I’m fixating a little bit about the plate pictured here with the bread pudding. I have just this one piece. I picked it up at a garage sale. If you have to take a lot of photos of food, it is very easy to turn into a garage sale junkie. I think I would love to have one place setting of a million patterns as opposed to a million pieces of the same pattern. I am inadvertently getting there.
When I think of china patterns I can’t help but think of my dad’s mother, Alma. She really led a very humble life. But she was somewhat obsessed with her china because, I suspect, it was the one outward symbol she had of refinement. It made her feel important in a way that none of her other possessions or attributes did. So when I look at little odd bits of china at garage sales, I can’t help but look at them and imagine one hundred different conversations and scenarios that must have occurred over them. I look at this little brown plate and wonder if anyone ever took it out of the cupboard. Or, was it hidden away, high from the reach of children (or grandchildren) so that it wouldn’t be broken? This one is so worn on the edges that I will continue to imagine that it was a bit of festivity, pulled out of the cupboard at every turn. It was that little piece of pride and beauty that enlivened even the most drab dessert…
such as bread pudding. Out of my muddled mind and onto dessert.
Bread pudding, like French Toast is making something out of nothing. It is a celebration of bread that’s only other productive path is duck food. We swipe the dry, several day old bread out of the mouths of birds and soak it in custard and bake it into a pudding. I serve mine with whipped cream sweetened with confectioners’ sugar. This is a great trick because the corn starch in the confectioners’ sugar helps stabilize the cream. I also like idea of Susan Haley, one of PIE’s Facebook friends, who told me that she scatters pecans on her bread pudding and then drizzles a mixture of sweetened condensed milk and whiskey on top.
1 loaf of old French bread or whatever leftover dried out bread you can scrounge up
2 cups milk
1 cup half & half
¾ cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of salt
½ stick of butter
Topping: ¼ cup granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the baking dish. I used a 10” x 6” oval dish. Tear up enough bread to fill your baking dish. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, half & half, sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter until just melted and combined. Pour the milk over the bread and submerge any floating pieces with a fork. Let the bread sit this way for about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and then pour them over the bread mixture. Carefully, mix the eggs into the bread until it is well incorporated. I say careful, because if you are too aggressive, the whole thing will turn into mush. You want the bread pieces to remain whole and as distinct as possible.
For the topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon together and then scatter it over the top of the bread. This will make a nice, thick layer. You might look at it and think it is too much. But trust me, it bakes into a crispy, crunchy layer that makes the whole dessert.
Because this is a custard, I recommend baking it in a water bath. Prepare some boiling water. Place the baking dish into a slightly larger baking dish. Put them in the oven together. Then carefully pour the boiling water into the larger baking dish so that it comes about half way up the bread pudding dish.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean (ish).
CAREFULLY remove the baking dish. I remove the water bath and the baking dish carefully to the counter and then carefully remove the baking dish. You might be able to lift the bread pudding out of the water and leave the water in the oven to cool before removing it. Either way, be very careful of the sloshing water pan. Some of the sugar may still be white and dry on top at the end of the baking time.
Allow the bread pudding to rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.