Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Warm comfort in bread pudding:

Bread pudding: Those words, uttered as autumn sets in, are the culinary equivalent of snuggling in a blanket. For when it's cold outside, this mix of sweetness and carbs, often spiked with liqueur and topped with caramel sauce, settles comfortingly in the belly.
Date: April 14 2012
Editor Rating:

But only if it's done right. When it's done wrong, the texture is too mushy, or the accompanying sauce irritatingly sweet.

Getting the right consistency depends on a lot more than strictly following a recipe - it's about having the right texture in the bread.

That's what Vatche Moukhtarian of the Cracked Pepper Bistro in Fresno, California, tells customers when they try to make his bread pudding. For the best results, cooks must judge the texture of the day-old dinner rolls, croissants and cheese Danishes used to make it.

"If the bread is too dry or the croissant is too stale, you have to adjust the amount of custard," he says. Unfortunately, it takes practice to know whether your bread is the right texture.

Moukhtarian breaks apart a dinner roll to demonstrate. It should be dry just to the point where it's a little crumbly, he says. Croissants won't dry out as much. Neither will the Danishes.

He layers them before adding the custard, so the bread pudding won't require as much mixing.

Moukhtarian gently folds the pudding to avoid turning the bread to mush. He'll refrigerate the mixture, then pull out mounds of it to bake individual bread puddings.

After a few tries, "it's easy for anyone to do at home", he says.

Other chefs use different breads. Tim Woods, owner and chef of the old Echo Restaurant, favoured brioche. He says he fashioned "too many versions" during the restaurant's decade-long run. Popular ones included the bitter almond, orange and white chocolate, and hazelnut and chocolate.

For the best results at home, choose brioche that is "just dry to the touch", says Woods, now a food-service consultant. And take your time. The pudding will taste best if it sits overnight before baking, he says.

Yet another take on this dessert comes from Paul Palomino of Palomino's in the Tower District. His bread pudding, made with baguettes, is closer to French toast than bread pudding. Studded with raisins and topped with toffeed almonds, it has subtle hints of Mexican brown sugar (piloncillo) and Mexican cinnamon (canela).

(At home, you can use regular brown sugar and cinnamon for equally delicious results.)

This is Palomino's standard bread pudding. When he's feeling decadent, he'll add marshmallows and bittersweet chocolate. Or he'll add fruit, such as the one with Black Mission figs he did for last year's Fig Fest, a Fresno-area festival devoted to figs. Whatever the version, customers won't let him take the bread pudding off the menu - even when it's warm outside.

Palomino shrugs. "This is a bread town," he says.


Makes about 8 servings

For the bread pudding:

2 to 2 1/2 day-old baguettes

Raisins, to taste

4 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons Captain Morgan spiced rum, or to taste

3 egg yolks For the garnish:

Toffeed almond slices

Vanilla ice cream

Sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a 24x32cm pan with softened butter. Set aside.

Cut the baguettes into 2cm pieces. (Keep the crusts on the bread.) Fit snugly into the pan, scattering raisins between layers of bread. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the heavy cream, dark brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla and cinnamon stick. Heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until sugars are dissolved in the warm cream.

Remove cinnamon stick. Whisk in Captain Morgan spiced rum.

Slowly pour the cream mixture into the egg yolks while whisking vigorously with a wire whisk. (Be sure not to scramble the eggs.)

Pour the custard over the bread a little at a time, occasionally stopping to flatten the bread into the liquid. After you've added all the custard, check the top layer of bread cubes. If they have not absorbed enough custard, use a spoon to gently mix them into the center of the pudding. Cover and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

Bake about 40-45 minutes, until the pudding is golden brown and set.

Remove from oven and let cool until warm, not piping hot.

Slice into pieces and serve on separate plates, topped with toffeed almond slices, scoops of vanilla ice cream, and drizzles of sweetened condensed milk.

