Bread pudding is a wonderful way to use up stale or surplus bread. Since this household has a habit of buying too much bread when wonderful choices are in front of us, we need to make bread pudding more often than most people.
The dish above is a sweet version made with Apple Pie bread we bought at the Wayland Winter Farmers' Market. It didn't need any additional sugar or spice in the custard mix, just a couple handfuls of raisins and a sprinkle of sugar on top to make a lovely, crunchy crust.
While you can make bread pudding from any leftover bread, we do love the batches made from specialty loaves from cinnamon swirl to more exotic offerings. And, these sweet versions can use up any fruit that might be in your larder. Apples, pears, bananas, and stone fruit all add their sweetness and nutrition to the mix.
We love adding dried fruits like raisins, apricots, or figs. You may want to layer those in the middle of the pudding or at least poke them down into the mix because they do tend to burn quicker than the custard cooks.
You can also take this cooking technique to the savory side and make a great breakfast or brunch dish or a supper that can be waiting in the refrigerator when you get home.
Specialty breads from a place like When Pigs Fly Bakery give you an easy way to go savory. Their Sicilian Green Olive & Hot Cherry Peppers bread just needs a bit of cheese and custard to make a quick meal.
Or, toss together any ingredients that you might put in a frittata. You could sauté onions, peppers, and sausage or ham then let it cool. Mix in some grated cheddar cheese, pour on the custard mix, and sprinkle the top with more cheese. Bake, and you have a wonderful, savory bread pudding.
We also make bread puddings from the sweet versions of breads from When Pigs Fly.
Penny doesn't follow a recipe for bread puddings. She uses a ratio like the one offered by Michael Ruhlman in his wonderful book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. It's twice as much milk as eggs. For example, two cups of milk to 4 large eggs (about 8 oz). Adding seasoning such as: salt, sugar, vanilla, or spices depends on the ingredients.
If you prefer to follow a recipe, here are a couple that seem popular and proven.
From AllRecipes.com Bread Pudding II - this has a very good video for someone new to the technique.
Both sites have dozens for variations that could use up any spare ingedients you might have on hand.
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Words: Penny & Ed Cherubino
Photos: ©2014 Penny & Ed Cherubino