Catherine Giordano enjoys creating and sharing recipes for home cooks who want delicious results with minimal fuss.
The Best Comfort Food
It seems like everyone loves bread pudding. It's comfort food. It's a humble dessert, but dress it up a little, and it can be quite elegant. Best of all, it is quick, easy, and inexpensive.
Why Is Bread Pudding So Popular?
Bread pudding is a favorite of frugal cooks. It uses leftover bread that might otherwise go to waste. It’s quick and easy to make. It uses only a few inexpensive ingredients that you are likely to have on hand. And it is so delicious!.
I had my first slice of bread pudding when I was 11 years old when I entered middle school. It was served in the school’s cafeteria. It was love at first bite. It’s a not-too-sweet treat for the taste buds, and it has a dense spongy texture for a great mouthfeel.
Every student was required to spend one day every few months helping in the school’s cafeteria. The heels of the bread--the two end slices in a loaf of sliced white bread--were not used for sandwiches. Instead, they were gathered up, ripped into pieces, and soaked in a milk-egg-sugar mixture. The soaked bread was put into large pans and baked to make bread pudding for lunch.
Bread pudding can be served warm with a variety of sauces or garnishes like whipped cream or ice cream. It can also be eaten cold out-of-hand for a quick breakfast or snack. Whenever I make it, I keep the leftovers in the refrigerator. It won’t be there for long—my family and I can’t resist grabbing a slice.
Many people feel that bread pudding is a comfort food. I suppose that is one of the reasons I like it so much.
Bread pudding is usually baked in a baking dish, but you can also bake it in a baking bowl or soufflé dish. If you bake it in a bowl, scoop it out with a spoon onto individual dessert plates or bowls.
What Is the History of Bread Pudding?
A form of bread pudding is popular in just about every country. If bread is part of the cuisine, bread pudding is probably also present. It can be made as a dessert or as a savory side dish. In the United States, a savory bread pudding is called stuffing. Just omit the sugar and add chopped onions and savory herbs like parsley.
According to food historians, bread pudding goes back to the early 11th and 12th centuries. In 13th century England, bread pudding was known as “poor man’s pudding” because it was a popular dish with the lower classes. Of course, people with little money would make this dish—it eliminates food waste, it’s inexpensive to make, and it is filling.
Today it has surpassed its humble origins and can be found in trendy restaurants and in the kitchens of gourmet cooks. It becomes an elegant dessert when gussied up with fancy sauces and toppings and when made with fancy bread like croissants or brioche.
Some recipes for bread pudding call for heating the milk and preparing a custard to pour over the bread. You can find those recipes in books or online. I’m not giving them here because I’m sticking with quick and easy.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
1 hour 15 min
Ingredients for Basic Bread Pudding
- 6 cups white bread, cut into squares
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 cups milk
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan.
- You will need 4 to 6 slices of stale bread. (Stale bread will absorb the liquid better than fresh bread.) Cut the bread into squares, about 1-inch square. You should have about 6 cups of bread, measured by loosely packing the bread into the measuring cup.
- Place the bread pieces in the pan. Sprinkle the raisins over the top.
- Beat the remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Pour the mixture over the bread. Press down on the bread with the back of a spoon to force the bread to soak up the milk mixture. Most of the liquid will be absorbed by the bread. It will look and feel mushy.
- Let the bread mixture soak for at least 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the oven is ready, put the pan into the oven. Bake for 1 hour or until the top is nicely browned.
- When done, remove the pan from the oven and place it on a rack to cool.
- When cool, cut into squares (cut into thirds in each direction to create nine squares) and serve as-is or add a topping.
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Variations to the Basic Recipe
You can butter the bread before cutting it into squares, or you can dot the top of the pudding with butter before baking.
You can omit the raisins and substitute chocolate chips, dried fruit, or small fresh berries, like raspberries or blueberries. If you want to use frozen berries, add them in while frozen.
You can vary the milk ingredient. Use evaporated milk (or part evaporated milk and part water) if you don't have fresh milk. You use half-and-half or even heavy cream if you dilute it with milk or water.. You can use skim milk, 1%, 2%, or whole milk. You can use soy milk or almond milk.
You can use any kind of bread. Try it with croissants, rolls, sourdough bread, hot dog or hamburger buns, or dark bread like whole wheat bread or pumpernickel.
You can also replace some of the bread with cake, Danish pastry, or donuts. (If you do, cut back on or eliminate the sugar.)
You can vary the sweetener. Try it with light brown sugar. You can use honey or maple syrup--just add a little more bread to soak up the extra liquid.
You can soak the raisins in alcoholic spirits like rum, whiskey, bourbon or a flavored liqueur. Or you can just add two tablespoons of the spirits to the liquid ingredients.
- Serve topped with whipped cream.
- Serve topped with ice cream; vanilla ice cream is always good or try salted caramel or butter pecan.
- Serve with store-bought ice cream sauce.
- Cut the bread pudding into small squares and place in a nice cut glass serving dish. Add your favorite topping.
- Serve with quick and easy caramel sauce. (See recipe below)
- Serve with quick and easy fresh strawberry sauce. (See recipe below)
- Serve with quick and easy sautéed apples. (See recipe below)
Easy Caramel Sauce
Take about 15 caramel candies. Unwrap them and put them into a small microwave-safe bowl with two tablespoons of water. Cover loosely and melt the caramels in the microwave on high for about one minute. Remove the bowl from the microwave.
Stir until the caramels are completely melted. Return to the microwave for about 15 seconds, if needed. Serve the sauce immediately. It will solidify when it cools.
Quick and Easy Fresh Strawberry Sauce
Slice two cups of strawberries. Sprinkle ¼ cup of sugar over them. Toss to coat the strawberries with the sugar. Let the strawberries sit in the refrigerator for an hour. The strawberries will release their juice. You can use them like this, or you can puree some of the strawberries.
To puree: Take about one-third of the sugared strawberries and put them in a blender with ¼ cup of water. Blend with the pulse button until pureed. Pour the puree over the strawberry slices and mix them together.
Sautéed Apple Slices
Use a firm red apple like a Gala apple. Stand the apple so the stem end is up and slices down through the core. Then cut each half again, so you have four quarters. Remove the core. Slice each quarter into four or so slices. It is not necessary to peel the apple.
Put 2 TBS butter into a frying pan. When the butter melts, add the sliced apples and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle 1 TBS of sugar over the apples. Sauté occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon, being careful not to break the apple slices. The apples are done when they have softened and changed from white to a golden brown. It should take about 10 minutes.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is cinnamon a good addition to make bread pudding?
Answer: Yes. Sprinkle some on the top before baking or add one teaspoon to the sugar before you add it into the milk mixture.
Also, you can always lightly dust the top of the bread pudding with cinnamon sugar when you serve it. To make cinnamon sugar, mix together 1/4 cup sugar with 1 tbsp cinnamon. Put it into an old spice jar with a tight cover so you can keep the leftovers.
Cinnamon sugar is also great sprinkled on buttered toast.
© 2015 Catherine Giordano