Introduction: New Orleans-Style Bread Pudding
New Orleans has several food traditions, and perhaps my most favorite of all is bread pudding! This delightful treat can be served up in numerous ways from the simple to elaborate (if you ever visit, please go to Commander's Palace for the bread pudding soufflé). The true beauty of the bread pudding is taking a relatively blank and bland canvas (stale bread) and turning into something craveable. Join me on an adventure into my personal backyard, desserts!
First off, this isn't your mama's or your memaw's bread pudding. I know that, sha. This is my personal adaptation of a well-known New Orleans restaurant's recipe based on what I like. In full disclosure, I'm originally from the North, so my spin is a little different.
Where to Start?
First of all, we're going to need some stale bread. French bread is the natural choice, but go ahead and use whatever you have on hand, but please do not use sliced white bread from a bag. Just don't. The texture just does not work here. If you have left over Cob Loaf from our last baking excursion, half a loaf is all you'll need.
- Sauce pot with heavy bottom
- Mixing bowl
- Spatula or Spoonula
- Prep bowls
- Baking tin (13 x 9)
- Pastry brush (optional)
If you are missing any of the supplies, don't stress. I'll discuss alternates you can try along the way. I will also place Amazon links to kit that I trust and use daily. Disclaimer: these are Amazon affiliate links, and I may receive a small commission if you purchase the product from the link at no cost to you at all.
Step 1: The Guests of Honor... the Ingredients!
- Stale bread (about 6 cups in volume)
- 700g (3 cups) milk
- 230g (1 cup) heavy cream
- 5 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- This will make the custard extra rich, but you can skip it or use the whole egg if you like
- 400g (2 cups) sugar
- 1 cup dried fruit (optional)
- raisins, currants, cherries, apples, etc.
- Soaked at least two hours in 1/4 cup bourbon or whiskey
- 1/4 tsp. allspice
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 50g (1/4 cup) milk
- 1/2 cup bourbon or whiskey
I'm a proponent of responsible alcohol use, so please be responsible. If you cannot or choose to not use alcohol, soak the dried fruit in a 1/4 cup of simple syrup* mixed with two teaspoons of vanilla extract. I'll provide the alternate for the sauce at the end.
If you choose to not use alcohol, thank you for being responsible, and you have my total respect!
* Simple syrup is a mixture of one part water with one part sugar brought to a boil then cooled.
Step 2: The Pre-Preparation
First up is the dried fruit mix-ins. Since I did not have raisins on hand, I'm using the remains of a bag of currants I picked up for another baking project. If you get a chance to try currants, do it! I actually like them better than raisins. Any dried fruit will work with this recipe, so feel free to experiment! Whatever your choose to use, mix it with a 1/4 cup of whiskey, cover and let soak for a couple hours.
Next up is stale bread. If you have stale bread on hand, great! If you don't, I tell you how to make bread stale fast in Cob Loaf: Simple, Quarantine-Friendly White Bread.
Cut bread into 1-inch cubes.
Spread onto a wire cooling rack and place somewhere it will be exposed to a draft.
Leave overnight or longer until desired level of staleness is achieved.
How Stale is Stale?
Great question, I don't have an answer! Why? It comes down to personal preference actually. I love bread pudding that is custardy, so I do not dry my bread out entirely. As you can see in the pictures, 6 cups of cut up bread weighs about 350 grams in my world. I know people that use bread so dry it almost crumbles, and I know people that use fresh bread. It's all what you prefer!
Here's a kitchen trick for you. My baking pan is bigger than my scale, so it covers the display. I used a small tin to add space between the two so I could peek under the pan to see the display. Works like a charm, just be sure to tare (zero out) your scale before adding the ingredients.
Step 3: Get Your Setup Setup
Want to make your baking (or cooking life in general) more productive and less stressful? Say these three words with me: mise en place (meez ehn plaws). It's a French term adopted into the culinary world, and it essentially means "everything in place." The idea is that if you have all your ingredients at the ready, the entire procedure will be more smooth.
Break out prep bowls, cereal bowls, jars or whatever else you have on hand and get all your ingredientes together. In my kitchen, I like to use a sheet tray as a caddy for everything. In my mind "if it's on the tin, it's ready to go in." Yup, it's corney, but it works!
Since this recipe comes together so quickly, go ahead now and start preheating your oven to 350F.
Step 4: Fix It in the Mix
If you read the name of this step and immediately thought of Indeep you're awesome ;-)
Mix the vanilla in with the milk.
Whisk the spices in with the sugar.
Combine the milk mixture, sugar mixture, and eggs and whisk until well combined.
Step 5: Make the Pudding
Any idea why it's called "pudding?" Pudding is term from the Old World (i.e. England) that means dessert. While American English evolved to call thin custards pudding, British English refers to any dessert a pudding. In fact, the last course of your meal in the UK is called "pudding."
This step is about as easy as life can get! Pour your custard mixture over the bread cubes in a large bowl. Now fold them together until wet. Give the mixture a minute or two to soak up the custard, then fold in the soaked dried fruit. If there's a little whiskey left in the container, toss that in too!
Step 6: Make the Magic Happen
Prepare your baking pan by pouring in the melted butter and spreading it over the bottom and sides. Because of the sugar suspended in the liquid custard, it will stick to the pan if you try to use cooking spray instead of butter. This is dessert after all, so don't cut calorie corners using cooking spray!
Pour your bread and custard mixture into the pan and evenly spread out. I prefer a smoother top on mine, so I took a minute to smooth it out.
Step 7: Time to Bake!
Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes, or until the sides have started to pull away from the pan and the middle is a little jiggly, but not loose. The finished temperature should be 175F-180F. You can also tell if it's done if a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Once the pudding is done being baked, whack it under a high broiler for a few minutes to caramelize the top. I highly recommend this step personally because of the beautiful finish it gives the pudding.
The pudding will need to sit for 10-15 minutes before service, which is enough time to make the sauce...
Step 8: The Sauce Is the Boss
Ask just about any dessert fanatic, and they will tell you vehemently that a pudding is never complete without a sauce. That's just a fact of life, and the other fact of life is that this pudding sauce is a killer one.
Whisk all the sauce ingredients together except for the whiskey in a heavy bottomed sauce pot. If you want the alcohol to cook off, you can add it now, but it takes away from the final product in my opinion.
Alcohol free alternate: Mix in two tablespoons of vanilla extract or vanilla paste after cooking for a delicious sauce! Real vanilla breaks down in heat, so you will want to hold off adding it until after the cooking is done.
Place the sauce pot on the stove over medium low heat, and bring to just below a simmer. It is imperative you whisk constantly to prevent the sugar burning to the bottom of the sauce pot or the eggs scrambling (just think of it as burning off the calories you're about to enjoy). You want the sauce to become thick enough so that it coats the back of a spoon, and dragging your finger across the back of the spoon leaves a clean path.
Take the sauce off the heat and whisk in the whiskey to taste.
Step 9: It's Happy Time!
Scoop some pudding onto a plate or into a bowl, and spoon over some of your lucious sauce. Serve warm!
If you really like pudding sauce (and who doesn't?), and you really like whiskey, you can totally put a whole cup of whiskey in the sauce. Word of warning though: I can tell you from experience that you can get totally shnockered off this dessert if you aren't careful!
This treat is best when fresh, but you can refrigerate the leftovers and have it for breakfast the following day. I've taken leftover pudding and sliced and pan fried it like French toast, and it's pretty phenomenal!
Now go capture the sweet life! Happy baking y'all!