Sweet or savory—always a treat
Banana Brioche, Chocolate Caramel, Coconut Praline, Brandy Apple, Butterscotch Raisin—the list of tempting bread pudding recipes trending today is endless. Yes, this usually humble American dish has taken on new life in recent years. Bread pudding probably originated in Europe in the eleventh century when folks left no waste and used leftover bread crusts to make a custardy treat. Still thought of as a family dessert dish made with leftovers (nothing wrong with that!), it has become the quintessential comfort food, now proudly listed on menus both as a dessert and in savory fashion as a main dish. We have to say it has been and remains one of our favorites!
Bread pudding is a true New England classic, but of all the places in the country that claim bread pudding as their own regional favorite, New Orleans takes the top spot. As with almost all recipes for bread pudding, New Orleans cooks start with bread soaked in a mixture of milk, eggs, and sugar. After chefs add their specialty ingredients, they bake it slowly and serve it with a sweet sauce containing a strong dose of booze, usually bourbon. The main appeal of the dessert goes back to its first ingredient—the bready foundation soaks up the sauce paired with it so each bite is infused with warm, rich goodness. Southerners usually top their recipes with chopped pecans, which add a wonderful crunch to the soft, luscious pudding.
Savory bread puddings are not new and pretty much the same as traditional strata, long a favorite breakfast and brunch specialty. Layers of bread cubes, eggs, milk, and any one of hundreds of other ingredients make succulent, inexpensive dishes that can serve a crowd or a family on a cold winter night. Add sausage, cheese, and thyme for a delicious breakfast recipe or try chicken, broccoli, and cheese for a quick and easy dinner.
Bread pudding recipes are truly flexible. Assemble, bake, and serve, or cover and refrigerate them overnight before baking. These recipes may taste even better the second day! The following tips will bring you consistent success:
• Use day-old bread for the best texture. Very fresh bread yields a slightly spongy texture.
• If you do not have a kitchen scale and are measuring the bread by cup amounts, be sure to pack the bread cubes loosely into the measuring cup, or you will end up with too much bread.
• Leave the crusts of the bread on for more texture. Whole-grain breads give these puddings a nutty taste and a slightly drier texture.
• Let the pudding sit for just a bit after baking; it allows the recipe to set and makes it easier to serve.
• Pay special attention to presentation. Using the right dish and adding a little whipped cream, sauce, or ice cream can make all the difference in these recipes.
Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Ice Cream
12 ounces day-old bread, torn in small pieces
4 cups milk
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup melted butter
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 pint vanilla ice cream
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 ounces of Stonewall Kitchen’s Coffee Caramel Sauce or your favorite homemade
1. Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9x13-inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl combine bread, milk, brown sugar, butter, eggs, and butterscotch morsels. Pour mixture into baking pan.
3. Place baking dish in large roasting pan. Fill with enough water to come halfway up sides of baking dish.
4. Bake about 1 hour or until set.
5. Serve warm with cinnamon ice cream.
6. Drizzle with caramel sauce.
Bittersweet Chocolate Bread Pudding
6 large croissants or 12 small croissants (12 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 jar Stonewall Kitchen Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce or any good chocolate sauce
1. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
2. Using a whisk or electric mixer, beat eggs, ¾ cup sugar and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Gradually mix in 1½ cups heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk.
3. Place croissant pieces into prepared baking dish. Spoon on the chocolate sauce (in spoonfuls here and there). Pour egg mixture over croissants and chocolate. Let stand for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Drizzle remaining cream over bread pudding and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar.
5. To make a water bath, place baking dish in a large roasting pan. Fill with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the bread pudding baking dish. (If you choose not to use a water bath, cook 30 minutes or until the custard is golden and set in the center. Without the water bath the edges will be crispier.)
6. Bake until pudding is puffed and golden and custard is set in the center, about 50-60 minutes. Cool a while and serve warm.
Apple Spinach and Cheddar Savory Bread Pudding
1 baguette, cut into ½-inch cubes (approximately 8 cups)
2 cups fresh spinach leaves cut into chiffonade
½ pound (8 ounces) sweet Italian sausage
6 ounces good quality white cheddar, shredded (approximately 2 cups)
1 gala apple quartered, cored and thinly sliced
8 eggs, slightly beaten
2½ cups whole milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of an 8-cup casserole.
2. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, brown sausage. Remove to a paper towel to drain.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, mustard, and salt. Whisk together well.
4. Layer half the bread, spinach, sausage, cheese, and apples. Top with remaining bread, spinach, sausage, cheese, and apples. Pour egg mixture over the top and let sit for about 30 minutes. (You can also do everything up to this point the night before. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Make sure to let it come up to room temp for about 30 minutes before baking.)
5. Bake on the middle rack for 45-55 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.