Friday, November 4, 2011

Bread Pudding..... Do you know how many kinds you can have?

Bread Pudding.... What does it mean to you? Did you know that most cultures on this earth have their own version of this popular comfort food? From Creole to French, Italian to Mexican and Spain, everyone developed a tasty way to deal with left-over hard bread. Bread has always been considered "the staff of life" so cultures of old showed its respect by never throwing out the bread, instead transforming it into everything from salad, like the Italian Panzanella, to soup as is used in Spain with Gazpacho and their version of the pudding called "Migas".... Mexico has the ever popular "Capirotada" which is a traditional dish containing both sweet and savory flavors for the holidays.... in other words, and in all languages, the trick is to conserve, recycle, make do and fix it up but under no circumstances is it a good idea to throw food out.

Bread Pudding, while most people think of it like a dessert, doesn't have to be sweet at all, but since we're starting with the sweet let's talk about it a while. Using a thick egg based custard base, flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice, a lot of times raisins, nuts, fruits and liquors of all types become part of this as well. Ice cream can be seen topping it as well as heavy cream, Pastry Cream, Vanilla Sauce, Bourbon Sauce and on and on and Lemon Curd or Dulce de Leche or Chocolate Croissant with Nuts..... what's your favorite? Do tell.....

While Bread Pudding doesn't have to be sweet, the savory brother of this hearty and flavorful dish can be quite a creation too. How about a Baby Spinach, Cream and Garlic Bread one? or a Spinach - Shitake one? How about Mushroom, Leek and Parmesan Bread Pudding.... or a Artichoke Heart, Asparagus & Mozzarella one? A Spring Onion and Goat Cheese one? Any combination you can come up with will make a great one. The base is very much like the one used for Quiche, except that it fills the spaces in between the bread and jells in the same firm-soft manner, so any accessories that you add to it are enhanced by the amalgamation that happens in the oven. Love that word because it's so perfect for what happens here.

So which kind will you make? Here's some prime examples for you to try......

GOAT CHEESE AND SPRING ONION BREAD PUDDING.- Tangy, lemony and very satisfying. You can make it ahead of time in either a casserole dish or in individual ramekins and have them ready when you are!

1 lb sourdough bread, crust removed, cut into cubes
5 tablespoons butter
3 bunches of green onions, cut into 1/2-inch portions
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1- 10 oz log of goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 400F. Put the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden.

In a large pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the green onions and garlic and cook, keep stirring until the scallions are beginning to get tender, 2- 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the heavy cream and sour cream. Gently fold in the bread cubes, green onions, basil and half the goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Let rest until the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Pour the bread pudding into a baking dish and sprinkle the rest of the goat cheese on top. Put the baking dish inside a roasting or larger pan and add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the side of the baking dish. (like when making custard, in a bain marie).

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the pudding is set and the top is golden brown. Serve hot or warm.

NOTE: The unbaked bread pudding can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking. Take into consideration the size of the vessel you're using, it can either add to the baking time or reduce it substantially.....

LEMON CURD BREAD PUDDING.- Oh so lemony and fresh, you must try this one!

1 loaf of brioche, about 1.4 lbs, crusts removed, bread sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 quart whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Lemon Curd
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottom and sides of a 12-by-16-inch jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Arrange the brioche slices in the prepared pan, fitting them in a snug single layer, insuring a good fit.

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the milk with 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar and bring to a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk 1 cup of the hot milk into the eggs, then whisk in the remaining hot milk until thoroughly blended, tempering the mix. Add the lemon zest and slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Pour the custard mixture evenly over the brioche and soak for 10 minutes.

Bake the brioche on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes, turning the pan after 15 minutes. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the bread pudding cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Refrigerate until chilled, 1 hour.

Line a 10-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing 3 inches of plastic to hang over the edge. Lightly coat the inside of the plastic wrap with cooking spray. Trim 1/2 inch off the edges of the bread pudding. Cut the bread pudding into three 5-by-11-inch strips. Gently press 1 strip of the bread pudding into the loaf pan, on the bottom. Spread 3/4 cup of the Lemon Curd evenly over the bread pudding. Repeat to form a second layer of pudding and top with more curd, making a second layer. Press the last piece of bread pudding on top, sealing the whole thing. Cover with the overhanging plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

In a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream until stiff. Fold in the remaining 1/2 cup of Lemon Curd. Uncover the bread pudding and turn it out onto a serving plate; remove the plastic wrap. Using a hot knife, slice the bread pudding 3/4 inch thick, top with a dollop of the lemon whipped cream and serve.
NOTE: You can fold the whipped cream with other flavors that complement the Lemon Curd as well, I like blueberry compote but I've also used Apple and Pear Compotes too which work beautifully. You could also leave a plain whipped cream or add some sugar to it, you could also add some Vanilla Sugar or Cinnamon as well.

So next time you're wondering what to do with that loaf of bread that's too hard to use.... and you're about to toss it out, remember this post and look in your fridge or pantry.... you could have your own little masterpiece right before your very eyes. It's very satisfying to come up with an amazing dish made from scraps or leftovers you thought was done..... go ahead and enjoy it.

Whether it's a Bread Pudding, Quiche, Pizza, Casserole, Pie, Calzone, Pasta or Rice Dish that will integrate those "odds and ends" is up to you, but there are so many creative and wonderful ways to make use of it all, you'll need a long time before running out of ideas..... go ahead and give it a try, you'll be glad you did!

Wouldn't some of these make excellent additions to your Holiday Table?  MMmmmm.......

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