Wednesday, May 19, 2010
In my last post , on challah, I mentioned that it makes wonderful bread pudding, so I thought I would work on a few recipes to give you. We've been eating bread pudding for a few days now, and I'm ready to share the standard recipe with you, and will continue to work on caramel and chocolate versions to share in a week or two (and probably a lower fat version). We like our bread pudding firm, so I don't bake it in a waterbath, and we let it rest in the refrigerator for a day, and then reheat it in the microwave. But if you like it soft, by all means bake it in a waterbath and/or eat it when it comes out of the oven and has cooled for 30-60 mnutes. This is just one of the great things about baking it yourself - you can tailor it so that it is perfect for you!
For the pudding:
9 ounces challah or eggy white bread , cut into 1/4- inch x 1-inch squares (about 6 lightly packed cups)
1/3 cup raisins
5 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 -1/4 cups whole milk, more if needed
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F., with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Leave the sliced bread out, on cookie sheets for 8 hours, or place the bread on a cookie sheet, and lightly toast it in the oven for 5 minutes (it should not brown, but should become somewhat dry). Remove, and let cool.
Place the bread squares in a 2-quart baking dish (I like an 8x8-inch square, baking pan). Sprinkle the raisins over the bread (the bread should fill the pan, more than pictured below)
In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and milk. Pour the milk mixture over the bread. Press down on the bread with the back of a spoon. Submerge any raisins that are at the top, as they will over-bake if exposed. Let the bread soak in the milk for 15 minutes, pressing occasionally with the back of the spoon. All of the bread should be moistened and the bread should not soak up all of the milk mixture. If necessary, add more milk (this will vary depending on the type of bread used, and how soft you want the finished pudding to be).
Bake the pudding for 55-65 minutes, or until puffed and set. The pudding will have risen high out of the pan, but will settle back down as it cools.
Remove it to a rack and let cool for at least 1 hour. If you prefer a firmer pudding, refrigerate it until near serving time, and then microwave the pudding just until barely warm. If a softer pudding is desired, it can be served after it has baked, and cooled to warm. Bread pudding can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated, and before serving, microwave until warmed through.
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup half & half, or 1/2 cup half & half and 1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon rum or other liqueur, optional
Most custard sauces do not have powdered sugar and cornstarch in them. When made without any thickener, the custard can over heat very quickly and then you have little bits of scrambled egg in your custard - not very appealing! Adding this tiny bit of starch gives you a bit of wiggle room, so that you'll have more success in making the sauce. Fresh vanilla beans are soft and can be split with a knife or scissors. If yours are hard you can add it to the hot liquid and let it soften before cutting it. Some people reuse the pods, but I don't think that's such a great idea unless the vanilla pod is being soaked in just plain water.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, powdered sugar and constarch. Set aside.
Place the half & half and vanilla bean in a medium pot. Add the rum now, if you want to burn off some of the alchol. Alternatively, it can be added when the cream mixture is removed from the heat. Place the cream mixture over medium heat, and bring it to a simmer. Drop by drop, whisk some of the cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture. As the eggs warm up, the cream mixture can be added faster and faster. Transfer everything back into the pot. Cook this on medium heat, until bubbles start appearing around the edges of the pot, and the mixture will just coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Strain the custard into a storage container. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod into the custard, and then add the pod back into the custard. Let it cool briefly and then cover and refrigerate until cold. The sauce can be served cold or warm. To rewarm the custard, place it in the top of a double boiler, and heat it over simmering water. It can also be reheated in the microwave on low power.
If you're eating the bread pudding shortly after it is made, it can be scooped out like you see in the opening photo. But if you let it rest overnight, ou can cut it into neat squares. The sauce is delicious warm or cold. I prefer to have my bread pudding just barely warm and my sauce cold, while my husband likes his bread pudding hotter and his sauce warm .