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Vintage Kitchen: Bread Pudding

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I grew up eating bread pudding. It’s a cheap, filling breakfast (or dessert, more on that later) that uses up things we usually had in abundance: bread, milk, and eggs. Since we were milking goats, kept chickens, and making homemade bread which stales if you look at it funny, it was a great option. Later in life, milk mostly went straight into the kids, storeboughten bread is more likely to succumb to mold than staleness, having enough preservatives in it to stun a horse, so bread pudding was a rare thing. Usually I made it if I was having a yen for comfort food.

Forcing bread to go stale – everyday All-American white bread, the kind my son likes. Using our 12-grain wheat loaves would yield a different result!

As we were discussing what to do for this week’s Vintage Kitchen recipe, the First Reader pointed out that the Little Man had picked out two loaves of ‘his’ bread and they should be used up before they went bad. We’d been talking French Toast, but what’s bread pudding other than baked French Toast? Ok, it’s a little more complex…

Gathering all my ingredients. Prepping the night beforehand would make this simpler – my sister does an overnight version that is good but different.

I pulled out a couple of cookbooks from the shelf that is now dedicated to my old and heirloom books, and decided that I’d use a recipe from Great-Grandma Ella’s Oregon Grange cookbook. It dates back to 1940, and has some great recipes in it. This is one of them. Although I will confess I altered it slightly, because I made too many bread crumbs and because I wanted four hearty portions, not dessert-sized ones. I reduced the sugar as well.

Half-filled pots became full when it baked and rose.

In order to make this in keeping with the recipe, I used four lidded pots (I have no idea if they have a name!) and cooked the pudding in a bain marie. But before I started mixing up the pudding, I staled the bread. Store-bought bread has a very different ‘crumb’ than homemade, and as I mentioned above, it doesn’t stale. So I tore up about 8 slices of bread into ‘spoon-sized’ pieces and put them in the oven spread out on a pan for about ten minutes at 325 (I was preheating for the puddings anyway). You could achieve the same result by letting the pieces stand out overnight and dry.

Recipe from the book

I mixed up the liquid ingredients, folded the staled bread in, then spooned it (about one cupful each) into the pots. I then mixed in the flavorings, as the kids don’t like nuts, and the First Reader won’t eat raisins. So we had two with chopped dates and walnuts, one with raisins, and one plain. I covered them (I covered the tagine-style lids with aluminum foil) and put them back into the pan I’d staled the bread crumbs in, along with about 4 cups of hot water to create a bain marie. I baked them at 325 for thirty minutes, then raised the temperature to 350 and baked for another 40 minutes, until they were risen and a toothpick came out clean.

Personal baking pots and a perfect Fall morning meal.

I think you could prepare much of this overnight, only folding in the melted butter and baking soda at the last minute with the bread crumbs to put in pan(s) and bake. That would be faster – we had this for Sunday brunch, but it’s not a quick breakfast! It is easily sweet and rich enough for an elegant dessert in smaller portions, I’d not hesitate to serve it that way as well. The First Reader took a bite, and then another, and then looked at me and told me it’s the best bread pudding he’s ever eaten. It’s caramelly, and rich, and with the dates in ours, sweeter than I would have thought initially. 

6 thoughts on “Vintage Kitchen: Bread Pudding

  1. I have fond memories of bread pudding being a staple in East Berlin. Considering that the bread there became really hard after just a day (or by the end of the day!) it’s no surprise that bread puddings were a regular product of my childhood friends’ homes. They were quite dense, but tasted good.

  2. As a young mother I was always trying to find a way to stretch our groceries. I had heard of bread pudding but couldn’t really find a recipe that suited my needs. The way I ended up making it would make a chef shudder but the children loved it and it used up what ever kind of bread or baked good I had.

  3. Mine is more akin to a souffle or may a sweet dressing using bread and cake instead of a savory dressing using cornbread and biscuits.

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