Bread pudding is a one-dish wonder.
Lush and homey, it makes a great dessert and a showstopper for breakfast or brunch. Plus it calls for the simplest staple ingredients to have on hand.
I’m often left with half a loaf of artisan bread and rather than let it go hard, I’ll toss it into a zip-top bag to store it in the freezer, ever ready to go.
Bread pudding is so easy to make that once you understand the proportions, you can pull it together without a recipe, with only a few tips in mind.
Stale or slightly dried bread is best for absorbing the other ingredients. If your bread is fresh, dry a little it in a low-heat oven until it’s slightly crisp before you begin. Cut the bread into chunks that are the same size, so that they soak in the ingredients evenly.
If you’re using a lot of spices and flavors, sweeten it with plain white sugar. Brown or maple sugar will add a distinctive taste. A pinch of salt is essential. Just eyeball the amount of bread chunks to add by working in enough to make a thick, soupy mash.
There’s lots of room for variation. But forget using skim or fat-free milk — whole milk or half-and-half works best. You can try using nondairy milks, such as soy or almond, but the pudding will not be as rich.
Increase the amount of bread, and it’s denser; a little less bread, and it bakes up light and puffy. Toss in dried fruit or chocolate chips and vary the flavors with fresh and candied ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, as you please. But don’t skimp on vanilla.
In this recipe, blood oranges, with their deep red flesh and rosy blush, add the perfect notes of sweet and tart to the richness of milk and eggs. When baked with a sprinkle of sugar, even the orange rinds taste good. This will work equally well with Meyer lemons in season.
Assemble the whole thing the night before, store it in the refrigerator and bake it off the next morning. Good things happen when the bread has more time to sit. The pudding will puff up and fill the kitchen with warm, toasty aromas. Brew some coffee and you’re sure to get any sleepyheads up and out of bed.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.”
Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.