Warning! The following entry has a gluten and dairy-full recipe. There is a GF and DF version at the bottom.
My friends Jake and Joy got married a few weeks back and asked me to make the desserts for the party. The groom is gluten free so I knew the cake would be too and I knew it would come from Flavor Flours (I made a four-layer chocolate cake with milk chocolate and whipped cream frosting, but that’s a story for another day). The desserts for the masses, though, that took some thinking. Jake and Joy wanted to be surprised so I perused my cookbooks and bounced ideas off of friends.
And then it hit me. Back when ATE Cafe existed in Austin, my sister used to make a bread pudding usually with their leftover chocolate croissants. After Joy tasted it years ago, I recall conversations like, “Oh you’re going to the cafe, maybe I can get some bread pudding”, “I think I need your sister to cater so I can get some of that bread pudding” and so on. Of course this is what I would make for Joy’s party! I called my sister and asked for the recipe.
I had never made bread pudding so I was FULL of questions (hence the very detailed instructions below). My sister texted me her custard recipe and slowly but surely answered all of my questions as they came up: Do I need to let it sit? Can I freeze it? Do I toast the bread? And so much more. I experimented with a batch a month in advance, froze it, and brought it to gluten-eating friends’ brunch to taste. Because I couldn’t try it, I brought along a list of questions for them to answer so I could adjust as needed for the occasion.
When it was time to actually make the real version, I had a hive breakout and stayed in isolation for days. Instead of making the pudding ahead of time (half the reason I chose bread pudding!), I was stuck at home starting to panic. Finally, Sunday night I covered myself up and prayed I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew at the grocery store. I piled my cart full of bread and cream (the two ingredients I would NEVER touch) and stumbled into line. And then I felt some customer get way too close to me. It was Joy. So much for a surprise! I mumbled something about making food for work and she sort of bought it. For a while.
I made two full-sized restaurant pans of bread pudding, one with chocolate and one without. In the middle of the week I freaked out that that wouldn’t be enough for 100 people so I made a gluten free version too. Breakfast leftovers were really tasty. The following recipes have minimal ingredients, can be made ahead, and are very forgiving- perfect for baking for the masses!
2 loaves bread*
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups whipping cream
1 cup dark chocolate chips, optional
To prepare the bread, remove the bottom crust only (a very thin slice will do) and throw away. Cut or tear the bread into non-uniform bite-sized chunks. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
Combine all other ingredients (except chocolate) in a separate bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour 3/4 of the liquid over the bread and mix with your hands, massaging the liquid into the bread for a minute or two. Place mixture into a 9×12 baking dish and then pour the remaining 1/4 of liquid over the top. It will be mounded in the dish and most of the liquid will be absorbed.
If using the chocolate, melt in a small saucepan, stirring constantly. Instead of pouring all of the pudding in the baking dish, pour half in, drizzle the chocolate over the top, and then pour the remaining bread pudding on top of the chocolate (if you put the chocolate on last, it will likely burn while baking).
From here I covered it in plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer until I was ready to bake it off. You can freeze unbaked for up to three weeks.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 and place uncovered frozen bread pudding directly in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, cover with foil and bake for another 18-22 minutes. The pudding should be hot all the way through and some of the top pieces will be crisp and browned. Baking time will vary depending on how large the loaves of bread are. Using a skewer, take a small piece from the center to ensure doneness.
If you are not freezing it, place directly in the oven at 350 and bake for 20-25 minutes then cover and bake for another 15 minutes.
*Choose a French or Italian rustic white bread loaf. I chose La Brea Organic French Loaf. You want to find a bread that is firm, unflavored, and not too crusty. The bread does not need to be stale. Use the day you buy it or within five days.
adapted from Emeril Lagasse
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3-4 Tablespoons whiskey
1 Tablespoon butter
In a small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and salt. Stir over low-medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk 2 Tablespoons whiskey with the cornstarch, breaking up any lumps. Add the whiskey mixture into the saucepan. Bring mixture to a low boil and reduce the heat to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and an additional tablespoon of whiskey. If you like your whiskey a little stronger, add another tablespoon.
Serve right away or let cool, cover, and chill for up to 3 days. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Gluten Free and Dairy Free Bread Pudding
Follow all instructions for bread pudding above, except replace heavy cream with half coconut milk and half coconut cream. Use a crusty white bread like Udi’s.
If using Udi’s, lightly toast all slices of bread in the oven (both sides) to dry it out. Be sure to massage the liquid into the bread pieces.
Because I couldn’t eat the sauce, I also made one version where I poured 2 Tablespoons of whiskey directly on top before baking. That was delicious too.