Archive for November, 2008

Bread Pudding

I have several main dish recipes to write about, but my boyfriend is in town and tonight I had some friends over to meet him and I made bread pudding by myself for the first time, and it actually went sort of perfectly.

So here I was, trying to decide what to make for this little party thing, and also my roommate wanted to know what I was going to do with the bagels I’d left sitting on the counter for two days, and so I thought, “can I make bread pudding with bagels?”

The answer, it turns out, is yes. First I googled “bagel bread pudding” to see if other people had tried it and liked it, and they had, so then I compared the bagel recipes to the normal recipes to see if you had to do something special to make it work, and it looked like you could just use the bagels like normal bread.

So, finally, I pulled out the trusty Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook for a good basic recipe, and modified it to suit my ingredients and taste. I stuck it in the oven about half an hour before I’d asked people to show up, and voila, awesome bread pudding.

Ingredients

2 stale bagels, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup raisins
1 large apple
5 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp allspice or nutmeg

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325° F. Arrange bagel pieces in a single layer in shallow baking dish. Core apple and cut into thin slices, halved lengthwise. Combine apple slices and raisins with bagel cubes. Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour over fruit and bagels. Sprinkle allspice over the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Notes

The apple I added basically because it had been sitting in our fridge for three weeks and hey, fruit is good in bread pudding. I also ended up using about 1 1/2 cups milk and 1 cup half and half. Again, partly because it was in my fridge needing to be used up.

After so many misadventures, I was paranoid about baking time. I set my timer for half an hour and checked every five minutes until it was done, which ended up being about 45 minutes in my oven. When in doubt with custards, keep the temperature on the low side and let it cook longer. For the truly worried you can put the baking dish into a water bath (I didn’t have a dish larger than the one I was using), which lets you turn up the heat a bit.

At any rate, the pudding was delicious and a big hit with my guests. In terms of fruit and flavoring, bread pudding is flexible. I particularly enjoy it with berries when they’re in season. You can basically add whatever is around and tasty, as long as you have enough egg and milk mixture to soak into the bread.

I’ve seen variations on the bread-to-egg ratio, I like mine pretty bready. The texture of plain custard weirds me out a little, and since my mother used to make custard for me when I was sick, it reminds me of being ill. I also fear that the more purely custard-like, the more likely the baking is to go wrong. I have no idea if this is a valid fear or not, but these proportions worked out great, so I don’t intend to experiment soon.

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What I’m Eating: Winter Frittata

This frittata was an experiment; I’d never made one before. I’d never even used a broiler before. And so of course I managed to screw it up: I didn’t cook it on the stove top long enough before I moved it to the oven, and then I forgot to move the oven rack to the top position. Which meant that the edges of my frittata were fully cooked, but the middle was still runny. After a few minutes of panic because I was out of eggs and had no other food planned, my roommate and I cut off the cooked edges and I redid the whole thing according to directions. Much to my surprise, it worked beautifully. I had been afraid that the top would get rubbery, but it ended up rather appealingly brown and crispy instead.

The frittata itself is full of protein and vegetables, making it a great one dish meal to take with me during the day. My only disappointment was that it wasn’t really big enough for a whole week. Maybe next time I will make a frittata and another main dish, and alternate. And of course I skipped the “fat-saving” details of the original recipe. I need the energy!

Ingredients

5 slices bacon
2 cups thinly sliced red potato
2 cups sliced red onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped spinach
2 tsp minced garlic
10 eggs
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Preparation

Cook bacon until crisp. Let cool. Chop and set aside. In a 10-inch skillet, sauté potato, onion, bell pepper, rosemary, and 1/2 tsp salt in 1 tbsp oil 5 minutes over medium heat. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and garlic and sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat. Beat eggs and remaining salt in a large bowl. Add vegetables, bacon, black pepper, and feta. Preheat broiler. Place cleaned 10″ skillet on a burner over medium heat and add remaining oil. Pour in egg mixture and cook 4 minutes. Move skillet to broiler and broil, uncovered, 3 minutes. Slide onto plate. Cut into 6 wedges and serve hot or cool.

Notes

Leave out the bacon and this would be a great ovo-lacto vegetarian main dish. Next time I make it I might try to find a larger container of feta. The cheese was not especially noticeable, and I love feta.

You can cook the bacon in the oven, which will leave you and the skillet free to start sauteing vegetables.

I think I’ll be making this recipe again soon. Just writing about it is making my mouth water!

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Long time no food!

Yes, it’s been ages since I posted. Sorry for the long silence. There’s this thing where grad school is a lot of work! I was hoping to make a habit of posting soon after I cook, but I keep cooking on Sunday nights, and then when I’m done I just want to sleep, and then suddenly another week has gone by…

Ahem. I have indeed been continuing to cook, and I will do my best to write some recipe posts this weekend. For now, I will share some links. For example, my adventures in unfamiliar culinary territory have tended to go something like this. Bitten, by the way, is an excellent food blog by the author of How to Cook Everything, which will probably be the next cookbook I buy, to join Better Homes and Gardens (I have the 10th edition) and Vegetarian Planet, a much-appreciated graduation gift.

For the most part though, when I am trying to find meal ideas I go first to Tastebook, which is a great resource for finding and organizing recipes. You could also probably help them stay in business by ordering one of their beautiful custom cookbooks, if keeping a stack of recipe printouts on top of the microwave isn’t your style.

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