Bread pudding is a traditional British dessert and one of my very favorite “comfort food” endings for a meal. Many, many variations abound and I love them all! Let’s start, however, with the classic at it’s simple best.
by volume by weight
6 cups cubed bread 12 ounces cubed bread
3 cups half and half 720 grams half and half
1 cup sugar 198 grams sugar
2 eggs 136 grams eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla 8 grams vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt 2 grams salt
Heat the oven to 350F. Mix the cubed bread and the half and half together and let sit for about 15 minutes. Stir once or twice so that the bread becomes completely saturated with the half and half. (It is better to have a little too much liquid than not enough. The bread cubes need to be wet in the middle. If they aren’t, your puddings will not have a good texture. Squeeze a bread cube or two firmly to make sure they have absorbed liquid all the way to the middle. If necessary, add a little more half and half.)
Beat the eggs and sugar together until smooth and then add the vanilla and the salt.
Combine the egg mixture with the soaked bread. Stir carefully so as not to break up the bread too much.
Spoon the mixture into 6 buttered 3 inch ramekins.
Sprinkle the tops with a pinch of brown sugar and bake until the tops are crusty and golden brown. Serve while still warm (my preference!) with bourbon sauce and creme fraiche or at room temperature.
Bread pudding lends itself to many, many variations. I don’t particularly care for raisins so I don’t put them in but they are certainly a standard, and much loved, addition. Chopped dates or figs are another great option. Sauteed, diced apple and a bit of cinnamon make this a great autumn dessert while a sauce with tropical fruits such as passion fruit make it a summer one. Top with lemon curd and fresh blueberries at the end of summer or stir in chopped white chocolate and fresh raspberries at the start of the season.
Choose your bread wisely. The bread should be firm and not likely to fall apart easily so a standard store loaf is not an option. French bread works very well and if you want an especially rich dessert, challah or brioche are great choices. If you prefer, double the recipe and bake in an 8 or 9 inch square pan for a family style dessert. Choose your favorite flavors and enjoy!