Extra bread pudding can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. To reheat, bake in a 150C oven just until warmed through. Serve immediately.

-Adapted from Paul Palomino, Palomino's


Makes 10 servings

For the pudding:

4 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise

1/2 cup brandy

1/4 cup rum

10 small, day-old dinner rolls, chilled

3 day-old croissants, chilled

2 day-old cheese Danishes, chilled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For the brandy sauce and garnish:

2 cups heavy cream for the sauce, plus more to whip as garnish

2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons brandy, or more, to taste

Special equipment needed:

Candy thermometer

5 (7x13cm) mini loaf pans

The bread pudding: In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar. Set aside. Attach a candy thermometer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place heavy cream and vanilla bean into the saucepan, and simmer over low heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 180C, but be sure the temperature does not rise higher. Remove from heat.

Remove vanilla bean, then very slowly pour the hot cream into the egg-yolk mixture while whisking vigorously with a wire whisk. (Be sure not to scramble the eggs.)

Whisk in brandy and rum. Set the custard aside.

Cut cold dinner rolls, croissants and cheese Danishes into 5cm cubes. Place half the dinner-roll pieces into a large bowl, then top with half the croissants. Then add half the Danish pieces. Repeat layers until the bread is all used up.

Pour the custard over the bread. Using a large spatula, very gently fold the bread into the custard, just until it absorbs the liquid. (Do not overmix. The bread pieces should remain chunky, not mushy.)

Cover the bowl, and chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. (You also can let it sit overnight.)

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease the mini loaf pans with softened butter, then divide the bread-pudding mixture among them. Bake until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and keep warm in loaf pans until ready to serve.

The sauce: Place the cream and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally until liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Take the saucepan off the heat, and add brandy to taste. Set aside. Whip enough heavy cream to garnish the puddings. Set aside.

To serve, pour a few spoonfuls of brandy sauce on 5 dessert plates.

Flip the mini loaf pans upside down over a cutting board. Tap the bottoms of the pans until the bread puddings pop out. Place each bread pudding, crispy-side up, on a sauced plate.

Finish with a dollop of whipped cream, and serve immediately. (One loaf yields two servings.)

-Vatche Moukhtarian, Cracked Pepper Bistro


Makes 8 servings

For the pan:

Baking paper, plus butter for coating

For the brioche:

2 loaves brioche or a dense, white bread (preferably day-old)

6 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups sugar

5 cups of half milk and half cream

1/2 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso, cooled to room temperature

1/2 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts (see directions below)

340 grams top-quality, chopped bittersweet chocolate

1 cup heavy cream

Cut a round of banking paper by tracing the bottom of a 25cm cake pan. Butter the bottom of the pan, and fit the baking paper into it. Set aside.

Cut the brioche into slices 6mm thick. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks. Add sugar and half and half. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add coffee or espresso. Set aside.

Toast hazelnuts in the oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and transfer nuts to a clean dish towel. Roll the nuts on the dish towel, vigorously working them back and forth until skin is removed. Coarsely chop the nuts. Set aside.

Chop chocolate.

To assemble, place slices of bread in the bottom of the prepared pan, slightly overlapping each piece. Cover the bottom of the pan with the bread slices. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate and hazelnuts over the top. Repeat with another layer of bread.

Place the 25cm pan into a larger pan (to catch any overflow). Carefully pour the half-and-half mixture over the bread pudding. It will take some time to absorb. Take about 3-4 heavy dinner plates, and place them on top of the bread pudding. They will weigh down the pudding and help the bread absorb the half-and-half mixture. Leave the plates on for 1 hour, then remove them.

At this point, you can cook the pudding immediately, or cover the raw pudding and store it overnight, in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 180C. Remove the cake pan from the larger pan. Place the cake pan into the oven, and bake 1 hour.

To serve, heat heavy cream and pour a few spoonfuls over each piece of warm bread pudding.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat individual portions at 180C for 20 minutes.

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