Humble and rustic though it may be, sweet bread pudding is a show stopper in its own right. You'll want to get a little of the custardy middle and a little of the toasted caramelized crust in every bite. Close your eyes, because this particular blend of sugar, cream, and cinnamon requires complete focus. Breakfast, brunch, or dessert, by the end of the meal this dish will be licked clean.
A loaf of regular day-old bread is perfectly fine in this dish. But for an extra-special treat, we save all the stale brioche rolls and last lingering cinnamon buns from brunches throughout the months and freeze them in a bag together. When we have enough, we make one unforgettable bread pudding.
Also, bread puddings are not the place to skimp or substitute lower-fat ingredients. Just close your eyes and crack those eggs, and remind yourself that you'll be sharing this dish with a whole roomful of people.
What You Need
10-12 cups stale bread, brioche, or sweet rolls, torn into bite-sized pieces
5 cups whole milk (or a blend of milk and cream, if you're feeling extra decadent)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Optional Bread Pudding Ingredients: 1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit, 1/2 cup toasted nuts, 1 chopped apple or other fresh fruit
Optional Flavoring Ingredients: zest of one lemon, zest of one orange, 1/4 cup rum or grand marnier
Optional Toppings: 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, streusel topping
9x13 (or other 3-quart) baking dish
1. Butter the inside of your baking dish and arrange the bread pieces inside. If you're using raisins, nuts, fruit, or any other pudding ingredients, sprinkle them over the bread so they are evenly distributed.
2. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and any extra flavoring ingredients you're using.
3. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the pudding, making sure it gets into all the nooks and crannies. Cover the casserole and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight to fully absorb the custard.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 325° with a rack in the middle of the oven. Set the pudding on the counter while the oven is pre-heating to take some of the chill off.
5. Sprinkle any toppings over the pudding and bake uncovered for 45 - 55 minutes. The pudding is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the tips are starting to toast.
6. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to a week.
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(Image: Emma Christensen)