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 that is our life.

But 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 beautiful 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” advice 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 one is in a state of debilitating disappointment and seemingly unending heartache, it does not provide the intended hope.

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!”

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 too 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 away 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 soak in. Sometimes I give it a shot of alcohol for good measure. It’s nothing but a giant mess.

I walk away. Let it sit for a while. Make it take a little heat. And it comes out golden. A perfect desert from seemingly nothing but a mess. Enjoy.

Cherry Vanilla Bread Pudding

Cherry Vanilla Bread Pudding
  • 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
  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.

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