Grab that unfinished loaf of bread and prepare for kitchen alchemy as practically wasted bread transforms into an easy, warm dessert. We’ve got suggestions and a delicious, foolproof recipe for making bread pudding at home.
Bread pudding, while consistently excellent, goes out of style as economies rise and fall, and inflation makes chefs think twice before dumping that last bit of crusty bread. Yet, even amid worried carb counting, bread pudding remains popular because few sweets have brought as sweet and uncomplicated comfort throughout the years.
Cooks have been ingenious in softening and sweetening stale bread for as long as there has been bread, which dates back at least 7,000 years in human history. A hollowed-out loaf of bread functioned as a receptacle for sweet meals throughout Medieval times, which was most likely the origin of bread pudding as we know it today; both English peasants and early American pilgrims meticulously stored bits of bread for later use. Versions of budin de pan are now served at the end of many great meals in the Caribbean and as far south as Argentina.
However, the West cannot claim the best bread pudding recipes; in Egypt, Om Ali is created with bread, cream, almonds, and raisins. In India, Shahi tukra, a Moghul delicacy, is made of bread fried in ghee, then dipped in rosewater and saffron syrup and topped with a creamy sauce and almonds. When you make bread pudding, you are participating in our common culinary tradition of sweetly saving and appreciating the modest bread crust. Wouldn’t it be lovely if all desserts were this simple and satisfying?
Tips and tricks for the best bread pudding
Cut vs. ripped bread: What’s the right way to do it?
It’s up to you to cube, slice into rectangles, or tear the day-old bread with your hands like a beast. There are two aspects to consider: First, what is the significance of aesthetics? Ripping the bread into roughly equal-sized hunks creates a rustic appearance that might be pleasing. A more straightforward dessert may be appropriate if the meal starts with a robust stew, a large salad, or a slick pasta dish. If the meal requires a more organized, tidy feel — for example, if you’re serving lovely filets of fish or cautious rounds of eggplant — the elegance of careful angles or elegant curves of a loaf of challah bread put prettily in a baking dish may be your Platonic ideal.
The second aspect to consider is the type of kitchen treatment you require on that particular day: Are you unhappy, angry, or disappointed? For example, tearing a loaf of bread into pieces can be a beneficial way of expressing anger or sadness. On the other hand, slicing perfectly perfect cubes or rectangles of bread can be relaxing, provide a sense of control in an unpredictable environment, or be the ideal venue to express any obsessive tendencies you may have. You have an option, and the outcome will be great either way.
Do I have to use stale bread?
While a stale loaf of bread was the initial inspiration for bread pudding, it’s still a fantastic way to use leftover bread (why not save money and gain climatarian cred by keeping food out of landfills?)Toasted bread absorbs more custard, resulting in a smooth-as-silk texture. It shares many similarities with French toast in that the milky egg mixture is at its best when absorbed by dry bread. However, don’t limit yourself to classic loaves of bread as the carbohydrate on display: Even day-old donuts can be transformed into delectable bread pudding.
Should I use whole eggs or only the yolks?
While a whole egg can be used in bread pudding, using just the yolks in the cream or milk mixture produces a rich custard and eliminates a potential scrambled egg flavor. Save those egg whites for an omelet to stretch your food budget the following day.
How to get that perfectly crispy top on bread pudding
Keep aside a cup or two of the bread cubes from the custard mixture. Scatter the reserved bread cubes on the custard-bread combination after pouring it into a prepared baking dish. Brush them with melted butter and top with a few tablespoons of light brown sugar. Bake according to the package directions for a sweet and crunchy top.
How to store bread pudding
Cover the baking dish with foil, transfer it to an airtight container, and place it in the refrigerator. It should be good for around five days.
How to reheat bread pudding
Take a step back from the microwave! Instead, place serving-size squares on a prepared baking sheet and heat for 7 to 8 minutes in a 450°F oven. To achieve a crispy top, leave them exposed! Also, bread pudding is delicious and eaten at room temperature.
5 easy steps to make bread pudding
This carb-tastic favorite is like a culinary hug for your stomach.
Step 1: Raisins get lit
Before preparing the rest of the bread pudding dish, plump up those naturally sweet dried fruits in a small bowl with a splash of whiskey. (You can omit this step if you’re cooking for children or don’t like raisins.) Next, preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center.
Step 2: Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes
Utilize your stuffing talents and your giant bread knife to cut a loaf of day-old challah into little cubes. The same techniques used to dice an onion apply here: Slice the loaf lengthwise into 1-inch strips, then in 1-inch layers parallel to the cutting board as evenly as possible. Finally, slice horizontally to produce cubes while keeping the loaf shape intact. Set aside in a mixing dish.
Extra credit: If you have time, spread cubes evenly on two baking pans and toast for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
Step 3: Prepare the custard
Whisk together the eggs (you can separate them and only use the yolks for a silkier texture), half-and-half, sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the optional raisins, then slowly fold in the bread cubes, stirring carefully with a big spatula until the bread has soaked up most of the custard liquid.
Step 4: Get oven-ready
Grease a 9-inch square or 9×13-inch casserole dish large enough to accommodate the pudding, then pour the bread-custard mixture. If desired, sprinkle a few spoonfuls of light brown sugar on top before covering with foil.
Step 5: Bake it!
Bake for 30 minutes on the middle rack of the oven, then carefully remove the foil. Bake for another 15 minutes until the top is a gorgeous golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
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