Thursday, March 1, 2012

Simple Bread Pudding

I admit it, I tend to get impatient with recipes that seem to have an endless list of ingredients or steps. If I read through a recipe and my eyes glaze over, I will close the book and go find something else to do instead of baking or cooking. Unfortunately, this means there's a great deal of good foods out there, that I simply refuse to bother with. I used to think I was merely impatient, but as I've spent more time in the kitchen, I've learned that sometimes, really, recipes are needlessly complicated.

Bread pudding is one of those recipes that, in most cases, I simultaneously long for and resist making, because by the time I get to the part of the instructions that involve turning the stove down or putting pans of water in the oven, I'm restless and I end up with lemon bars or looking at pretty rooms on Pinterest instead. I know. And I missed bread pudding. It was a dish my mom used to make frequently and it was always delicious and always comforting. (Yes, comfort food. Food is part of human culture, it nourishes our bodies while also nourishing our very spirits. Too often this need goes unfulfilled or downright vilified in society's quest to eat healthy, while ignoring the whole health of a person, including emotional health.)

One day this winter, however, I happened to read the entire bread pudding recipe in my Fanny Farmer cookbook, and not one pan of water in the oven was listed! And since I had a large batch of just baked homemade bread ready, it all went together very easily. I ended up modifying this recipe, to simplify it further. I made it a bit more custard-like by adding an extra egg. I also added extra cinnamon and some ginger and nutmeg for a rich flavor. This would also be excellent with a variety of dried fruit, or plain or made savory with onion, cheese or a mix of vegetables, (omit the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in that case.)

homemade loaf for bread pudding

Simple Bread Pudding

1 loaf of white or brown bread, can be stale, the thicker the better
1-2 sticks of butter and some for the baking dish
1 quart whole milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice or sugar
1 cup raisins
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger

Set oven to 325F.

Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Rip thick bread into large pieces and place on bottom of the baking dish. Do not leave spaces between pieces of bread.

layer of bread

Cut butter into pats and place butter on bread layer.

bread and butter

In separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the milk, sugar, spices and raisins and mix together. (Adjust accordingly for a savory recipe during this step.)

basic ingredients
milk and spices

Pour milk and egg mixture over the bread and butter layers and submerge completely, pressing down as needed.

raisin mixture

Add more pieces of bread and more pats of butter and finish with a layer of bread. (I had about 2-3 layers.) Press to submerge all bread into milk and egg mixture. Cover and let stand ten minutes.

soaked bread

After ten minutes, add more pats of butter and sprinkle the top with some sugar and cinnamon.

butter and cinnamon

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, then cover and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Serve hot.

simple raisin bread pudding
raisin bread pudding
hot bread pudding

This bread pudding simply put, hit the spot. I made my first batch on one of those days that felt like socks feel when the seam is on the wrong side. The sweetness of the raisins, the aroma of the spices and bread baking, the nourishing richness of bread, milk and eggs in one dish, the steam coming off the bowl--all of it provided comfort. It reminded me of my mother's kitchen and it healed hurts and straightened seams for my family. We ate bowls of comfort and our spirits were nourished by this simple bread pudding. I hope it also brings comfort to your table.

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