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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