In 1946, right after WWII, I was visiting in England and bread was one of the few main staples that the English still had to eat. They actually had had too much of it and were sick of it. Memories can be long, so, usually my English bed and breakfast guests didn’t like this dish—but I do. People usually think of bread pudding as something not being very gourmet when actually it can be extremely gourmet and delectable. Bread pudding began as a humble dessert because the main ingredient was “left over stale bread”; however, the variations can be so numerous that it can become very decadent indeed. Additionally, bread pudding depending on its ingredients, can be served for any meal of the day. Regardless of which bread you decide to use, white French, croissant, Challa, Brioche, English muffin, usually, the staler the bread, the final product will be more tasteful. As to the custard base, half and half probably offers the perfect balance to texture. Heating the half-and-half before mixing it into the eggs and sugar will assure you of a final base that is perfectly combined. Be sure to whisk it slowly into the eggs so as to not “scramble” the eggs. Finally, soaking the bread pudding the day before baking makes it better and the easier for an innkeeper. So, here are a few of the sweet type combos you can think about: chocolate/banana; pumpkin; gingerbread; rum/raisin; lemon-coconut;apricot-almond;berry;mocha; and double ginger.
The following recipe will serve 12.
Triple-Berry Bread Pudding
You will need the following:
9 X 13 inch baking dish
2-3 qt. saucepan
Make the custard:
7 large egg yolks
3 large eggs
1 C. granulated sugar
6 C. half and half
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
10 C. 1 inch day old brioche bread cubes
3 ½ C. fresh or frozen berries such as blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries. If frozen, defrost before adding the pudding and drain most of the liquid. It’s best with the fresh berries.
Whisk the yolks and eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk in the sugar and salt until totally blended. Slightly heat the half and half and slowly whisk into the egg mixture.
Place the bread cubes in a 9 X 13 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and pour the custard on top making sure that the bread is submerged. Let cool at room temp about an hour; cover with plastic wrap; and refrigerate for at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours. .
Preheat oven to 325.
Before baking, gently fold in the berries. Cover the pudding loosely with foil and bake at 325 for 70 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until no liquid custard is visible when you poke a small hole in the center with a paring knife, 20 to 40 minutes more depending on the custard or add-ins. So total baking time can be 90 to 110 minutes.
Let the pudding cool on a rack. Serve warm at room temp with a dollop of whipped cream or a good yogurt.
I serve this with a side of the thick kind of Canadian bacon slices that I have sautéed in a frying pan with fresh rosemary. I also serve more berries in a bowl.
Below are some optional add on options for the custard:
1 ½ tsp. almond;
2 C. chopped bittersweet chocolate to the hot ½ and ½ till chocolate is melted;
2 tsp. instant espresso to hot ½ and ½;
½ C. chopped fresh ginger in ½ & ½ —let steep in half and half for 10 minutes before adding to yolks;
fine grated zest of 3 lemons to ½ and ½ and whisk juice from the lemons (about ½ C.) into the custard;
whisk 1 ¼ C. pure canned pumpkin, tsp. ground Cinnamon; and ¼ tsp nutmeg into custard;
increase sugar to ¼ C. and add 1/3 C. dark rum to custard.
Choose one or two
3 ripe thinly sliced bananas
1 ½ C. toasted shredded coconut
3 ½ C. fresh or frozen mixed berries
1 ½ C. toasted coarsely chopped pecans
1 C. chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 C. dried apricots, soaked in very hot water for 30 minutes and drained thoroughly
1 C. golden rains, soaked is above for apricots
½ C. chopped crystallized ginger