Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bread Pudding

            Bread pudding is an old recipe that deserves to be revived. It’s comfort food, inexpensive, flexible, and tasty, all at once. Made with canned peaches, or sliced bananas, or maybe some apples and walnuts, it becomes Sunday morning breakfast or Wednesday evening desert. With onions, mushrooms, and thyme, it is dinner after a visit to the Winter Market.
            Bread Pudding starts with the bread. I store bread scraps in the freezer for a few weeks until I have several ends, but you can also use up the iffy heel on the counter, the  loaf you forgot to salt, or the one that was left in the oven too long. Whole wheat and white bread work equally well; we often have a mix. You need enough bread, cubed,  to fill your baking dish two thirds of the way up.
            Once I have the bread prepped, I add the cooked vegetables or fruit. One sautéed onion with a clove or two of garlic and a large handful of mushrooms is about right. You could also add roast veggies, or some pureed squash….or tomatoes and basil and a bit of cheese…asparagus might be nice…For breakfast, I use the home-canned fruit from summer or fresh blueberries and cherries. Toss it all in with the bread.
            The filling is flexible. If you head sweet, add a little sugar and vanilla to the milk and eggs and sprinkle cinnamon on top. The left-over eggnog from Christmas works wonderfully well. If savory, some pepper and salt. I usually whisk together three backyard eggs and about a cup and a half of milk. If I miscalculate, I add a little more milk, sometimes with another egg beaten in. You want the bread to poke out from the filling a bit for textural interest. Then it pops into the oven at 350 until the filling is set. Easy. And it warms the kitchen while it bakes. You could toss in a couple of apples along side for desert.
             We love bread pudding. The bread soaks up the flavors of the herbs and mushrooms and spreads them throughout the meal. When it’s canned peaches, the warm, soft fruit contrasts with the crunch of the bread and squish of the filling in an amazing way. After dinner, you know you have eaten well. 

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