Several years ago, when I heard the words, “bread pudding,” I immediately imagined the too sweet lump of raisin-studded, milk-soaked bread I sampled in college. Today, I adore bread pudding for dessert especially around the holidays.
What caused my change of heart?
I credit Mark Bittman, the food writer best known for his cookbook, How to Cook Everything, and New York Times food column, “The Minimalist.”
A few years ago, I caught Mr. Bittman on a cooking show making bread pudding. The finished pudding was a masterpiece, a far cry from the one etched in memory. It emerged from the oven slightly puffed like a soufflé with a golden brown crust glistening under a thin maple syrup glaze. And, when he tasted the pudding and proclaimed it divine, I believed him.
Since that day, I've made Mark Bittman's Maple Bread Pudding recipe repeatedly, adjusting the ingredients to suit my tastes. During fall and winter, I make bread pudding regularly, appeasing my husband's cravings for sweet comfort food. Why not add bread pudding to your holiday menu. Like plum pudding in England, it may soon become a delicious family tradition.
About Bread Pudding
Bread pudding began as a way to use stale bread and soon-to-spoil milk and eggs. Most cuisines have their own version. A classic American bread pudding recipe uses simple ingredients: day-old bread soaked in a thin, rich custard made from milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Its simplicity makes it perfect for customization: substitute one ingredient for another, add a little of this or a bit more of that and, voilà, a new recipe is born. If you maintain the wet and dry ingredient proportions set forth in your favorite recipe, virtually anything goes for additions and substitutions. In fact, bread pudding invites creativity, begging you to transform it from ordinary to extraordinary.
About Today's Recipe
Today, I'm pleased to share my bread pudding recipe with you. The recipe reflects what I like in a bread pudding: a cakelike texture that’s moist and creamy, a not too sweet custard, a crunch of nuts and no raisins.
I always use Challah, the Jewish egg bread, preferring its firm, cakelike texture. I also flavor the custard with orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and ginger. Feel free to change the flavor mix, omitting some of mine and adding your own favorites like cardamom, mace or allspice. I love almonds and include a generous amount for crunch and texture. Half-way through the baking cycle, I create the glaze by drizzling maple syrup or honey over the pudding. I’m not a raisin fan and omit them. Finally, you can bake the recipe in any baking dish with a 3-1/2 quart capacity. I use my Le Creuset 3.5 quart braiser.
Bread Pudding Recipe from CHEFS Mix
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s "Maple Bread Pudding" recipe in his cookbook, The Minimalist Entertains, page 250. Makes 8 servings
1-1/2 loaves (1-1/2 pounds) Challah (Jewish egg bread)
4 cups half-and-half
6 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I prefer Vietnamese cinnamon)
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Zest from one orange, grated
Juice from one orange
Seeds from one vanilla pod
Pinch of salt
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
½ cup sliced almonds, untoasted
½ to 3/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. With a little butter, grease a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish or other 3-1/2 quart baking dish.
2. Cut Challah into 1-1/2-inch cubes. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and flip bread. Bake for another 5 minutes. Bread should be lightly browned on all sides. Add bread to baking dish and let cool to room temperature.
3. In large mixing bowl, whisk together half-and-half, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla seeds and salt until well blended. Pour mixture over bread. Using a spatula, lightly press bread into liquid. Let sit for about 15 minutes to allow bread to soak up the liquid.
4. Sprinkle toasted almonds over soaked bread and toss carefully to mix. Dot top with butter then sprinkle with untoasted almonds.
5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until top is brown and crusty. Halfway through the baking cycle, rotate pan and drizzle top with maple syrup or honey. If the honey is too thick to drizzle, heat for 15 to 30 seconds in the microwave.
6. Remove from oven. Pudding puffs up during baking and deflates as it cools. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers. Makes 8 servings
Categories: Food & Recipes