Easy bread pudding is a good weekday comfort food

Diane Rossen Worthington
Tribune Content Agency

Bread pudding is a comforting dish traditionally made from leftover bread and rich vanilla custard, and it has come a long way. Today’s restaurant menus feature myriad adaptations such as gingerbread, white chocolate and lemon, to name just a few. There is no definitive recipe.

Served in souffle dishes, in individual ramekins or in a shallow baking dish, bread pudding is difficult to resist because of its old-fashioned quality.

Fresh, tart spring berries are paired with sweet custard in the following recipe. The top becomes brown and crisp, while the inside remains moist with the texture of pudding.

Use good-quality bread such as challah, brioche, raisin bread or even sweet corn bread, and allow it to dry out for a day so that it will absorb the custard. You can do this by putting it out on the counter overnight, or in a 250 degree oven for half an hour.

The pudding can be made a day ahead if you undercook it by 15 minutes. Cool, cover and refrigerate it, remove the next day and bring to room temperature. Reheat and finish baking for about 15 to 20 minutes

Other tips for a great result are to let the bread absorb the custard fully by allowing it to sit until you can feel that a cube is soaked through to the center. Make sure to look for a good quality vanilla extract for the best flavor. Lastly, a water bath is used to control the cooking temperature so that the custard does not overcook and curdle.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host.

Spring Berry Bread Pudding

8 cups cubed (1-inch cubes) day-old challah

2 cups blueberries

1 cup raspberries

6 large whole eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 cups milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Boiling water, as needed

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread and the berries in the dish, making sure that they are evenly distributed.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the whole eggs and egg yolks on medium speed until they are frothy. Add the sugar and beat until thick and lemon colored, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add the milk, and mix to combine. Add the vanilla and nutmeg and mix to combine.

Ladle the custard over the bread. Let the pudding sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour to help the bread absorb the custard, occasionally pushing the bread down with a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the baking dish in a larger baking pan. Pour almost-boiling water into the larger baking pan to reach halfway up the sides of the pudding dish. Place the pudding in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

Using long oven mitts to protect your hands, push the bread down with a large wooden spoon. The remaining liquid custard will rise to the surface. Spoon the custard evenly over the bread slices. Bake for about 10 minutes more, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the pudding from the oven. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the top with the confectioners’ sugar; then let the bread pudding rest on a rack for about 10 minutes. Serve in squares alone or with whipped cream. It is also excellent served cold the next day. Serves 8.

Per serving: 388 calories; 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 23 percent calories from fat); 63 g carbohydrates; 44 g sugar; 218 mg cholesterol; 276 mg sodium; 13 g protein; 3 g fiber.