When you say “Comfort Food!” I say: Bread Pudding. Make mine New Orleans-style, because the Big Easy is the home of this simple Creole Bread Pudding recipe. How about we let the good times roll, right into your kitchen?
Bread Pudding = Simple, Smart, Satisfying, and Sweet
Bread pudding is a home-cooking classic, beloved across the USA and beyond. No wonder it’s a favorite far and wide over time, since this dessert is:
1) Simple as in eggs + milk + sugar + bread, ingredients we tend to have on hand and know well;
2) Smart as in making on-hand ingredients (including stale bread which might have been wasted otherwise) into a quickly prepared, quickly-baked treat is a savvy cook’s move;
3) Satisfying as in custard, amplified and enhanced with pillowy bread sweetened and spiced just the way we like it;
4) Sweet not just in flavor but sweet as in the delight of turning humble, inexpensive ingredients into a great big treat!
What Is Bread Pudding?
Bread pudding is a big, hearty, homespun dessert, in which stale bread becomes the star! Immersed in a rich, creamy custard sweetened with sugar and brightened with spices, it’s baked and scooped into bowls, warm or at room temperature, often crowned with a spirits-laced sauce, plus whipped cream, or ice cream.
Where Did It Come From?
This version of bread pudding as enjoyed in the modern USA has English roots. While cooks around the world have been putting surplus bread to good use with sweeteners and spices since ancient times, sweet custard-based bread puddings like this one first appear in the mid-1700’s. Hannah Glasse begins her 1747 bread pudding recipe with in The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy with “…a Penny white loaf and a quart of new milk.”
Traditional desserts using bread delight the world. A classic Egyptian dessert known as om ali and a South Asian treat called shahi tukra both put bread to sweet celestial use. These two dishes feature pistachios, milk, spices, saffron, and rose water in a delicious celebration dishes, varying by region, beloved for centuries, and enjoyed with variations by region and tradition today.
How To Make Creole Bread Pudding
This recipe comes from a treasure of a cookbook, Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. published by Chronicle Books in 2008.
All you need for a Creole bread pudding is the type of bread people enjoy in its home base of New Orleans. That would be white bread, made from wheat, and baked so that it has a shatteringly crisp exterior and tender, soft interior. Not a baguette, but rather a fluffy textured white bread which makes a perfect po’ boy sandwich, and leaves crumbs on the table in lovely New Orleans restaurants like Galatoire’s.
If your bread’s not stale, you might want to help it out by cutting it up into bite sized pieces and spreading it out on a sheet pan to dry out and go stale for a day. Or put the pan in a low oven (250 degrees) for 2 hours or so to help it along.
The drier the bread, the better it will do its job of absorbing the egg-and-milk mixture which turns bread bits into a dessert to remember and long for. The trio of milk, spiced sugar, and beaten eggs join forces to turn dry bread into luscious creamy pudding.
Extra Goodness for Your Crowd-Pleasing Treat? Yes, Indeed!
Creole Bread Pudding is a classic, but there’s room for creativity if you want to make it your very own. What you’ll typically find is that soft – yet – crisp New Orleans-style French bread at the center.
If you’re far from the Big Easy, look for Italian bread, the kind you’d use to make garlic bread, for its soft texture. You won’t have the crisp crust, but it all melts into the custard so you’ll still have a glorious pudding.
Other great Creole Bread Pudding options? Challah, the braided bread made from a rich sweet dough, works wonderfully. If you had panettone, the fruit-studded Italian holiday bread, also made with eggs, that works fine. And brioche absorbs the custard wonderfully. But trust me when I say that any bread you have will make a fine pudding.
More add-ins? Raisins are traditional, nuts are not. I love pecans so there they are. Add them to the top of each serving if you prefer, or leave them out.
The other two typical Creole Bread Pudding touches? Cream or half and half instead of milk! And some kind of spirit, at least in the sauce. You’ll see bourbon, whiskey, and rum, but it’s fine to use another favorite or leave that out. It’s your pudding, so everything needs to go your way. Don’t fuss, enjoy the easy way this recipe comes together!
How to Make This Classic Recipe:
- Cut your soft bread into small pieces and spread it out to let it get stale. A few hours, even overnight. Save up good bread portions in the freezer until you have enough for this Creole Bread Pudding: It’s worth the wait!
- Combine everything wet: The eggs, milk, and vanilla, and add in the spiced sugar, whisking to mix everything well.
- In another big bowl, you’ll combine bread, raisins, and any other additions. Toss them well with a big spoon to mix mix mix,
- Combine the bread with the custard and stir well; then let stand for a few hours, or at least 30 minutes, so that the bread can absorb that delicious vanilla-kissed custard. It will make your pudding’s texture sublime! (Secret: IF you are desperate to get this made and served, go on ahead. You’ll still have a fine and fantastic dessert to share!)
