By Paul Suplee
If I ever approach you with a plate of food and say something akin to, “Try this. It’s stupid,” that means that I am fully confident that you will relish in the decision.
In this case, ‘stupid’ means stupendous or amazing in all things flavor. And that is not to say that I think I’m particularly great in this craft; it’s just that I have been doing this for a very, very long time, and as such I can tell when something is good or not so much.
And “stupid” is exactly what I said multiple times last weekend as we catered a beautiful private function in Snow Hill. The bread pudding was, in fact, quite stupid.
While I make it at the restaurant on occasion (admittedly I should carry it all of the time as it becomes a home for day-old and otherwise stale bread), I made a few adjustments this time around that still make my eyes roll back in my head, as I sit here lusting in my sweet-tooth thoughts.
Bread pudding has always been a mainstay. It is simple to make, a great depository for aforementioned otherwise useless bread and a conversation starter at the ubiquitous quiet table.
There is always at least one of these tables per night, but bring the pudding out and things get animated. I’m not sure what it is about bread pudding that does this, but it does seem to have a magical effect on people.
I remember watching an interview years ago of the woman who owned Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Everyone knew how serious she was about her bread pudding, and she was even known to have fired a chef on the spot if she bit in and found a piece of dry bread.
This is the mortal sin for which many a cook and chef have been asked to vacate the premises in many Nola joints. Of course, not every person is as passionate about their bread pudding, but all you need is that one bad experience and you will take your time in the future, patiently soaking the bread in that eggy, sweet goodness.
In this recipe, I alter the dairy and instead of using all milk, I dump in equal parts of milk, cream and buttermilk. The latter gives a bit of tartness that no one will ever guess is in there, but pairs well with the dried fruit.
Even without the fruit, the barely noticeable tinge of tart is welcome in this overly sweet dish.
And now that I am at this point of the article, and Mardi Gras has just passed, I realize that I haven’t fed my wanderlust in a very long time.
New Orleans, I hear you calling me and mayhap this would be a reason to set up a bread pudding competition in The Big Easy.
As I write this, I tilt my head to the side to try to figure out how to make this happen. In fact that leads me to a bigger idea; one that I certainly won’t share here, as all of a sudden I have a purpose with it.
Yes, bread pudding is going back on the menu. It is too simple to make, and really is a delicious way to finish a meal. So please try this and master it. After all, it is baking and, as I have learned over the years, either you can bake, or you need a lot more practice.
There is no shame in that. Just don’t burn it, and take your time. Because, once you have this down, it will be a permanent fixture in your rotation.
Knock-your-socks-off Bread Pudding
makes about 30 portions
Enough stale bread to overfill a 2-inch hotel pan (see note in step 2)
2 c. White chocolate coins
1 c. Craisins or dried fruit of your choice
16 Whole eggs
1 qt. Whole milk
1 qt. Buttermilk
1 qt. Heavy cream
3 c. Granulated sugar
1 c. Melted butter
2 tsp. Vanilla paste or 1 tsp. seeds
Cinnamon, to taste (listen to your heart)
- Spray the pan heartily and fill with the bread.
- If the bread isn’t stale, simply bake in a medium oven until halfway crispy. This will do the trick and you will be ready to continue.
- Sprinkle the white chocolate and craisins in the bread concoction.
- Combine remaining ingredients until well-blended and pour over the bread/cream puff mix.
- Here is where you need patience. You must allow the egg goo to soak completely into the breads. Press down periodically to ensure a full saturation.
- Place in a preheated 350 oven for anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour or more. This is probably the best recipe to show that every oven is different.
- You know it is done when the pudding has expanded well over the top of the pan, in a balloon-like fashion. However, make sure that it is not burning. If it is, lower the heat.
- Remove and allow to cool. This will let the pudding set .
- Serve with caramel and whipped cream and watch your guests’ heads literally explode. Now that is a good bread pudding!