Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Winter weather brings bread pudding recipes out of hiding

I’ve been double-dipping today. So chilly outside it was a great day to huddle in the kitchen and try out not just one, but two new bread pudding recipes. I’d picked up a new cookbook in Barnes & Noble the other day, and I must admit I bought it mostly because of the enticing photo of chocolate-stuffed slow-cooker French toast - a bread pudding in disguise and with chocolate too – how could I resist? Then there was the blackberry-caramel bread pudding recipe that crossed my path recently – I decided to give that one a try too. Ah, the house is smelling sooooooooooo lovely.

I’m waiting for these puddings to finish cooking, so I’ll report on them in the next blog article. But meanwhile here’s another slow-cooker recipe I can’t wait to try – it’s made with whole wheat bread, dried pears (or a combo of pears and apricots), and has some booze and a crunchy, nutty topping. Thanks to Anne and Marlene for sharing this one!


1 loaf (about 1 pound) whole-wheat multi-grain bread, preferably stale, cut into large cubes (about 6 cups)

1 quart (4 cups) half-and-half
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
12 ounces dried pears or a combination of pears and apricots, chopped
Topping:1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed together
1 1/2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted
Whipped cream or yogurt

If bread is not stale: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread bread cubes out on baking sheet and cook until toasted, about 10 minutes. Whisk half-and-half, eggs, sugar, whiskey, vanilla, salt and nutmeg together in large bowl. Toss bread cubes and dried fruit together and place into slow cooker. Pour custard over top and press down lightly until all bread is covered with custard. Cover and cook on LOW until pudding puffs and is just set, about 3 1/2 hours. Remove insert from slow cooker and cool on rack, about 20 minutes. Spoon pudding into large cups or bowls and sprinkle each serving with cinnamon-sugar, and toasted nuts. Top with whipped cream or yogurt, if desired. Serves 8.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mushroom sausage bread pudding masks as a "strata"

March has roared in on the New England coast. Snow, wind, and cold, with the promise of more to come. Happens every year. We’d frolicked as we usually do during the tease of a few days of warm, sunny weather in late winter. But we weren’t fooled. Winter won’t really take a hike from this neck of the woods, or seashore as the case may be, until at least May. As for going out like a lamb? I’d be surprised.

So it’s time to curl up by the fire with a big helping of comfort food and perhaps some good wine to go with. Today’s dish, which calls itself a “strata,” contains some of the best ingredients to keep you warm – mushrooms, cheese, sausage, and to add a healthful note, some whole-wheat bread. We can’t ignore that fiber content because everyone’s reminding us of it these days.

What a wonderful dish this would be for breakfast, brunch, or even a main-course meal. I haven’t made it yet, but when I do, I’ll add fresh mushrooms, sautéed just slightly, instead of the canned variety. And, the packaged grated cheeses may be okay in a pinch, but for the best flavor, get some good Cheddar and Swiss, then grate your own. If you’re eager to try it, you don’t really have to refrigerate it overnight either, just an hour or so will do, before baking.

Here’s to the return of winter. We know you never really left. You were just hiding under that seaweed.


1 pound pork sausage

10 slices cubed whole-wheat bread
1 (4-ounce) can mushroom stems and pieces
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook sausage and drain. Place bread cubes in greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with sausage, mushrooms and cheeses.In a bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour over top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before baking. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees 35-45 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Note: If you’re short on time, you can refrigerate for just an hour or so before baking.
(Recipe from "Hey, Good Lookin' What's Cooking? Volume 2,” a fundraising cookbook compiled by the Waverly Junior Woman’s Club of Waverly, IL, to benefit area projects.)