The sweet and the savory: One basic recipe for bread pudding, two ways to make it

The sweet and the savory: One basic recipe for bread pudding, two ways to make it
Bread pudding duo sm

Broccoli, ham and cheddar (top) and pear-cranberry bread (bottom) puddings

Who doesn’t love bread pudding? It is warm, comforting, inexpensive and incredibly easy to prepare. It also makes for a great last-minute or make-ahead brunch or dessert dish, as you can have the ingredients prepped in no time and either throw it together and pop it right into the oven, or let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and bake it off in the morning.

With the following basic base recipe for bread pudding, you’re free to experiment with all sorts of sweet and/or savory combinations. I’ve also listed recipes for both a sweet and a savory bread pudding using the base recipe. I usually use French or Cuban bread, but if you’re feeling extra naughty (and not counting calories) challah bread and croissants make a great substitute. Heck, I’ve seen Paula Deen use a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts in her bread pudding!

The base recipe for bread pudding is all about the ratio and simple math. For a basic custard base, you’ll want to use a 2 to 1, milk to egg ratio. A large egg is about 2 ounces, so for every egg you use, you’ll need 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of milk. (And the ratio is the exact opposite if you’re ever making a quiche.) Instead of using just milk, sometimes I’ll do half milk and half heavy cream for a richer custard base. But if all of this math is too much for you, just follow my recipe below.

Happy baking!

Basic Bread Pudding Base

1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) milk (2% or whole grade milk, or heavy cream)
3 eggs
6 cups day old crusty bread, cut into 1″ cubes (French and Cuban bread work well)
Butter or cooking spray for greasing pan

Pear-Cranberry Bread Pudding with Caramel-Rum Sauce

Basic ingredients listed above
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 ripe pears, seeded and chopped
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped or left whole (whatever your preference)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and seasonings in a medium bowl.
2. Put the bread pieces into a large bowl and pour the liquid mixture over the bread pieces, stirring to combine. Let sit for at least 10 minutes to overnight to soak up liquid.
3. Stir in fruit just before baking.
4. Grease a standard-sized bread loaf pan and pour mixture into it, squishing it all in to make it fit.
5. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour until the top has risen and it has a golden-brown top. Serve immediately with accompanying sauce.

Caramel-Rum Sauce:
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Melt butter over medium heat, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add brown sugar, increase to medium-high heat and stir until sugar is completely melted.
2. Remove from heat and stir in rum and cinnamon. To serve, pour some over each serving of bread pudding.

Broccoli, Ham, Tomato and Cheddar Bread Pudding

Basic ingredients listed above
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup cooked/steamed broccoli, chopped into small pieces
3/4 cup chopped ham (optional, omit for vegetarian version)
1/2 cup cherry or baby tomatoes, halved
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the milk, eggs and seasonings in a medium bowl.
2. Put the bread pieces into a large bowl and pour the liquid mixture over the bread pieces, stirring to combine. Let sit for at least 10 minutes to overnight to soak up liquid.
3. Stir in the vegetables and ham just before baking.
4. Grease a standard-sized bread loaf pan and pour mixture into it, squishing it all in to make it fit.
5. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour until the top has risen and it has a golden-brown top. Sprinkle grated cheddar over the top, put pan back in the oven for about 5 minutes to allow the cheese to melt. Serve immediately.

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