Monday, July 25, 2016

Bread pudding

Bread pudding, you say? What in the world could possibly be so great about pudding made with bread?

Aaaaaahhh...let me start the list...

First, every household ends up with leftover bread that no one eats before it gets dried stale. Our grandparents who lived through the Great Depression knew how to waste not a single shred of food...and those dried out scraps of bread add up. So if "waste not want not" is part of your lifestyle, bread pudding is a great way to make something tasty with those otherwise useless scraps.

Second, bread pudding is a rather versatile product! You can bake it with fruit mixed in or can add fruit as a can make it savory instead of sweet and serve it with chicken gravy over the top...the possibilities are endless! Once you have mastered the very simple art of a basic bread pudding, you can alter it to suit whatever sort of dish you would like it to be.

For this particular bread pudding, we will walk on the sweet side and give examples of a few fruit additions that make a splendid dessert.

6 cups of soft bread torn into small pieces
4 cups milk
5 eggs
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t. nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 t. vanilla extract
finely grated zest from 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups raisins (optional)

Here's how it goes together:
First turn your oven on to 350 degrees so it can preheat.

Warm the milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat on your stove. Stir now and then until the milk is warm enough that the butter melts completely. *If you plan to include raisins, dd them to soak in the warming milk to re-plump them a bit.

In a separate bowl, whick together the eggs, sugar, and spices. Slowly drizzle the warm milk and butter into the egg mixture, whisking while you do so.

The reason for the slow drizzle while whisking the warm milk into the egg mixture is to prevent actually cooking the eggs with the hot milk. If the milk is a little warmer than you realize and you dump it all at once into your eggs, you could end up with small lumps of cooked scrambled egg in your pudding. Definitely not a reason to toss it out, but also not really the effect we are shooting for, either.

Lay your bread in a square baking pan. Either pyrex glass or a metal pan are just fine, whichever you have on hand. Pour the milk and egg over the bread and use a spoon to gently squish the bread down if it floats. Place it in the center of your oven and bake for 40 minutes. Check with a butter knife...if a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, the pudding is done. If not, give it five more minutes.

Now you get to decide how to dress up your bread pudding! You can always add fruit directly to the pudding itself by mixing it with the bread before you pour in the milk and egg mixture. Raisins, chopped apples, peaches, cherries, plums, or berries work really well and can make your pudding fabulous all by itself. Or you can create a topping to add to the pudding after baking, giving it a bit of rest time before serving to allow the syrupy juices to soak into the top of the pudding. Here are a few of my family's favorites:

Apple topping: Chop 4 Granny Smith apples. Heat in a saucepan over medium heat with 1/2 cup orange juice until bubbling. Stir together 1/2 cup of sugar and 1T white flour and add it to the bubbling apples, stirring constantly until it thickens (Takes just a minute or two.)

Blueberry topping: Exactly the same as the apple topping above, except use three cups of fresh blueberries.

Peach topping: You guessed it, exctly the same as the apple topping except with peaches!

Buttery caramel drizzle: In a saucepan over medium heat, mix 1/4 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup of half-and-half, and a pinch of salt, stirring constantly. The sugar will dissolve and the mixture will begin to thicken. Add 1t. vanilla extract and continue stirring. Set aside, then drizzle over the top of your bread pudding when it comes out of the oven.

Remember that you can change it up easily by using different fruits as they are available, so don't be afraid to experiment...enjoy your pudding!

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