In fall, this woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of bread pudding.
Any bread—multi-grain or white, English muffin or bagel—is fair game. Frugal cooks began the trend, likely in the 11th and 12th century, to use up left over bread. When bread makes an appearance in my kitchen, however, it typically does not last long enough to get stale. I’ve taken to buying good bread and (shssh) hiding it so it can get at least a day old. Sadly, it isn’t often that I take these measures.
One of the beauties of bread pudding is it can be as varied as the cook that makes it. Blueberry bread pudding? Of course. Pecans and raisins? Oh yah. Raspberry PB&J? I inject a cautionary note at this point. Peanut butter, really? People!
The poor man’s pudding of old appears now on savvy chef’s menus. It’s a comfort, this food of bread, milk or cream, butter, sugar, and spices. I tend to prefer the classic recipe. And what I especially like is that moment of pouring a nice whiskey sauce over the top. That’s right, whiskey. Not the smoother Bourbon, or elegant Grand Marnier, or even plain vanilla cream. It’s like a wink, that kick of whiskey in the sauce.
Personalize your bread pudding. It’s fun. I think I’m trying it with sourdough next. Now what topping might work with that?
Buttered Bread Pudding
3-4 slices white bread, crusts removed, buttered on both sides, cut into chunks (or use whatever bread is in your kitchen)
½ cup raisins
2 cups half and half (or use milk if that is all you have on hand)
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a shallow 2-1/2 quart baking dish. Place bread cubes and raisins in a large bowl. Heat half and half or milk to just scalding and pour over bread cubes; let soak 10 minutes. Combine eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Stir this mixture and pour over the soaked bread, and gently stir to mix. Let stand 15 minutes. Place mixture in the prepared baking dish. Set baking dish in a shallow pan filled with hot water ½ inch up sides of baking dish. Bake 1-1/4 hours. Cool before serving.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whiskey
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sugar and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and whiskey. Serve over baked bread pudding.
Nina Furstenau teaches food writing in the Science and Agricultural Journalism program at the University of Missouri. She is the author of “Savor Missouri, River Hill Country Food and Wine” and “Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland.” She writes “A Spiced Life” column for the Columbia Tribune.