Eggy Goodness Lurks Beneath a Crisp Crust
Bread pudding is right up there on my list of comfort foods. Lots of smooth custardy carbs sharpened by raisin and cinnamon highlights. A touch of dark rum (some prefer bourbon) to provide a bass note. Maybe a bit of powdered sugar on top for extra decadence. What’s not to like?
Well, all that great flavor does pack a few calories. And my scale groans a bit if I overindulge. So bread pudding is an occasional treat for me (and, I suspect, for many of us). Which means when we have this dish, we want it to be really, really good.
Fortunately, Mrs. Kitchen Riffs — who is the dessert supremo in our household — has a deft hand when it comes to mixing up a batch of bread pudding.
Make that a mean batch of bread pudding.
Recipe: Bread Pudding
Note: This recipe (including notes) is written by my dear wife, Mrs. Kitchen Riffs
Bread pudding seems to have been around forever. Which is not surprising, since it’s a great way to make something tasty out of bread that has gone stale. This recipe is very loosely based on one from my tattered old Fannie Farmer cookbook.
Bread pudding is one of my favorites, but most recipes I’ve encountered over the years are way too sweet. Some recipes call for a cup of sugar to every cup of bread. Even worse, many recipes assume you’ll be smothering the pudding in a treacly sauce.
That much sweetness just overwhelms the dish. My recipe cuts the sugar down to a level that makes the pudding appealingly sweet, but not cloying. And I don’t think it needs a sauce topping — to my mind, the taste of the pudding is interesting (and satisfying) enough all on its own.
You’ll need a 2-quart baking dish for this recipe. The recipe yields 6 – 8 servings.
- 4 to 5 cups bread (fresh or stale), chopped into pieces of about 1 inch square
- ¼ to ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided (see notes)
- 1 cup raisins
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 ounce dark rum (optional)
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups milk
- 4 ounces heavy cream (optional)
- 1 teaspoon powdered sugar (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Butter 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter; spread chopped bread pieces evenly in dish.
- Place raisins in saucepan and add just enough water to cover; place over medium heat; once water comes to a light boil, turn down heat and let raisins simmer while you mix other ingredients.
- Melt or soften remaining butter (30 seconds in the microwave is about right).
- In large mixing bowl, combine melted/softened butter, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, (optional) rum, and salt. Beat by hand or with electric mixer until ingredients are well combined.
- Add milk and (optional) cream to batter and beat just to combine.
- Drain raisins and add to batter; mix just enough to combine.
- Pour batter over bread in baking dish; toss lightly to cover bread and distribute raisins evenly.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until brown (don’t overbake).
- Optional: Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
- You can use just about any kind of bread for this recipe. I’ve seen recipes that call for bread crumbs, and even one that uses whole-wheat bagels. A good bakery-style white or sourdough bread is probably your best bet.
- Many bread pudding recipes call specifically for stale bread. And that’s what most people use, since they think of this dish as a handy way to use up bread that’s past its prime. But if you just happen to want bread pudding for dessert, there’s no reason to wait around for your bread to go stale. Fresh bread works fine.
- I don’t recommend skipping step 3, which calls for simmering the raisins. Simmering plumps and softens raisins (which otherwise can be hard and dry). It really does make a difference. I learned this trick years ago in a cookbook (I’ve forgotten which one) by the incomparable Maida Heatter, and have used it ever since.
- Most bread pudding recipes I’ve seen call for white granulated sugar. But I prefer to use brown sugar (either light or dark), which combines famously well with cinnamon.
- Speaking of which, the Kitchen Riffs household loves cinnamon, so I like to use 2 full teaspoons. If you are less enthusiastic about this spice, feel free to cut down on the cinnamon.
- The rum is optional, but adds a nice dimension. Many bread pudding recipes call for a sauce topping flavored with rum or bourbon. But I prefer to incorporate this flavor right into the pudding itself. Our house dark rums are either Gosling’s Black Seal or Meyer’s Dark Rum.
- Use whatever milk you have on hand — from skim to whole. Of course, the higher the fat content of the milk, the richer the pudding will be. Some recipes call for heating the milk, but I have found that’s really not necessary.
- The cream is optional. If you leave it out, increase the quantity of milk.
- Although not overly sweet, this dish is rich — especially if you use cream and the full ½ cup of butter. So adjust the proportions on these ingredients as you see fit.
- It’s better to underbake than to overbake this dish. It should come out light, fluffy, and moist. The top often has a nice crispy crust.
Thank You, Mrs. Kitchen Riffs
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs says this recipe reminds her of me: “Crusty, with lots of goodness underneath.” (Aw, shucks.)
She wants to say more on this topic, but I think I’ll stop her right there. We promised this wouldn’t be too sickeningly sweet.