Flavor Play: Bread Pudding

Photo: esimpraim The Wikipedia page for Bread Pudding will tell you that this widespread, traditional dish is a dessert, but that's not true anymore. Without all of the sugar, a bread pudding is just as good--still eggy, still soft, still rich, but better for dinner or any other time for that matter.

Need some ideas? Here are some tips:

  • Start with the basics - There's no perfect ratio for every type of bread, pan and ingredients, but there's a lot of wiggle room, too. More liquid to bread means a more custardy texture, which I personally prefer. Start with 3 eggs and 2 cups whole milk to 4 cups of cubed bread, and adjust to your liking.
  • Waste not, want not - Like making bread crumbs or croutons, making bread pudding with stale bread works better than with fresh. So whatever you've got on hand, use it. Croissants, cornbread, fruit cake, donuts, challah, sourdough, baguette, wholegrain, etc. (If you have fresh bread, toast the cubes lightly before assembling. It helps to keep the shape and not-too-soggy texture of the pudding.) For denser, drier breads like baguette or wholegrain, let them soak in the egg mixture longer before baking. And, not all breads can go in both the sweet and savory directions-- fruit cake and donuts for example aren't interchangeable
  • Savory - This is the easy part. Like what we did with waffles last week, add in whatever savory flavor-combinations you want. Tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, or prosciutto, leeks, and parmesan. Because the mixture will cook in the oven, you can add in chopped raw onion, and heavy greens (mustard, collard, kale). Make sure to add salt and pepper, and any other spices. (In a lot of ways, a bread pudding is like a quiche or an omelette, so look to your favorites for inspiration.) Try this Leek Bread Pudding.
  • Sweet - The first step in a sweet bread pudding is adding sugar to the mix. At least half a cup, of white or brown, for the above amounts but more doesn't hurt. Some recipes even call for two and a half cups. And then, the add-ins! Consider fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, spices, liquor, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, pumpkin and ginger, caramel, citrus curd, citrus zest, and anything else you think of! Try this Louisiana-style White Chocolate Bread Pudding to start.

bread pudding

Bake at 350 until the custard is set and top is browned. But don't feel confined to using a standard baking dish. The custard will set in ramekins and a muffin pan too, for individual servings.

For more ways to play with flavors, click here.