The genius who made it possible for us to enjoy old, stale bread in this internationally renowned dessert deserves a round of applause on everyone’s behalf. Whether it’s in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, France, Germany, Ireland, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, Slovakia, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States, we’re all definitely familiar with this yummy baked bread. It’s a dish with very old roots, dating back centuries! For a vast majority of human history, most people couldn’t afford to waste food, so a number of uses for stale bread were invented along the way as far back as the Romans & Egyptians…and they’ve remained popular throughout the ages!
Regional variations exist, but the norm is to use stale bread with milk or cream, eggs, and form of fat such as oil or butter, and a variety of other ingredients, such as sugar, syrup, honey, vanilla, nutmeg, & dried nuts or fruit. Sauces are also a popular addition, especially whiskey sauces, rum sauces, or caramel sauces, and the taste is so reminiscent of our family favorite French toast, you won’t want to throw away stale bread ever again! It’s so simple & fool-proof, you won’t believe something so delicious can be so easily available for your dinner table.
For the Bread Pudding
- 4-5 lightly-packed cups of cubed white bread, stale
- 3/4 cup of raisins, or any other dried fruit
- 4 large eggs
- 3 cups of milk
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Trim the crusts of the bread and cut into small cubes, about 1/2-inch large. Spread the bread in the prepared baking dish, then scatter the dried fruit over the top. I used cherries this time, just because ’tis the season! In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients, much like a French toast egg mix!
Pour the mixture over the bread and let stand for about 30 minutes, periodically pushing the bread down with a spatula to help it absorb the liquid. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Much like custard preparation, bread pudding is best prepared in a water bath, or a bain-marie. This method of baking is the cook’s principal means of managing heat during the cooking of custards since it partially insulates the custard from the oven’s heat and thereby protects it from over cooking. When cooking in individual ramekins or glazed ceramic cups, they should not touch one another of the pan sides. In our case, for a single baking dish, I covered the oven tray bottom with a dish towel. This prevents the dish from coming into direct contact with the hot pan bottom. By setting the baking dish on the towel over the pan in the oven, I was able to pour enough scalding-hot water into the pan to come about one-half of the way up the sides of the custard dish. This is easier and keeps the pan steady, without splashing water into the custards or the oven!
Bake the pudding in the water bath until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, for about 1 hour. Enjoy warm, recommended with whipped cream or ice cream!