This festive eggnog bread pudding is the perfect recipe to serve on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning. It is equally tasty at room temperature or straight from the oven, so it will satisfy both the early risers and late sleepers in your crowd. Prep is minimal and can be done the night before. Come alarm time, just pop it in the oven and head back to bed for a well-deserved snooze.
My parents recently hosted my new in-laws for our annual rival college football weekend. My mother is the epitome of a polite Southern hostess and leaves no detail unnoticed and no stone unturned. You can bet on on a plentiful pantry that practically begs for midnight snacking, and an endless supply of bubbles to encourage sunrise mimosas and celebratory toasts.
My husband and I arrived a night before the group, weary and hungry from a long and rainy drive. My parents were out for the evening, but my mother left behind one of her famous illegible notes: "Chili is in the pot on the stove… you know what to do. White wine and beer are cold in the fridge. Brownies are cooling in the oven. Welcome home!!!" Two soup bowls and spoons, a beer mug, and a wine glass sat nearby, but the aww, you really shouldn't have effect shot through the roof when I discovered my favorite Sauvignon blanc and Walt's favorite small-batch brew in the refrigerator. (How does she remember this stuff?) Seriously though, could the woman get any sweeter.
After ravishing the chili I got a hankering for the brownies. I went in search of some milk to wash them down — but oh my gosh! — there was none to be found. (It felt eerily like that Milk ad where the man gobbles down a pile of cookies thinking he was in heaven only to soon realize that, without milk, he was in hell.) Later on in the evening I playfully tormented my mother for her hostess faux pas, but she came armed with a defense. She'd actually sent my father earlier in the day to pick up some milk, but instead he returned home with none other than with a carton of eggnog. ("The store tricked me," my father whimpered, "Why would they give the eggnog the same yellow top as the 2%?!")
So here we were with a jug of pre-party season eggnog but still with no milk. And while we enjoy the frothy delight as much as any good Southerner, a little goes a loooong way. In order for it not to go to waste, I decided to help my mother get creative. Considering we had a whole weekend ahead of feeding a crowd, a rich, custardy eggnog-infused breakfast bread pudding came to mind. Because what is bread pudding but another way of saying French toast casserole?
My go-to recipe comes from Marion Cunningham's classic The Breakfast Book. I have made countless bread puddings and breakfast casseroles in my time, but it's Cunningham's Bread & Butter Pudding that definitely takes the cake. Eggnog turned out to be an incredible (and decadent) addition to the recipe and a splash of bourbon gave it some "oh my gosh, it's the holidays!" flare. A big bowl of fresh berries and a pile of bacon round out our improvised meal.
Eggnog Breakfast Bread Pudding
Adapted from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book
Serves 8 to 10
1 (12 ounces) loaf French bread, sliced
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups eggnog
2 cups whole or 2% milk
5 large eggs
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
Confectioners’ sugar and warm maple syrup, for serving
Generously butter the bread slices. Cut the buttered slices into 1-inch cubes and pile into a 2-quart baking dish.
Heat the eggnog and milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until bubbling gently but not boiling.
Meanwhile, combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk vigorously until light and frothy. Whisk one cup of the eggnog mixture into the eggs to warm them. Gradually whisk in the remaining eggnog mixture and the bourbon.
Pour the custard over the bread cubes, and gently mash down with your hands to make sure all of the bread gets saturated. Set aside for a minimum of one hour or chill overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (or alternately heat in the microwave in a microwave-safe measuring cup). Place the casserole dish inside of a large roasting pan and transfer to the oven. Carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan, so that it comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
Bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is light golden brown. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, then carefully lift the casserole dish out of the water (I use a very large metal spatula to lift it out of the water.) Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving (although it is equally good at room temperature).
Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve with warm maple syrup.
(Image credits: Nealey Dozier)