I haven't forgotten my baking challenge; I've just been getting distracted by all the recipes I've been pinning from other blogs :). But I'm close to being done and I'm looking forward to wrapping it up. This is one of the last books I need to bake from and since I was disappointed by how my last bread pudding experiment turned out, I tried this one as it seemed like what I was getting at with my snickerdoodle bread pudding attempt. This one had you cutting the bread into cubes (challah works best, I like the one from Trader Joe's), drizzling with melted butter, tossing with cinnamon sugar and baking in the oven for a few minutes to "stale" or crisp the bread. Then you soak it in the custard mixture and bake. This turned out really well. The top gets crisp (don't overbake) for a nice texture contrast and inside is the perfect bread pudding/custard combination.
Funny thing about bread pudding is it looks unremarkable in appearance. But, taste-wise, it's one of my favorite desserts. Probably because bread is my kryptonite more than sugar is and bread pudding incorporates one of my favorite breads: challah. The nice thing about it is I can make it in small portions and enjoy it in moderation.
I changed the recipe directions slightly based on my past experiments with bread pudding and what I think would work better. The key is giving the bread enough time to soak in the custard. Otherwise the bread pudding can come out too dry. It's also better to err on the side of having less bread than too much or there won't be enough custard to soak in and again the bread pudding will be dry. Lastly, of course, don't overbake.
For the Bread
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups stale soft-crusted French bread or challah
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Pudding
1 large egg
Yolk of 1 large egg
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 2-3 ramekins lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.
2. Prepare the bread: mix together sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spread out the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the melted butter over them; toss to coat. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar and toss to coat. Bake the bread, stirring the cubes once, until lightly toasted, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
3. Make the pudding: whisk the egg, egg yolk, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat the bread. Press down on the bread lightly with a wooden spoon to submerge it. Let the mixture stand, pressing on the bread occasionally to keep it submerged until the bread is saturated, about 15-20 minutes.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins, dividing it evenly between them. Bake until the puddings are puffed and set, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let them cool for 10 minutes. Unmold onto serving plates and serve, garnished with confectioners’ sugar and/or maple syrup if desired.