We can think of a million different reasons to make bread pudding. Got some old bread that’s about to go stale? Make bread pudding. Craving an indulgent breakfast? You’ve got to make some bread pudding. Want a cozy dessert that tastes like a warm hug? You guessed it – you need bread pudding. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Unlike some sweet treats and baked goods that require tons of precise measuring or even – gasp – weighing of ingredients, you can make bread pudding with whatever you have on hand. If you’re not sure where to begin, Martha Stewart’s no-recipe bread pudding is the perfect place to start.
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The first thing you’ll need is bread. Stewart made her most recent cozy bread pudding with one loaf of brioche and one loaf of Japanese milk bread, but you can really be flexible here. My mom used to make bread pudding using toasted white sliced sandwich bread and even that comes out delicious. If your bread isn’t stale or dry, the toasting helps it soak up all of the custard you’ll be mixing it with.
For an added touch of sweetness, you can add some rehydrated dried fruit to the mix. Plain old raisins do the trick well enough, but Stewart also adds dried apricots and dried peaches to hers. She rehydrates them by soaking them in cognac and lemon juice, but you can use pretty much any brown liquor (bourbon, brandy, etc.) or even black tea instead.
Stewart adds grated orange and lemon zest to her bread pudding which adds a fresh, fragrant note, but if you don’t have any, you can leave it out.
The custard is a mixture of heavy cream, milk, and eggs. Stewart was making two pans of bread pudding and used 14 eggs and one cup of sugar total, but if you’re making one pan just use seven eggs and a half cup of sugar. The custard mix should have enough milk and cream to saturate the bread without making it soggy, and enough eggs to make the liquid thick and viscous.
Next up, layer your ingredients (including the custard) in a buttered ceramic baking dish. Stewart adds sliced apple wedges to her bread pudding. You could do the same, or use pears, or add blueberries, or even opt for slices of baked butternut squash or pumpkin. Stewart doesn’t add spice to her pudding, but we think cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom all work well.
Last but not least, bake your pudding. Stewart dusts hers with sanding sugar then bakes for an hour and fifteen minutes at 350 degrees, covering the dish for the first hour so the bread doesn’t burn.
You can make infinite variations of Stewart’s no-recipe bread pudding, catering to your own tastes and using the ingredients you most often have on hand. It’s the ideal recipe to make when you’re craving something sweet and cozy, with a cup of hot coffee in the morning or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream at night.
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