- Bake in a big pan or several smaller pans, generously greased with butter, until puffed up and firm but not dry or overly browned. Big pan takes longer, smaller pans take less time, so if you go smaller, check sooner to see about doneness.
Sauces Make Sweet Crowning Touch for Creole Bread Pudding
- Traditionally, creole versions of this wonderful dessert include spirits with bourbon and whiskey being the most popular choices
- Caramel Sauce makes a fine option for bread pudding, so don’t be afraid to go outside the Creole tradition here.
- Fruit sauces add vibrant flavor and color. I love strawberry sauce and raspberry sauce, because they have lovely texture and gorgeous color, as well as a bright counterpoint in flavor to the sugar/butter equation of Bourbon Sauce (which I do love!)
- In a hurry? How about maple syrup? It’s handy and absolutely deeeelicious. I always have some on hand myself: don’t you?
- While whipped cream is not required, I do love its cool pillowy richness as part of the pudding’s presentation and texture. But would I use whipped cream AND this yummy bourbon sauce together on my Creole Bread Pudding. Oh yes, yes indeed!
Here’s my Bourbon Sauce in progress. Simple and quick. I usually make it while my pudding is baking in the oven, but you could do it ahead and warm it gently at serving time. Warm or room temperature are ideal here.
See that little bit of purple peeking through?: That’s because I made this particular Creole Bread Pudding using my very own King Cake, which I made many times during the Mardi Gras season. What a glorious finale for a King Cake: To go out as the foundation of Creole Bread Pudding!’
Crowd-Pleasing Party Food? Why Yes, Indeed!
This recipe fills a 13×9 inch baking pan, rectangular or oval, metal or ceramic or ovenproof glass. I like to break it up into smaller sizes so that I can serve it various ways.
- For a big party, go with the biggest dish, always generously buttered of course!
- For a smaller party, use a 9-inch cake pan, square or round. This serves 6 people nicely. You’ll have extra so…
- Make a second 9 inch square or round for the family, or for freezing and reheating later. Or…
- Divide the remaining portion (left from one 9 inch pan’s worth) into individual portions. Small ceramic ramekins; custard cups; I’ve got two gorgeous mini-pie pans, red ceramic, which make plenty for two, or a nice gift portion for a neighbor or friend (as long as you intend the pan as a gift or can expect it back! )
- This bread pudding freezes nicely, so if you eat one now and freeze some for later, you’ll have a Creole treat to look forward to. You can thaw it overnight and reheat gently, covered, at 250 degrees, until warmed through, 25 to 35 minutes.
King Cake Bread Pudding
King Cake makes a mighty fine bread pudding, so remeber this next Mardi Gras !
Here’s my King Cake before; and after I used some for bread pudding.
I poured a lovely lemon icing over my big pan of Creole Bread Pudding, and decorated it with colored sugars for a beautiful presentation!
It was a hit, but that’s always true, fancy or plain. It’s just plain easy comforting and good!
Looking for More Comfort Food Favorites? I Can Help with That!
Vanilla,move over because chocolate time is here, courtesy of King Arthur Flour
For a super simple, can-do old-time dessert, check out my Easy Egg Custard Pie!
So good and sure to remind people of back-in-the-day treats they miss: my Coconut Custard Pie wins every time
- BREAD PUDDING
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3 large eggs, beaten well
- 4 cups milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 10 cups cubes or small torn pieces of stale bread
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped toazsted pecans or walnuts (optional)
- BROWN SUGAR-BOURBON SAUCE
- 1¼ cups water
- ½ cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
- ¼ cuo Bourbon whiskey (optional)
- 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Generously grease a 13 by 9 inch baking pan with butter or vegetable oil.
- Combine the sugar and nutmeg in a large bowl and stir with a whisk or fork to mix well.
- Add the beaten eggs, milk, and vanilla, and stir to mix well into a custard,
- Add bread cubes along with raisins and nuts if using them, and stir to mix everything well.
- Set the pudding mixture aside for 20 to 30 minutes, to allow the bread to absorb the custard.
- Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degree4s F,
- While the pudding is resting, make the sauce, combining the water, brown sugar, and nutmeg in a small saucepan.
- In a small bowl, stir together the bourbon and the cornstarch, mixing them well,.
- Bring the saucepan of water and brown sugar to a rolling boil over high heat, and then add the cornstarch-bourbon mixture and brng tio a boil.
- Cookm, stirring oftenm until thickened and smooth, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the butter, stiurring uniult iut melts and everything makes a smooth sauce. ,
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Pour the pudding mixture into the buttered baking dish and place it in the center of the 350 Degree oven.
- Bake until the custard is fairly firm, puffed up, and nicely, lightly browned.
- Remove from oven and place on a wire cooking rack or folded kitchen towel.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, with Sauce and whipped cream or ice cream.