Monthly Archives: May 2010
My cousin Penney thinks there should be another name for Bread Pudding. I can see her point. Many people think they don’t like Bread Pudding because the name is evocative of . . . well, bread and pudding. It doesn’t really sound like much of a combination, when you think about it. But when done well, bread pudding transcends the name and becomes . . . well, bread heaven. Or something like it. Perhaps my friend Frank said it best, when asked for an alternate term for bread pudding. “When it’s done right,” he exclaimed, “the word ‘aphrodisiac’ comes to mind.”
That’s high praise for a dessert that has its roots in 13th Century England and was known as “poor man’s pudding”. Stale, leftover bread was moistened with a little water and had a little sugar and spice mixed in. Fast forward to the present century, where a rich, decadent custard-based bread pudding can be found on the dessert menus of high-end restaurants across the country.
The ultimate comfort food, bread pudding is beautiful in its simplicity to make. Unlike most baking, you don’t need to be precise in your measurements, and virtually any technique will work. You can use a variety of breads, from sourdough to croissants. I’ve even seen a bread pudding recipe made with Krispy Kreme Donuts!
Here’s a recipe that’s foolproof and always a crowd pleaser.
Start with a loaf of cinnamon bread. I used the store-bought Cinnabon brand bread for this. Cut it up in cubes and let it sit in a bowl exposed to air for around 3 to 8 hours.
You want the bread cubes to just be dry enough not to feel doughy to the touch . . . but not hard.
Arrange a layer of bread cubes to cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. It doesn’t have to be jigsaw puzzle precise, but try to cover most of the bottom without crowding the cubes too tightly. You can go ahead and preheat your oven to 325.
Next, place a row of cubes around the edges of the dish, crust side up. Don’t worry that the edges are uneven, that’s part of the rustic charm of the dish. When that is finished, layer the remaining bread cubes in a random pattern in the center, turning some of the crust side up.
Now you’re ready to make the custard. Aren’t these pretty eggs? I get them from a neighbor who raises chickens. They are probably equivalent to a medium egg in the grocery store, and I used 4 of them. Whisk lightly.
Add 3 1/2 cups of milk and 4 Tablespoons of melted butter to the eggs and mix together. (You can also subsitute cream for some of the milk, if you’re feeling wicked). Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sugar, depending on your taste, and mix until it is dissolved. (Remember there is some sugar in the cinnamon bread. If you’re using an unsweetened bread, you can add more sugar).
Mix in 2 Tablespoons of vanilla. (That’s right . . . TABLESPOONS).
Now gently pour the mixture over the bread cubes in the baking dish. You will have some cubes exposed on top, just make sure you have moistened them with the custard mixture. At this point, you can also optionally add 3/4 cup chopped pecans sprinkled over the top. Place it on the center rack of the oven and bake at 325 for 55-70 minutes, until the entire top is a rich golden brown. (My oven took 68 minutes).
While that’s baking, it’s time to make the Whiskey Cream Sauce . . . without which this bread pudding is not complete. In fact, if you can make only one thing, make the Whiskey Cream Sauce and forget the bread pudding. It’s that good. And so easy. Simply melt 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of cream, 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of Whiskey in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a slow boil, then remove from heat. (My original recipe called for Jack Daniels Whiskey. Having none in the house, I turned to a high-quality Scotch. I must say, after tasting . . . and tasting . . . and tasting it, the Scotch sauce is exceptionally good. There I go, hitting the sauce again!) Lots of butter, heavy cream, sugar and whiskey . . .what else could be better? (For your soul, if not your heart!)
The bread pudding will look a little poufy when you take it out of the oven. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so to deflate. Serve it warm or cooled with the warm Whiskey (or Scotch!) sauce. Be still my heart!
This week started off with a Mother’s Day brunch at a San Antonio restaurant that features one of my favorite desserts, a souffle-inspired dark chocolate cake with Nutella ganache and peanut butter mousse. Oh my stars! Here it is:
Peanut Butter, chocolate, hazelnut . . . what’s not to love? And who could resist? I didn’t . . . I couldn’t . . . I wouldn’t. Resist, that is. The good news is that I sampled less than half of this rich confection before I was completely satisfied and passed the rest over to my husband, who was only too happy to finish it for me.
But wait! There’s more. Tuesday night was Bunco night . . . and I was in charge of bringing a bread pudding with N’Awlins flair in keeping with the Mardi Gras theme. Well, you can’t very well make bread pudding without sugar. Or bread. Or Whiskey Sauce, which also requires sugar. (Not to mention lots of butter and heavy cream). Here it is:
Bunco ladies can cook, and there were many desserts to sample along with the gumbo and rice. It would be impolite not to taste, wouldn’t it? The good news again is that I limited myself to small tastes and didn’t overindulge. Was it worth it? You bet! If you’re going to indulge, make sure it is something fabulous! Bread pudding is comfort food, and luckily a little comfort can go a long way. Look for the recipe posting soon!
A few of my kind readers have requested an update on “the situation.” Don’t worry, “the situation” has nothing to do with New Jersey. They are referring to the diet situation. So here it is . . . back by overwhelming popular request . . . the reprise of Diet Friday.
You will be happy to learn that I did not fall off the wagon and gain back all 7 pounds plus another 8 just to keep the rebound theory going. In fact, I am down a total of 10 lbs since the beginning of January.
For those of you just tuning in, I decided to give up sugar as a 2010 resolution. (Well, drastically reduce my sugar consumption, anyway. Never say never). I started out with Jorge Cruise’s “Belly Fat Cure”, which restricts sugar consumption to 15 grams a day from ALL sources (fruit, vegetable, everything) and limits carb consumption to 20 grams six times per day. Although I didn’t lose weight very quickly on the plan, quick weight loss was not my goal. I lost a few pounds, and most importantly, I lost my cravings for sugar and starchy foods.
Although I don’t follow the program any more by counting grams, I do still follow the guiding principles. After I got over my sugar addiction, I also greatly reduced my refined carbohydrates. I will have bread on occasion, but it has to be REALLY good and I enjoy it as a treat, not a staple.
I’ve been pleased with the fact that the weight has slowly but surely decreased in a relatively painless fashion. I still eat very well, and I am never hungry. My appetite, which used to be set to “constantly ravenous”, is now under control. So, while my “situation” may never be featured in a reality show, I see progress!