Friday, November 20, 2020

Comfort Food for Chilly Weather - Bread Pudding

So many moons ago that I don't even remember the date, I was given a delicious recipe for bread pudding by a friend in Fredericksburg, MD. She sold me on it by telling me that when she brought it to church suppers that it was the first dessert where the casserole dish was emptied and that happened every time. Who could resist a recipe like that?

Bread pudding is basically french toast in a custard pudding...lots of bread, milk and eggs, a little sugar and flavorings, and the added delight of crusty pieces on top that contrast with the soft, custardy interior.

Gale's version used a can of drained dark sweet cherries mixed in gently just before the mixture goes into the casserole dish. I like to make it even simpler and just use some lemon zest and raisins, which is how my mom made it. I guess most comfort foods have links back to our childhood. I suppose you could make this version and fold in the drained sweet cherries, too. I also know that it is yummy with chopped peeled apple. For that version, add a little cinnamon or pumpkin spice.

The best bread pudding uses stale bread because it soaks up the custard mixture. It also is best to allow plenty of soaking time for the same reason. As for the casserole dish, a lot depends on if you prefer the soft, custardy part or the crusty, browned part...if the former, use a deep dish with a narrower opening, if the latter, use a wide, shallow casserole so that more of the bread crusts up. The water bath is really important, so make sure that you can bake your chosen casserole in a larger water bath casserole or pan.

Bread Pudding with Raisins and Lemon      

A recipe from  a Fredricksburg, Maryland friend, Gale 

5 cups dry bread cubes          1/4 teaspoon salt           
3 cups milk, scalded               1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter                1/4 cup raisins 
4 slightly beaten eggs            
3/4 cup sugar                         
½ teaspoon lemon zest                                 
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Melt the butter in the milk. Add a little of the milk to the beaten eggs, then add eggs to rest of milk. Stir in the sugar, lemon zest, salt, and vanilla.

3) Put the bread cubes in a large bowl. Pour the egg/milk mixture over, stir gently, and let sit 15 minutes.

4) Butter a large baking pan. A deep one will give a softer center, a shallower one will give more crispy crust. Gently stir raisins into bread mixture and pour into baking pan.

5) Bake in a pan of hot water until firm, about 1 hour. Serve warm.

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