raspberries when adding the vanilla. While the bread is cooling make the white chocolate sauce: In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup half and half with the beans from a 1-inch slice of vanilla pod. When it starts to boil, remove from heat. Add 2 teaspoons unsalted butter and 8 ounces white chocolate that has been chopped into small pieces. Whisk until smooth. Spoon the white chocolate sauce onto a serving dish. Set a slice of raspberry bread pudding in the center. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with whipped cream. Serve immediately.
Caramel Whiskey Bread Pudding:
Combine 1 cup raisins and 1/2 cup caramel whiskey in a small saucepan. Heat just to a simmer, cover and set aside. Make the basic bread pudding as listed above, but add 1/2 pint of blueberries, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and the drunken raisins when adding the vanilla. While the bread pudding is baking make the pudding sauce: Melt 1 stick unsalted butter; stir in 1 cup brown sugar and 1 beaten egg. Simmer to thicken. Stir in 1/4 cup caramel whiskey, 1/4 cup milk and keep warm until ready to use. Serve with bread.