When Bread Pudding is on the menu, I go for it. The simple bread-custard dessert with a “spirited” sauce has been a favorite of mine for years.
There are lots of recipes on the Internet from the best of the kitchen pros: Paula Deen, Betty Crocker, Emeril, and Martha Stewart. All have their take on the humble dessert.
Some jazz it up with newfangled additions like cream cheese, chocolate chips, and various fruits and sauces. I keep mine simple. For years, I’ve sprinkled in a handful of golden raisins soaked in a little rum. Recently, I’ve been using dried cranberries for the extra color, but still maintain the rum marinade. Bourbon works, too.
What Kind of Bread to Use?
For our ancestors, making a pudding was a way of salvaging stale bread. Today recipes call for using sliced bread (crust removed or left on), brioche, French bread, challah or biscuits. Most often I use baked biscuits, like my mother did. I really like the texture and flavor that shredded biscuits bring to the dish.
But sometimes I use challah, because it’s hard to find leftover biscuits in my kitchen. Whatever I use, I tear the bread into pieces rather than cut it into neat cubes. It’s all a matter of personal preference.
Treat Your Bread Pudding to a Water Bath
What makes the most difference in a pudding and adds to the custardy feature is the water bath. That means placing your baking dish in the oven inside a larger dish and pouring about an inch of water around the sides. The steam helps the pudding stay moist and prevents the mixture from separating.
As to the sauce. It’s easy to put together on the stove while the pudding is cooking. You’ll also have time to answer your email, because it’s going to take nearly an hour before a broom straw inserted in the middle of the pudding comes out clean.
Okay, I don’t use a broom straw. But that’s what cooks used to use for testing doneness and I’ve seen my mother do it many times. (Amazon sells Amish Broom Straw Cake Testers for $7.99, though several users thought the modernized straws were too flimsy for some baked items.)
Bread pudding can also be served warm with ice cream or whipped cream. But a caramel, rum or bourbon sauce can dress up the dessert for a dinner party and give the dish a whole new dimension. Should there be any leftover—and that’s not likely—it can be eaten cold the next day.
Bread Pudding is a comfort food that shows up on menus of local diners and in award-winning restaurants. If you’ve neglected serving it, you might want to break out grandma’s recipe. My favorite is here.