Until this past Boxing Day I had never had Bread Pudding. I planned on making it for Boxing Day morning last year but at the last moment decided against it. I wasn't as adventurous back then and was scared off by not having the “correct” ingredients.
This year was different. I bought the bread, cut it up Christmas night, and let it go stale. There was no way I was backing down this time. Besides, being Italian I'm well aware at what happens to those that waste a good loaf of bread :).
After my first bite I couldn't believe I had never made this before. It's simple and pure breakfast comfort. It hits all the rights notes, but none of them too hard. All at once its crispy, creamy, chewy, sweet, spiced, rich and light, but all in balance, you never feel like there is too much of anything. I did reduce the sugar a bit and because I don't normally have cardamom on hand I made the switch to my favourite spice, nutmeg (it was Christmas after all :)). The raisins were sweet enough to compensate for anything lost from the sugar and the cinnamon nutmeg combination gave it that wonderful warm Christmas flavour.
The nice thing about this specific recipe is that it's milk based and uses less eggs then some, making it not as heavy (I'm assuming, this being my first one and all :)). If you want it extra rich you can always switch out the milk for cream, but I don't think it needs it. The bread pudding is rich enough with the benefit of having less fat.
I chose not to bake it in a water bath and the resulting texture was perfect (for me). It's like really good french toast: crispy on the outside and creamy and soft in the centre. If you want it more custardy you can bake it in a water bath, but this is not my preference. I'd rather not have runoff on my plate :).
My eyes are now opened to the wonders of bread pudding. It encompasses the most indulgent parts of breakfast without the hassle . There is no pan frying, no griddle, no batters, no portions too small or too large. It's one bowl, one pan, one bake time. The only thing easier would be Jello Instant Bread Pudding. But is that something you would really want to eat ? :)
Adapted from Michael Smith1 loaf of Italian or French bread, sliced, cubed and left to go stale over night – alternatively, you can lightly toast the bread
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
3 cups milk – I use 1%
½ cup packed golden yellow/light brown sugar (110g)
3 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup raisins (160g)
Place raisins in a bowl with hot water and allow them to plump while you prepare everything else.
Preheat oven to 350F and have ready a 9” square cake pan.
In a large bowl, add milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon and whisk to combine.
Add bread and raisins and toss everything together so that all of the bread has been moistened.
Pour everything into the pan and bake until eggs have set and the top is crispy and golden brown, between 30 and 40 minutes.
Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.