When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. When life hands you a ton of tomatoes, make sauce. When life makes your dishwasher overflow, sail your toy boats. And when life hands you That Effing Bread, there really is nothing to do but make bread pudding.
Now, I have heard that not everyone is a fan of bread pudding. Not everyone likes bread soaked with custard and then baked. I, however, do not understand these people. You like French toast, right? Well, bread pudding is pretty much French toast. Observe:
The French Toast Technique
- Take slices of stale bread and
- Soak them in custard. Then,
- Fry them up on a griddle and serve them with
The Bread Pudding Technique
- Take cubes of stale bread and
- Pour custard over them. Then,
- Bake in a low oven in a water bath, and serve them with
- Sauce or ice cream.
See? They’re Dessert Cousins. Maybe even Dessert Siblings. So, if you like French toast, you really ought to like bread pudding. You might even sometimes hear it called Baked French Toast. Because it’s the same thing.
And if you are a fan of bread pudding (my people!), this one is for you. It’s not a “recipe.” Or, rather, I didn’t follow one. These days, if I want to make a Thing, such as bread pudding, I look up a bunch of well-reviewed recipes and pay close attention to the proportions of ingredients. How much sweetener per cup of dairy? How many eggs per cup? For bread pudding, those are the two Pivotal questions. All the rest is window dressing: the type of bread (or roll/croissant/donut/soft bagel, etc), the flavorings, the mix-ins (if any), the sauce, the custard-to-bread ratio. Because some folks like their bread pudding dry-ish, and others like theirs creamy-dreamy.
Here’s what I came up with for the sugar-to-dairy ratio, no thanks to Paula Deen, whose bread pudding recipe weighs in at a whopping 7 oz sugar (1 cup) to 8 oz (1 cup) of dairy. (There should be an asterisk next to that recipe which says “This bread pudding brought to you by the fine folks at Novo Nordisk. Have you checked your blood sugar today?”)
1.75-2.3oz (1/4-1/3 cup) sugar per 8 oz dairy. You might like yours a bit sweeter, or not. This will also depend upon how sweet your bread is. If you’re making Krispy Kreme or cinnamon roll bread pudding, you might want to dial back the sugar. If you’re using day old baguette, you may want to up it a bit.
Egg-wise, you’ll need 2 large eggs per cup of dairy to get a nice set. Oh, and by dairy, I mean heatable milk-ish ingredient. I used some full fat coconut milk and some whole milk. You can also use anything from 1% up through whipping cream–again, use your best judgement, because you want your end product to be balanced. The leaner the bread you use, the more fat can be in your custard, but folks still have to eat it without getting sick. I don’t think I’d use anything “heavier” than a half and half/whole milk combo.
So, here’s the template, and then I’ll try and tell you what all I actually put in mine.
- As much stale, cubed bread (or bread-type stuff) as you have.
- 2 eggs and 1/3 cup sweetener per cup of dairy to make your bread pudding as creamy, or as dry, as you like it.
- Salt, to taste, and any complementary spices or extracts.
- Mix-ins, if you like, such as chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, any kind of chip (except probably not potato chip), cut up candy bars, toasted nuts, dried fruit, jam, stewed fruit, etc.
- Pour custard slowly over bread and mixins in a buttered pan. Let the custard soak in about half an hour or so.
- Place your pan in a larger pan. Add boiling water to about half way up the sides of your baking pan.
- Bake at 300F until the custard is just set all the way through. A knife inserted in the center will come out clean. This could take anywhere from an hour to two, depending on the size and depth of your pan. I made my guy in a 9″x5″ loaf pan, and it took about 1 1/2 hours.
- Turn off the oven and crack the door open. Let the bread pudding sit in the water bath for another half hour or so.
- Remove from pan (leave the water bath pan in the oven until it cools down completely).
- Let cool to room temperature then chill. Serve at room temperature or reheated with whatever sauce or ice cream you like.
Now, go ye forth and make your own version tailored exactly to your tastes. But, if you want to know, here’s how I made this particular version.
I used That Effing Bread as the base of my bread pudding. It honestly is an excellent bread, and when I make it with Undead Yeast, I will post a recipe so you can make some, too. It’s mostly whole wheat and calls for wheat germ and bran, eggs, raisins, molasses and milk powder. I made mine with spent brewing grains in place of the bran and germ, a mixture of honey and molasses, and a mix of raisins and dried cranberries.
To play up the old-fashioned-y flavors, I used molasses and honey as my sweeteners. I also added some organic sugar since I decided I wanted it a bit sweeter–but no stronger–flavor-wise. I tossed in some cinnamon, because it sounded good. And, since I like my bread pudding unrelieved by crunchies (except for the top crust), I didn’t add any mix-ins and just let the raisins and dried cranberries speak for themselves.
- 1 9"x5" loaf of bread, ¼" of the crust removed all the way around, cubed, either left to stale overnight or lightly toasted. (Enough cubes to loosely fill a 9"x5" loaf pan)
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- 2 cups whole milk
- 6 eggs
- ⅓ cup molasses*
- ⅓ cup honey*
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar* (I used organic)
- about ½ teaspoon of salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- splash or two of vanilla
- Place a deep pan large enough to hold your loaf pan on the middle rack of the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 300F.
- Spray a 9"x5" loaf pan with pan spray.
- Put a kettle of water on to boil.
- Dump all your bread cubes evenly into the prepared loaf pan.
- Whisk all of the custard ingredients together. Strain if you'd like. (I didn't bother).
- Pour slowly and evenly over the bread cubes, allowing the custard to soak into the bread a good half hour or so.
- Pull the oven rack out, and put your pudding carefully in the larger pan. Pour boiling (or nearly boiling) water into the larger pan, making sure it comes up at least an inch or so up the side of the loaf pan.
- Carefully slide the rack back in and close the oven.
- Bake until the custard is almost completely set--a knife inserted in the center will come out mostly clean. Cover the pudding with foil if you think the top is browning too quickly. Mine took about 1½ hours.
- Turn the oven off, crack the door open just a little bit, and let the pudding to cool in the water bath for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the water bath and let cool to room temperature. Chill, then serve at room temperature or reheated.
- Since this pudding was so flavorful with all the molasses and cinnamon and all, I served it with plain vanilla ice cream. Feel free to use your favorite sauce or ice cream.
And that’s pretty much it. Do you have to cool your bread pudding completely before reheating? You do if you want it to hold its shape. If you don’t care because you’ll be serving it with an ice cream scoop, or if you don’t care because you are too impatient to wait, go ahead and go for it. Just know that won’t hold together very well.
If you are a grown up and can make yourself wait, you’ll be rewarded with a clean slice of molassesy, honey-y deliciousness. See?
Bread pudding is one of those things you make to keep from wasting something, so please don’t think you have to make a shopping list in order to make it. Your bread will thank you for not letting it go to waste, although the neighborhood birds might be Slightly Annoyed.
So, whataya think? Are you more likely to whip up a spontaneous, unique version of bread pudding now? I hope so! Thanks for reading, and as always, have a lovely day.