This was my first time making bread pudding and I thought it was delicious. It was very easy to put together, which was very nice. It was rich and creamy, and the caramel sauce was to die for. I totally wanted to drink it.
The less-good (but not bad):
The final bread pudding was really heavy and dense (you can see it in the pictures), not like it looked in the picture in the magazine (more fluffy and defined), or like the bread pudding I love to buy at a local bakery. I may try it again with fewer eggs and less milk (the recipe calls for 6 eggs/more than 4 cups milk) and see if that helps. I also looked at recipes on-line, and many of them say to cook the bread pudding at 325 instead of 350, so that's something to try, too. It may also simply come down to personal preference--some like their bread pudding heavy and some like if fluffy.
My grocery store sells a great bread they call "cottage bread" that they make in the store. It's soft and dense and wonderful, and perfect for bread pudding. I always buy the wheat variety (for eating), so when my teenager saw the white loaf on the counter is was almost as if she couldn't believe her eyes: "Is that white bread?" And when I gave my 8 year-old one of the extra slices she danced around the kitchen. Danced. What is it about kids and white bread?
Make sure the bread you use is dry so it sponges up the custard. You can leave the cubed bread out overnight to dry, or you can do what I did and dry it in the oven. To use the oven, heat it to 275. Spread the cut up bread in a single layer on two baking sheets. Put the baking sheets in the hot oven for 15-20 minutes or until the bread cubes are dry (but not brown).
Note: the sauce recipe called for pecans and coconut, but I left out because I don't like pieces of stuff in my sauce. It also called for spiced rum, and I substituted rum extract.
New Orleans-Style Bread Pudding (from Cuisine at Home, Feb 2011)
for the bread pudding
3 cups whole milk
1 13.5-oz can coconut milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried currants (I didn't use these)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1-lb loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes, staled (I used my store's bread)
2 teaspoons butter (I used non-stick spray)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used 3--I love cinnamon)
for the caramel sauce
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons spice rum (I used 1 teaspoon rum extract)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted (I left this out)
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted (I left this out)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
for the bread pudding
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, coconut milk, sugar, currants, and vanilla. Gently stir in the bread and let it sit at room temperature for 30-35 minutes.
2. Heat your oven to 350 and spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Transfer the bread mixture to the pan.
3. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the bread pudding. Bake it until the center is set, about 1 hour. Let it cool 20-30 minutes before serving.
Makes 12 servings.
for the sauce
1. Melt butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes.
2. Whisk in the cream, rum (if using), cinnamon, and salt. Bring it to a simmer and cook until it's thickened and reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in the pecans, coconut, vanilla, rum extract (if using instead of rum), and lemon juice. Serve sauce warm over bread pudding.