In my kitchen: Bread Pudding

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When I was a child, my mom used to dabble into baking and she made this delectable bread pudding. It was old bread and condensed milk and raisins — and I still remember how I enjoyed every slice whenever she got the chance to make it. That wasn’t often because she ran the family business. So those few items she did get the chance to spend time baking became happy memories of pudding and chocolate cake and upside down cake. Yum!

As I had shared here way back when, I never really knew I could cook until I landed here in New York. I would try baking occasionally, and while I had a lot of fun doing it and I was successful and quite happy with what came out of my oven most times, it took a lot of effort. Worse, the calories flashed like neon signs in front of my eyes.

Calories notwithstanding, this new staycation and work from home situation has given me a renewed vigor and interest in baking. I have always been a reluctant baker. I bought a mixer when my niece was here in 2018, and it remained in its box, unopened until March of this year. THAT reluctant.

On the whole, I had decided four to six weeks into this sheltering in place deal to make the most of the situation and be more forgiving of what I ate and how much of it I did. I even indulged in brewed coffee for the first few weeks until I gave it up, realizing it wasn’t helping with the difficulty drifting off to sleep at night. Even when we were in the office, I would grab a cup occasionally, but never after 12nn.

I still try to watch what I eat and know what triggers the uptick in my weighing scale, but I am trying to pace myself with the dieting. I know when it is futile to pretend when I am eating meals with my son, and trying out new dishes in the kitchen. Sometimes, I even end up eating a dish for days because they don’t pass the standards of the other person here at home. (I continue to try to offer new dishes to help provide variations to his meal repertoire.)

I’m a novice baker at best. That notwithstanding, I have always prided myself in being good with following instructions. These days, I try to minimize any adjustments in what is specified — and as much as possible, don’t substitute ingredients. Well, save for the bread. When I started eating bread again in March, I saved the ends of the loaf in the fridge, collecting them through the weeks with the very intention of making bread pudding. The first two recipes I tried used that old bread, and for the third, I followed the request to use challah bread. (Pronounced Ha-la).

Since these aren’t my recipes, I’m providing links here to the recipes I used, with a short review and a photo of my own pudding.

The first one I tried was this recipe for Simple Bread Pudding from the New York Times. I sliced my bread and came up with the six cups required. That really isn’t a lot of bread after cutting them into 1 inch cubes, and I was left with half my stash. Although most recipes discourage using whole wheat bread because of its lower absorption rate, half the bread in this pudding was whole wheat and I enjoyed it all the same.

Bread Pudding

Ingredients: Milk, bread, unsalted butter, salt, vanilla extract, sugar, eggs

Basic as can be, but as good a pudding as you can pull together. This is one recipe that you can alter to spice up with fruit later, sweeten it with sauce, or tweak the spices one way or the other. This is a good starter recipe if you’ve never made bread pudding, and it doesn’t require a whole lot of bread or ingredients.

For the second recipe, I decided to try allrecipe.com’s Bread Pudding II. (Yes, it had the “II’ and not just because it was my second recipe.). Still using my sliced bread, I altered the recipe a bit to use up all the bread I had. The recipe called for only 6 slices of day old bread, but that was clearly more than what the custard could soak. I adjusted the butter (recipe called for 2 and I used 3) and would’ve adjusted the raisins if I could for next time to just half. I used half a cup in was just a bit too much, even if I love raisins. I kept the ratio of the sugar to the eggs and milk as is, because I didn’t want to fiddle with the taste.

Bread Pudding

Ingredients: day old bread, butter, raisins, egg, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract

This was a much sweeter custard which suits me just fine, because I have quite the sweet tooth. The assembly method also differed in that the butter was drizzled over the bread before the custard mix, and I could actually taste it in the portions it hit after the pudding was baked. The custard was poured into the pan instead of being mixed in, and you could just press the bread deep into the liquid with a fork. The raisin was drizzled on top, instead of mixed in, and the custard was sweet enough without it, but good with half the recommended portion.

I liked having this pudding with some heavy cream poured on top which might be too much for some, but it balanced out the sweetness beautifully.

For my third pan, I went to my fallback food recipe site these days, delish.com, and tried this Best-ever Bread Pudding recipe.

Bread puddiing

Ingredients: challah bread, egg, vanilla extract, nutmeg, kosher salt, whole milk, heavy cream, raisins

Yes, it was the best ever! I used challah bread as specified and did two separate mini ramekins just to test how it would crisp the edges that touched the dish. (I like parts of the pudding toasted, but not the entire top.). I tend to judge the pudding by the general taste instead of the texture and this was a good sweetness without overpowering your tastebuds. This recipe also, notably, did not use butter or cinnamon. It did use more milk and added cream which pumps it up with a lot of dairy. Of course, the challah bread which soaked in the custard mixture for 10 minutes did wonders for the entire pudding, and I loved the balance of bread, cream and sugar with every bite.

Of the three, this was the densest and came to a packed consistency. Easily my fave of all, inwould drift to this one– given that I would have the challah bread. It takes around 12 cups of sliced up bread to make up the challah loaf, so you will need more than the usual. Don’t be daunted by what seems to be a whole lot of bread, as the amount of liquid in the custard will give the bread a good soak reducing its bulk.

Having tried these 3 recipes, I will probably stick to one of the three if I make bread pudding a fourth time. I highly recommend hem all, with special mention going to the Best Ever Bread Pudding for those who want a really sweet version of the dish — this one hits the spot!

This is just one of the projects I have embarked on while sheltering in place. I’ve been more adventurous, striving to learn new things, even when confined to home. We have to learn to make the most of our situation and be grateful for what we can still do, despite all the restrictions and precaution against doing the things we were used to.

Three bread pudding recipes put to the test and counting.

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