I’ll let you in on a little restaurant secret: Chefs often create specials to use up leftovers in the kitchen. As a pastry chef, I’ve run many a dessert special featuring meringues and a delicious sorbet or fruit coulis, all in an effort to use up extra egg whites and overripe fruit.
That’s how bread pudding ended up on the menu at Flour, my bakery and café. Every day, we’re often left with overflowing tubs of extra fresh-baked bread. Some gets dropped off at a local shelter, some gets made into breadcrumbs, and some turns into bread pudding.
Given its genesis from leftovers, bread pudding is essentially a humble dessert, but at Flour we’ve come up with a number of ways to make it decadent, with add-ins and flavorings. This tool lets you generate a basic comforting treat for your family, a rich, complex dessert suitable for guests, and everything in between.
Tips for the best bread puddings
- Regardless of which bread you choose, it’s important that the bread be old rather than fresh. The staler the bread, the more readily it will absorb the custard base, so your final product will be that much more tender and flavorful. We often cut our leftover bread into cubes and then leave it out uncovered so that it gets extra dry.
- It’s important to strain the custard before adding the bread to it. Bits of egg or egg shell and any additions you’ve added to the half-and-half will all distract from the scrumptious custard you’ve created.
- Many custards are baked in a water bath to prevent overcooking, but for ease and simplicity, my method bypasses this step, to bake directly in the oven. To keep them from overbaking, I set the temperature as low as possible—around 325ºF.
- I’ve found that the best way to check for doneness is by poking a small hole in the center with a paring knife. If some liquid custard seeps into the hole, you need to bake another 5 to 10 minutes before checking again.