Bread Puddings

Cherry Vanilla Bread Pudding

March 2 150 Edited Cherry Vanilla Bread Pudding

Years ago, I was introduced to a metaphor that likened life to cross stitch. All we can see are the messes – the junk on the back piece of the cross stitch with its zigggy-zaggy lines and knots and tangles and loose ends is our life.

But Whomever or Whatever is in charge has the sense to look at the right side of the cross stitch, where it turns out all of that junk has come together as a beautifully crafted work of art.

This is the image I hold on to when things are not going so well. I tell myself that even though things look really messy from where I sit, my god has the perspective to see something perfect coming together.

I connect with this idea so much better than the “everything happens for a reason” that is oftentimes thrown my way when in need of a pick-me-up. I know it is meant with nothing but the best of intentions, but when  in states of debilitating disappointment and seemingly unending heartcahe, it does not provide the intended hope. It does make me want to spout of a reply that is something along the lines of telling my well wishers to go do something not very nice to themselves.

How can anyone possibly say a plane going down or a child being orphaned by war or an incurable illness has any real reason to it? When I hear, “everything happens for a reason” given as an explanation for why a child is killed in a drunk driving accident or why someone walks into a public place with a semi-automatic and opens fire, I want to jump up and down and scream like a maniac, “No it doesn’t! Sometimes things just happen!”

March 2 139 Edited Cherry Vanilla Bread Pudding

Yet at the same time, I understand why we say it. What is the point of suffering if there is no meaning behind that suffering? Experiencing an unthinkable tragedy without any reason behind it is certainly to much for my tender psyche to bear. If something bad happens to someone that means something bad could happen to me and that really scares me so I explain it all a way with a mysterious “reason.” Has anyone ever found the reason at the end of their painbow? (That’s not a typo.)

When I was a little girl and would get sick with a bad cold or the flu, my dad would tell me how that when I felt bad, he felt even worse. As a kid, I didn’t always understand what he meant by that. As an adult, I certainly do.

I go on about my life when people around me get bad news, but I don’t go on about it with the zest that perhaps I should. And when I myself am on the receiving end of a fantastic load of crap, I do what any reasonable person would do. I break things and tear stuff apart.

Fortunately, those things I break and tear are eggs and bread. I bash some eggs and whisk them into milky, creamy, sugary oblivion. I pour it all over a destroyed loaf of bread and let it get soggy. (Soggy bread? Gross). I give a shot of alcohol for good measure. It’s nothing but a giant mess.

I walk away. Let it sit for a while. It soaks it all in. Then it takes a little heat. And comes out golden. A perfect desert from seemingly nothing but a mess. Enjoy.

March 2 162 Edited Cherry Vanilla Bread Pudding

Cherry Vanilla Bread Pudding
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • ⅓ cup brandy
  • 1 loaf (1 pound) bread such as challah, brioche, French, or Italian
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Optional: whipped cream or ice cream for serving
Instructions
  1. Place the cherries and brandy in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Cut the bread into bite-size cubes and place them in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
  4. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat lightly. Add the ¾ cup of sugar and the (warm but not hot) melted butter to the eggs and whisk well to combine.
  5. Next whisk in the milk, cream, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon.
  6. Finally, add the cherries and brandy to the mixing bowl, continuing to whisk until fully incorporated.
  7. Pour this liquid mixture over the bread cubes in the baking dish, pressing down with a spatula to get as much liquid as possible to soak into the bread.
  8. Allow the bread to soak for 15 to 20 minutes (stale bread will benefit from additional time to soak).
  9. After 15 to 20 minutes, use the spatula to flip the bread over as best as you can so the drier cubes on top get a chance to soak up some of the liquid too. Allow the bread to soak for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
  10. Before placing the mixture in the oven, sprinkle the top with one tablespoon of sugar.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes until puffed and set. If needed, broil for an additional two to four minutes to lightly brown the top.
  12. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so before serving warm.
  13. If desired, serve topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

 

Coconut Grapefruit Brunch Bread

Grapefruit Coconut Bread Pudding 004 Edited Coconut Grapefruit Brunch Bread

Baked grapefruit? I was skeptical, yet I did not let that stop me. And I am quite pleased to report I loved this breakfast. Or desert. Which I ate for breakfast.

While most of the blogs I enjoy reading have switched to a theme of vegetable recipes to cure their readers’ holiday hangovers and assumed weight gain, I continue to eat dessert for breakfast three days in to January. Despite my still-tight pants, it is wonderful. I am calling this my acceptance (as opposed to desiring change) phase.

In addition to baking citrus, grapefruit and coconut did not strike me as all that stellar of a pair. According to The Flavor Bible, which I now own (whoop whoop!), the two can go together, but it is a third-tier pairing at best. This is opposed to sugar which is the most acceptable complement to grapefruit. (Really authors, sugar is the only top flavor pairing you could come up with for grapefruit?) Fortunately for me, who could happily eat grapefruit every day, other desirable flavors like ginger and Champagne also go very well with the fruit.

The tart grapefruit flavor and sweet coconut complement each other very well in this dish, and the nutmeg adds just enough something to keep it interesting. In case you are wondering, nutmeg doesn’t even make the grapefruit list, but it is listed a third-tier flavor pairing for coconut.

Grapefruit Coconut Bread Pudding 019 Edited Coconut Grapefruit Brunch Bread

All this talk of flavors will likely make my sister groan in despair as she reads this. When I opened the Christmas gift that turned out to be my new book, her comment was something along the lines of “oh great, now we’ll probably be reading about that.” Yes. Yes you will.

