Not everyone is a fan of bread pudding. I’m not sure why. Until last weekend, bread pudding was a treat for me to enjoy whenever I found it on a dessert menu. But I had heard it was relatively easy to make, and after looking at recipes from The Joy of Cooking, Martha Stewart and America’s Test Kitchen for inspiration, I decided to give it a try.
There is something so simple yet wonderful about the quiet comfort of a delicious bread pudding. It doesn’t take expensive ingredients to make a standout pudding although you can certainly use challah, brioche, baguettes or any artisan bread. However, a few slices of day-old white sandwich bread will do just fine. In my first attempt, I used 6 slices of stale sandwich bread (including the often overlooked end slices) and 1 sesame seed bagel that had seen better days, cut or torn into 1-inch chunks. I added a few other ingredients, gave everything a good stir, and poured the batter into a baking pan. Don’t forget a good dose of whiskey. To plump up the raisins. To stir into the bread pudding before it bakes. To whisk into the aptly named whiskey sauce. So easy. So boozy. So delicious.
But let’s break this down, step-by-step…
- ¼ cup whiskey
- ½ cup raisins
- 4 cups day-old bread, cubed
- 1½ cups milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the whiskey sauce:
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1½ teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup whiskey
- Place the raisins in a small bowl. Heat ¼ cup of whiskey in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until warm, and pour it over the raisins. Let stand for at least an hour to plump the raisins and infuse them with whiskey.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the middle of the oven.
- Put the butter in an 8-inch baking pan and place in the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the butter.
- Stir together the bread, milk and cream in a large bowl. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the mixture.
- Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and allspice in a medium bowl. Add this to the bread mixture.
- Stir in plumped raisins and whiskey.
- Remove the baking pan from the oven and carefully swirl the melted butter to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Pour the bread mixture into the baking pan, taking care to distribute the raisins and whiskey evenly.
- Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the bread pudding is browned and slightly crisp around the edges and the custard is cooked through. A cake tester (or toothpick) should come out clean. Let it cool completely on a wire rack before serving with whiskey sauce.
- While the bread pudding is baking in the oven, get started on the whiskey sauce. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat in a small saucepan. Whisk together the cornstarch and water, and slowly whisk it into the cream. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking constantly for approximately 1 minute. Remove from heat, and stir in the sugar and whiskey until fully dissolved. Set the sauce aside for at least 10 minutes for flavours to meld before using.
The whiskey sauce was better the next day so if you can, make the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it overnight. You can gently reheat the sauce and drizzle it over the bread pudding just before serving.
This recipe could also be made with bourbon, rum, or brandy. I’m going to try the recipe with each of those. Purely for experimental reasons, of course.