3 Bread Puddings In One Glorious Recipe
I have a dessert weakness for anything custard-based: flan, bread pudding, rice pudding, crème brûlée, Bavarian doughnuts, lemon curd, flan again. It must be some evolutionary instinct in me to prepare for when all of my teeth fall out. Which is why I jumped out of my floral recliner when I heard senior food editor Rick Martinez was working on a bread pudding recipe, super classic Americana. Then the dude surprised me: He also developed two ways to do 1:1 substitutions so you could turn that recipe into a coconut version OR a mega-chocolatey version. This is the kind of innovation the world needs!!! *Calls NASA*
Some tips to maximize your bread pudding success, for resume-level pudding pro status:
Which bread should you use?
Challah, hands down, says Rick. It holds its texture, but it’s very soft. Plus it already has an eggy flavor, so you’re accentuating the best parts of the pudding and the bread. When you toast it and dry it out, it becomes super absorbent for all that custard. White sandwich bread just tastes like, well, wet white bread—don’t even go there. Brioche is too heavy; there’s so much fat in the bread and then you add cream, custard, and it’s a gut bomb. Sourdough breads make an unpleasant bite—too tough and not as absorbent. If you can’t find challah at your supermarket or bakery, you could really go for it and make some. Or, you could pick up one of those wide French bread loafs (not a baguette), and just use the interior if the crust is too tough.
What’s the deal with the orange zest? Why do I have to zest ALL THE TIME?
Orange, vanilla, and cinnamon go well together, Rick says, they pull out similar warming notes. Cinnamon accentuates the spiciness of the orange, and the orange highlights the florality of the cinnamon and vanilla. It doesn’t make orange-flavored bread pudding. They create a slight difference in flavor than if you just combined the eggs + milk + sugar, but it’s not strong or overpowering. They’re subtle but present. They add this extra oomph* element that makes you want to eat the whole bowl.
*Not a real cooking term
What can I add to the classic to doctor it up a little?
Rick suggests adding raisins, upping the cinnamon, or tossing in some dried fruit. A fall variation might be raw apple and dried cranberry. Summer: plums, peaches, apricots, stone fruits. (Note that you’ll have to cook it longer because of all the moisture in the fruit.) Think of how gorgeous it would be with peach wedges sprinkled with sugar on top!
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