For all intents and purposes, this dish is a bread pudding. I simply like the panache the name Brunch Bread lends to the recipe. An egg-soaked bread casserole, loaded with cheese and ham, is well known to me, and this is simply its sweet counterpart loaded with grapefruit and coconut flavor.

Because the bread needs time to soak up the delicious coconut milk, this dish is not something to pull together for a quick brunch. On the other hand, it is easily prepared with dinner the night before and popped into the oven to bake the following morning. While you wait you can sip on another grapefruit brunch winner, the Grapefruit Slush. Enjoy!

Grapefruit Coconut Bread Pudding 018 Edited Coconut Grapefruit Brunch Bread

Coconut Grapefruit Brunch Bread
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the Brunch Bread
  • 3 cups Italian or French bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1½ cups pink grapefruit sections, well-drained
  • 1, 13.5 oz can coconut or light coconut milk
  • ¼ tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • For the Topping
  • 2 tablespoons shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons flour
Instructions
  1. Layer the bread cubes in an 8 x 8 baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Prepare the grapefruit by removing all pith and membranes. Layer the fruit on top of the bread.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, brown sugar, eggs, coconut extract, nutmeg and salt.
  4. Gently pour the mixture over the grapefruit and bread.
  5. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least eight hours.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, covering with foil if the top becomes too brown.
  7. While the brunch bread bakes, prepare the topping by combining the remaining ingredients.
  8. Rub the butter into the topping until it looks like small pebbles.
  9. After the initial 30 minutes of baking, sprinkle the topping over the brunch bread and return to the oven for an additional 20-30 minutes. Again, cover the dish with foil if the top becomes too brown. When done, all liquid will have been absorbed and the bread pudding will appear firm (not jiggly).
  10. Allow the hot dish to sit for 10 minutes before serving warm, or serve at room temperature.
Notes
It is very important to take the time to remove the grapefruit sections from its membranes. This is typically very easy to do and will avoid a tough, chewy bite of fruit. To keep your fingers from going numb when peeling, use a grapefruit at room temperature (as opposed to one sitting in the refrigerator). It is also important to allow the grapefruit to drain before layering it over the bread. I simply set my peeled fruit in a collander for a while, but I see no reason allowing the fruit to sit on a paper towel would not work as well.

 

Savory Saturday: Bread Pudding

IMG 5062 Edited Savory Saturday: Bread Pudding

I do not recall encountering bread pudding prior to making my home in the South. It was not a traditional dessert served at family dinners, nor was it seen all that much in  Ohio or Florida where I lived before. (Notice I do not consider Florida a part of the south. That state has a uniqueness all its own.)

Only once in recent years did bread pudding make its appearance at home. (Notice I still refer to home as the place my mother resides despite living in an area with a different zip code). My grandmother brought a homemade bread pudding to a holiday gathering. I don’t remember much about that dessert except no one really expected a bread pudding to make an appearance. But she made it because that is what sounded good to her. I can appreciate that!

IMG 5065 Edited e1347138445182 Savory Saturday: Bread Pudding

I can also appreciate this savory bread pudding. Up until now, I had only considered the dish as a type of dessert. As it turns out, this was not all that bright on my part since my mom has made what essentially amounts to a savory bread pudding to enjoy on Christmas morning for as long as I can remember. Except we call it a casserole. Ah, semantics.

Her traditional bread pudding, a.k.a. egg  casserole, uses a loaf of white bread and features cheddar and ham. This savory bread pudding uses a baguette and features the flavors of Gruyere and vegetables. I can happily report it is rather delicious. The flavors meld together so nothing is overpowering. What’s more, the dish is filling without feeling too heavy.

IMG 5067 Edited Savory Saturday: Bread Pudding

 

I do not have much experience with bread puddings, but given they do not require a whole lot of technical expertise, and they make use of my favorite food (bread), I anticipate making a few more in the future.

If you are in a sweet mood, click on over for a Tiramisu Bread Pudding or a S’mores Bread Pudding recipe.  If you are in the Charlotte area and want to order a good bread pudding, the best I’ve tasted thus far is over at Fran’s Filling Station. Until the next sweet treat, enjoy a Savory Saturday!

IMG 5069 Edited Savory Saturday: Bread Pudding

Savory Bread Pudding
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1½ teaspoons thyme leaves
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2½ cups milk
  • 2 cups grated cheese (Gruyere preferred)
  • 1 stale baguette
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ large red onion
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
Instructions
  1. Cut a stale baguette into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 8 cups of cubed bread. If the bread is not stale, simply dry it on a sheet pan in the oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the mustard, thyme leaves, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
  3. Whisk in the milk and the cheese.
  4. Placed the bread cubes in a large bowl, then pour the liquid mixture over the bread. Stir to coat, and allow the mixture to soak into the bread for 15-30 minutes. You may need to stir the bread a few times as it soaks.
  5. While the bread soaks, prepare the vegetables.
  6. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  7. Saute the chopped onion and mushrooms until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one more minute.
  8. Stir the cooked onion and mushroom mixture and the thawed spinach into the soaked bread. Be sure to squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible before stirring it into the bread.
  9. Use the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to grease a 9 x 13 dish. Pour the bread and vegetable mixture into the prepared dish.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes. The bread will be browned and the mixture bubbling when it comes out of the oven.
Notes
This dish can be prepared up to one day in advance. Simply refrigerate the mixture until ready to bake.