New Orleans Bread Pudding-One of the Best Desserts You’ll Ever Eat!

Bread pudding is and always has been one of my favourite desserts. If you’ve never had it, imagine a cake or casserole of baked french toast doused in luscious English cream.

I just returned from a short trip to New Orleans so I thought it only fitting to focus my first returning article on one of that rich city’s most famous of desserts.

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Stemming from humble roots tracing back to the 11th century, bread pudding came to be as a way for chefs to use up stale and old bread, and was usually given to the less fortunate of peoples.

Despite its modest beginnings, today bread pudding is regarded as one of the best comfort-food style desserts and adorns the menus of many a trendy restaurant.

Composition-wise, bread is quite simple: stale bread is ripped up, toasted, then soaked in a custard or appareil as it is known in classic culinary terminology.

You can use any type of old rustic bread like baguette or miche campagne, but I prefer to use a richer type loaf such as brioche or challah. The only bread to avoid would be any kind of bagged white or whole wheat Pom-like generic bread; not for snobbish reasons, it simple just will not retain its form in the custard, and nobody wants bread paste pudding do they.

The bread and custard and the bases of any bread pudding recipe from which point they vary with flavour components such as spices, liqueurs, dried fruits or candies. New Orleans bread pudding is classically made with raisins and bourbon (and it’s delicious!).

RECIPE

1 loaf of day old or more Challah

8 eggs

2 cups of 2% milk

2 cups heavy 35% cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed.

1 1/2 cups raisins, any kind.

3/4 cup of good bourbon, like Maker’s Mark or Knob Creek.

1/3 cup cold butter, cubed.

Sugar and cinnamon.

DIRECTIONS

1. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Tear your bread into 1 inch pieces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Toast in the oven until crispy and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat in the oven to 300 degrees.

2. In a small saucepan, combine your raisins and 1/2 cup of the bourbon.

Heat until it boils and simmer for 1 minutes, then strain, reserving the bourbon separately.

3. Make your custard: in a large bowl, combine the eggs, cream, milk, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon and bourbon.

Toss in your bread and turn until all pieces are coated. Allow to soak for 30 minutes, or until all the bread has absorbed the liquid.

*Tip: when you squeeze a piece of bread it should feel spongy, and not hard.

4. Place half your bread into a 9×13 baking dish, buttered or sprayed. Sprinkle half your raisins over, then add the remaining bread and raisins.

Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes.

5. Mix the butter, and about 1 tablespoon of cinnamon sugar. Uncover the pudding and sprinkle the butter over the top.

Bake uncovered for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the custard is just set.

6. Remove from oven, and switch to your broiler. Broil the pudding for 2 minutes to create a golden crust. Keep an eye on it because it browns fast!

Allow to cool for about 20-30 minutes, then serve.

Bread Pudding is a very rustic dish and is warming to the soul, yet it is perfect for all seasons. To make a summery version, you can add berries in place of raisins, and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Anybody can make, and certainly everyone will enjoy it.

If you are not inclined to bake, and want to sample a great restaurant version, I would suggest La Louisiane on Sherbrooke Street. Speaking as someone who has just returned from Nawlins’ (New Orleans), and as a professional pastry chef, I have to say that their bread pudding is the best one I have ever tried, anywhere.

Happy Baking Ya’ll!

 

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