Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: It's a dessert, it's a main course, it's...bread pudding!

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

It's a dessert, it's a main course, it's...bread pudding!

Monday, September 7, 2009

One of my favorite old-fashioned dessert recipes is nearly illegible, scrawled on a torn sheet of paper and labeled “Aunt Ethel’s.” I wrote it down fast during a phone conversation, intended to rewrite it later, and never did. It’s my friend Fran Godine’s family recipe for bread pudding, the basic vanilla-and raisins version.

I’ve been seeing bread pudding looking newly chic on restaurant menus lately in chocolate and toffee incarnations. And over the years I’ve cut out savory recipes with additions like mushrooms, fontina, and leeks that looked like good alternatives to quiches.

After a little experimenting I found that this is similar to an omelette in ease and in handiness for nights when you can’t think of what to make for dinner with the ingredients on hand. But it’s surprisingly light and almost souffle-like in its ability to look impressive. And it provides the perfect answer for what to do with the rest of a baguette after dinner for two.

So here’s the basic idea. I’ve found that the right ratio is 1 cup of milk (can be low fat) to 1 cup of staled bread cubes to 1 egg. For two people you’d probably want to use 3 cups to 3 cups to 3 eggs. And here’s what you do:
--scald the milk. That’s the term my mother used for heating it just until you get the film of protein deposits on the sides of the saucepan.
--beat in the eggs
--pour mixture over bread cubes. I like to mush it down a little to make sure all the bread is soaked thoroughly.
--add anything (see below)
--bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. It will be puffed and much lighter than you’d expect.

For sweet bread puddings, you can add vanilla and raisins, chocolate....., maybe even the fruits you might bake into a pie--apples, pears, peaches.

But savory bread puddings are another whole level of flexibility. Mushroom, ham, grated cheese, green onions, tomato, broccoli--put in whatever you might use in a quiche.

And here’s what I love about the bread part. I like to use French bread, so whenever I have any left from a meal, I cut it into large cubes. I usually trim off the crust, but I’m not so sure that matters very much. Then I leave the cubes out to stale overnight and pop them into a bag in the freezer. What could be easier?

Let me know about your bread puddings!

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