Bread pudding is one of those things you don’t have to be exact with. As long as you throw together some reasonable amounts of milk, sugar, eggs, bread, and whatever flavorings suit you, chances are you have yourself a decent bread pudding. And this drives me up the wall.
Loosey-goosey ratios mean that there’s a huge variance from recipe to recipe–such a large variance that someone like me, who likes to review several different recipes to find a pattern or middle ground, is left at a loss because ratios in the recipes are so drastically different from one another and I don’t know who to trust. I want that perfect texture–something soft and silky on the bottom layer, with a slight bite to the top layer. And I can’t trust that any recipe I choose will guarantee that–I’ve seen the homogenous, soggy sponges of bread puddings made with too much liquid and I don’t want any part of it.
Luckily the first bread pudding I ever made had that exact texture, so while I’ve played around with the amounts of sugar and flavorings, I’ve stuck to that first recipe as far as the milk and eggs are concerned. I’m so happy with it that I don’t see myself straying. Gather round if you’d like the perfect bread pudding recipe by my standards.
This recipes comes from The Pioneer Woman. It results in a delicious, comforting, carb-laden delight and is one of my favorite desserts. The basic ratio is one egg per 1.25 cups of milk, which has worked out for me. I also have a fear of overly eggy tasting desserts (which I realize is a silly fear to have about a custard, but I don’t like when custard gets too smug about things), so while I’ve seen recipes that add a third egg, I’ll abstain. I’m not ready to live in that world yet.
The original recipe calls for two cups of sugar, which I think is too much. A little sugar goes a long way in this recipe, especially if we’re going to make a sauce to pour on top (we are), so I always cut it down to 1/2 a cup of sugar. This results in a dessert that’s still sweet on its own, and one that doesn’t become cloying when topped with the vanilla cream sauce. I realize this 75% decrease seems drastic–normally if I reduce the amount of sugar in something, I cut it by about 25%–but just trust me on the fact that two cups is way too much. (Then again, perhaps she uses more sugar because her choice of is sourdough. I prefer to use French bread, so I can’t speak to that, but if you use sourdough, perhaps play around with the sugar a bit more.)
Feel free to add a little extra milk (and maybe even an extra egg) if you don’t want the slight crunch on top. I also like to make sure all the cubes are properly soaked before going into the oven; I do this by moving the cubes around after I’ve poured the liquid over the cubes. It’s all about redistributing the wealth. The picture on the right shows the results of my rearranging–note how much happier the cubes look.
The Pioneer Woman uses a whiskey cream sauce, but I’m not a fan of whiskey or of tasting alcohol in my dessert, so I’ve modified it to a vanilla cream sauce instead. I also reduced the butter and added milk to improve the consistency. The sauce is creamy, sweet, and very vanilla-y, and I like to use it in excess.
If you want to be extra decadent, serve up a slice of bread pudding (warm, of course), pour the sauce on top, and top that with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, but trust me on this.
Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Makes one 9-inch dish; about 6 servings
2 tbsp melted butter
2 1/2 cups of milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
3 1/2 to 5 cups French bread (preferably stale*), cut into 1-inch cubes
*If the bread is not stale, lay the cubes out on a sheet pan and put them in a 325 degree oven, shaking the pan occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the cubes are slightly dried out.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Beat together the eggs, sugar, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla; beat in the melted butter. Arrange the bread cubes in a nine-inch baking dish and pour the liquid mixture over the bread. If the liquid doesn’t look evenly distributed, ensure even soakage by moving the drier pieces of the bread down to the bottom and/or moving the wetter pieces to the top. Bake for 55-70 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown on top and the center of the bread pudding jiggles slightly when shaken. (Mine was ready at around 60 minutes.)
Vanilla Cream Sauce
Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Makes about one cup of sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until it comes to a low boil. Take off heat, pour over individual servings of bread pudding and enjoy.