Recently I found stale challah in our bread box. I hate to waste food, and have a sweet tooth that is the bane of my humble existence. The solution - bread pudding.
If you're searching for the ideal sweet comfort food, bread pudding might just be it. Whether you serve it for breakfast or brunch, dessert or late afternoon snack on a lazy weekend, it is really more like French toast on steroids than a smooth pudding. Bread pudding is best eaten straight out of the oven, though you can re-heat leftovers. Frankly, I can't remember the last time I had any (leftovers) and usually scrape out the last bits to munch on before I clean the baking dish. You can prepare it ahead and refrigerate it overnight, covered. Then take it out and bake the next day. In that event, you may need to cook it a bit longer.
This is a good recipe for multi-taskers. It has a couple of steps when you need to be nearby the kitchen for a total of about 90 minutes (first while the bread is crisped up, then when the pudding sits before baking, and finally for about 45 minutes of baking time) but you can be doing something else during those periods. The actual preparation is short and simple.
As with many recipes that call for nuts, dried fruit and chocolate chips, you can substitute different varieties or omit one of more of those ingredient categories. And if you don't have an orange, you might add ¼ teaspoon of almond extract or another ½ teaspoon of vanilla or substitute ¼ cup of orange juice for ¼ cup of the milk. This recipe uses relatively little sugar, as the chocolate chips and dried fruit provide sweetness. If you don’t have brown sugar, use white, though I like the extra zip from the molasses that is in brown sugar.
Servings - 4 Estimated Cost -$3.40
- 2 cups of bread cut into cubes about ¾ - 1" (size of your thumb from nail to first knuckle). I prefer challah – egg bread with a soft crust, but any type of good bread works. If yours has a hard crust, cut it off, as it won’t absorb liquid. Don’t worry crumbs or about making all the cubes a uniform size. This is a “forgiving” dish that has a rustic look, so crumbs mixed in and lopsided cubes are fine.
- 2-3 tablespoons of butter
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup heavy or whipping cream (not from aerosol can)
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 quart baking dish (holds 1 quart of liquids)
- cookie sheet or low sided baking pan
- whisk or large fork
- chopping bowl and blade
- small plate
- measuring spoon
- ½ and ¼ cup - measuring cups for solids
- 1 cup (liquid) measuring cup
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
- Cut bread into cubes.
- Put cubes on cookie sheet and bake until hard. The staler the bread, the less time this takes. If you start with fresh bread it may take 30 minutes or more. This method is different from the method for baking soup croutons (bread cubes), because these bake more slowly, but you can use the same basic method for cutting the cubes. The bread has to be hard or it will not absorb the liquid as well. You can make the bread cubes ahead of time and store on the counter in a tightly closed plastic bag. If they are hard and the bag is well sealed, they will last for weeks - or longer.
- Raise oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- Butter the baking dish, making sure to get all the crevices covered. I use a bit of waxed paper to hold about ½ tablespoon of butter and smoosh it around with my fingers.
- Chop walnuts.
- Mix walnuts, chocolate chips, cranberries and bread cubes.
- Put the mixture in the buttered baking dish.
- Grate the orange skin (rind) being careful not to get down to the white part, which is bitter.
- Put liquids (vanilla, eggs, milk, cream), orange rind and sugar in bowl and whisk until mixed.
- Pour liquids over ingredients already in the baking dish.
- Let the mixture sit, covered for at least 20 minutes – up to 1 hour, until the liquid is almost all absorbed.
- Dot the bread pudding with small pieces of butter, put the cookie sheet under the baking dish and bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- The bread pudding will puff up and a bit may flow over the sides, which is why you want the cookies sheet underneath or you’ll have a messy oven and smoke as the bits on oven bottom burn up.
Hints on cleaning the pan: (1) add boiling water and dish soap to the empty pan, then let it soak before scrubbing. (2) get someone else to clean up. After all, you made the delicious bread pudding