Bread pudding: comfort food for the fall


September 25, 2010
Ann Wilmer
Food Writer
Chesapeake Kitchen

It was 53 degrees Fahrenheit at the airport. While it is warmer in town, it was still chilly when I put my feet on the floor this morning. I have resisted turning on the central heat, because before the day is over I’ll have to open the windows and let out the heat. Fall is here.

After an afternoon spent raking leaves (which is harder than it looks), a hearty supper is in order. Now that the weather is cooler, the oven is back “on duty” in my kitchen.  Even though I am tuckered out from doing yard work, I feel entitled to something warm, sweet and comforting. I’m sure it will make strained muscles ache less.

Bread pudding is a sweet treat requiring minimum preparation. It can bake while you eat dinner. To me, it’s comfort food, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese. Bread pudding is something that my grandmother made weekly and my mother fairly often. It turned leftover biscuits – as tough and hard as hockey pucks – into a homey dessert.

Grandmother crumbled her slightly stale biscuits, soaked them in milk and then completed the traditional recipe by adding whatever else was needed. She baked her pudding in huge pans even after her children had left the nest. She had three grandsons next door, each with a sweet tooth. She only had to call out the door and they would come running. On weekends, I was usually there also.

I don’t bake biscuits every day like my grandmother did. I use day-old sliced bread (which she called light bread), leftover hot dog rolls or whatever I have in the pantry. I have discovered that it doesn’t matter if the bread you use is leavened with shortening or yeast. When combined with milk, sugar and eggs, it works. Warm, sweet and full of ingredients that really are good for you in moderation, it’s hard to beat.

My grandmother usually added raisins to hers. I love raisins out of hand, but don’t care for them in baked goods, so I don’t add them. It’s your option. Any small or chopped dried fruit would work just as well.  I would recommend rehydrating it in warm water or a little sweet sherry and then draining before adding it to the pudding.

I found a recipe that substituted cinnamon bread and added chocolate chips; I haven’t tried that yet, but I plan to. I bake my pudding in one of the Pyrex dishes my mother gave me when I learned housekeeping. Over the years, I have tweaked my grandmother’s recipe to suit myself. This dessert lends itself to interpretation, so experiment and make it yours.

We like it best right out of the oven. My mother enjoyed this dessert served in a small bowl and topped with cream. At the Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans, it was served with bourbon whiskey sauce. The chef baked it in timbales so you got an extra helping of the crusty outside edges as it sat upright, like a pointed hat in the dish, surrounded by a the sweet sauce. An easy substitute is the caramel sauce you find near the ice cream case at the store.

Bread pudding (Serves 4-6)


6-8 slices cubed, day-old bread

2/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 ¼ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

pinch nutmeg

½ cup raisins or currants (optional)

sliced almonds

2-3 TBS butter


Tear or cube the bread until you have enough to fill an 8×8-inch glass baking dish. Whisk together eggs and sugar. Add vanilla, nutmeg and milk; blend well. Pour into buttered backing dish and sprinkle with nutmeg. Top with brown sugar crumbled over the top. In a small skillet melt butter and toss ¼ cup sliced almonds until well coated. Spread evenly over the top of the pudding. Bake at 375° Fahrenheit for about 45-55 minutes or until lightly browned. Test by inserting a knife off center; if it comes out clean the pudding is done. Serve warm in individual dessert dishes with or without a topping. It’s good cold, but it can be re-warmed in the microwave without losing its moistness.


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