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Put Old Bread to Good Use

Bread Pudding is Fun and Easy to Make

By Marissa A. Cheng

French House is tired of bread pudding. Since spring break, I’ve made enough chocolate bread pudding to cover the desk you’ve got in your room. That’s a lot of bread pudding.

Bread pudding is what earned me my reputation as the resident baking goddess -- translation: insane baking freak -- at French House last year. The Girls’ Triple used to stay up late doing problem sets. When we had finished, I would celebrate our newfound freedom by baking.

At any rate, the real reason why I was making bread pudding, which doesn’t sound especially appetizing, but is actually quite good, was because my dad loves to go grocery shopping, and would bring me a new loaf of bread every week. Now, I am your typical college student, plus, I’m short, so I don’t eat that much. Even if I tried, I couldn’t eat an entire loaf of bread in a week. Consequently, after the bread had languished in the fridge for two or three weeks, with only a few slices gone, it was time to make bread pudding.

Now, there is actually an infinite number of ways to make bread pudding; it’s one of those recipes that takes flavors well. You can also abuse it any way you want -- get your mind out of the gutter -- and it’s second only to quiche in its lack of dependence on what ingredients you actually have. If you only have a few eggs, you can substitute the liquid content with milk, or if you don’t have much milk, you can substitute more eggs, or some other liquid. If you feel like making a richer pudding, add light cream or heavy cream instead of milk. You can make sweet bread pudding, like the classic “plain” bread pudding, which is flavored with a bit of vanilla and cinnamon, or chocolate bread pudding, which involves adding chocolate to the heated liquid mixture, or add chocolate chips or pieces of fruit. You can also make savory bread pudding with the same bread, but instead add grated cheese to the liquid mixture, or layer the bread with veggies like mushrooms and zucchini, in which case it is called a strata. To make a tomato bread pudding, you would add some sliced tomatoes and tomato juice, plus seasonings. Basically, it all depends on what you have on hand.

The basic bread pudding involves the bread and a liquid mixture that is essentially a custard (or will become one when baked). The bread is torn or cut up into 1-inch pieces, and drizzled with melted butter, then placed into a baking dish. All of the other ingredients -- milk, eggs, sugar, and flavorings -- are then mixed together and poured over the bread. Then you can either bake the pudding right away, or let it sit for up to 2 hours to absorb the custard, which I recommend when you are using French bread.

Does it matter what kind of bread you use? Yes, it does. Don’t use bread that is easily squished, such as Italian bread from the supermarket, or Wonder bread. For bread pudding, it’s best to use a bread that’s moderately soft and not too dense -- if the bread is too dense, the custard won’t adequately soak into the bread. Regular sandwich bread like Arnold Country White is fine, even with the crusts. If the bread has a hard crust, cut it off -- time consuming, but worth it. Lately, for chocolate bread pudding, I’ve been using French bread that’s not too dense and not too hard. Check before you blindly buy some random French bread, since it differs from supermarket to supermarket. You can also use fresh bread or stale bread; it doesn’t make any difference.