January seems to bring out the “let’s pick up the mess from last year” kind of thinking. We’re sorting out closets, tossing out as much as we can part with. But certainly NOT bread pudding recipes. They seem to be growing like piles of New England snow here in the kitchen. We’re making room on our shelves for even more – ones we’ve clipped from magazines, books, and pamphlets, and printed out from the Internet.
It’s time also to get back to the basics – apple crisp, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese. And before we take off on some tangents with new and creative bread puddings, it’s time to check out a basic recipe. That’s where it all begins – then you can toss in handfuls of this and that (fruit, nuts, marshmallows, butterscotch sauce, spices, and yes, of course, chocolate). Here’s a basic formula that you can use to take off and have fun with. We’re talking sweet bread pudding here. If you’d like to create a hearty non-sweet bread pudding, you can just eliminate the sugar or sweetener, and add some cheese, veggies, or other hearty ingredients.
And if you’d like to add or subtract from the basic, well that’s the whole idea. For a more custardy bread pudding, which is the kind I prefer actually, just increase the ratio of liquids to solids. And of course, do the reverse, more bread and “stuff” and fewer wet ingredients for a denser pudding. The kind of bread you use makes a difference too – a denser grainy bread, such as wheat or rye, will take longer to absorb the liquid, so you might want to let it sit for a while before baking. Have fun!
BASIC BREAD PUDDING
4 cups (about) cubed day-old bread
1/2 to 3/4 cup of fruit, nuts, or whatever you’d like to add
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon ground spice such as cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
Place bread cubes along with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of any fruit (and/or other ingredients such as nuts) in greased or cooking-sprayed 1-1/2-quart baking dish. In bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Add milk and cinnamon (or preferred spice) and whisk in to blend well. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread, pushing down bread into liquid. Dot with slivers of butter, and sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon, if desired. Let stand while preheating oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream or topping of choice. Serves 6.
Note: For a non-sweet bread pudding, eliminate the sugar and cinnamon, and add your favorite hearty ingredients, such as cheese, veggies, and meat.
(Recipe developed by Portia Little © 2009)