Bread pudding, pan dressing, or overnight French toast — they’re all synonyms for a concoction of bread cubes, eggs, milk or cream, and a blank canvas for your imagination. Go sweet with dried fruits, sugar, and a wickedly buttery sauce. Or go savory with sauteed vegetables, bacon, cheese, and your favorite herbs. If calling a savory version “bread pudding” doesn’t sit well with you, just think of it as stuffing or dressing made in a pan.
Don’t feel restricted to white bread. The marble rye from Bluff City Coffee or the herbed Kalamata olive bread from LadyBugg Bakery will add plenty of taste and texture to a non-sweet bread pudding. Croissants and pound cake can take a sweet bread pudding to a whole other level.
With basic proportions of five cups of bread, five eggs, and two cups of milk or cream, you’ve got the foundation for bread pudding in many ways, shapes, and forms.
OYSTER BREAD PUDDING
Recipe by Kjeld Petersen
- 2–3 strips raw bacon, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium onion, medium dice
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried
- Pinch of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 5 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups shucked oysters, chopped with 1/2 cup liquid reserved
- 5 cups bread cubes, 1 inch, from day-old French or Italian bread olive oil for pan
Grease a 2-quart baking dish with olive oil.
In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove bacon pieces to paper towel–lined plate to drain. Return pan, with bacon grease, to medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent but not browned, stirring constantly. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms have softened and the majority of the liquid is evaporated, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl combine milk, cream, herbs, salt, and pepper. Crack and whisk eggs together separately, then add to the cream mixture, mixing thoroughly to combine. Add mushroom and onion mixture, bacon, oysters, and reserved oyster liquid to cream mixture. Add bread cubes to mixture and gently stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to allow bread to soak up liquid.
Preheat oven to 350° while mixture is refrigerated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Place the baking dish into a large roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with 1 to 2 inches of hot water, so that water partially extends up the sides of the baking dish. Place in oven and bake, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and slightly pulled away from dish, and the pudding is firm. Remove from the water bath and cool on a rack for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.
courtesy of Wine Market, 4734 Spottswood — Sauvignon Blanc, with its racy green aromatics and crisp finish, is the perfect foil for oysters; here are two great examples. Les Chataigniers Sancerre, 2010, $22 Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand, 2011, $22
courtesy of Boscos Brewing Co. Growlers available at 827 S Main St. and 2120 Madison Avenue — The strong salty flavors of shellfish are the perfect accompaniment the roasty flavors found in a black beer such as a stout or porter. Stop by Boscos and pick up a growler of the current black beer on tap. This winter's offerings are Baltic Porter and Export Stout, two full-bodied, richly flavored beers.
MUSHROOM PAN DRESSING
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced, a mixture is best — shiitake, button, oyster, etc.
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
- handful of fresh arugula, chiffonade
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 large eggs
- 2 cups half and half or heavy cream
- dash of Worcestershire sauce
- pinch of dried red chile flakes
- salt and ground pepper
- 4 cups (about 8 slices) thick bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350°.
Butter a 9” x 13” baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Saute onions, stirring frequently, until soft. Add mushrooms and thyme, and continue to cook until mushrooms are soft. Add arugula and garlic and cook until arugula is wilted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs, half and half, Worcestershire, dried chile flakes, salt, and pepper, until smooth. Add cooled mushroom mixture to egg mixture and stir to combine. Add bread cubes and parsley, stir to combine and pour into greased baking dish. Top with parmesan cheese and bake until mixture is set and top is golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve with beef, chicken, pork, or lamb main dishes.
courtesy of Boscos Brewing Co. Growlers available at 827 S Main St. and 2120 Madison Avenue — Impress your friends and family with the skillful pairing of the earthy character of the mushrooms and arugula in this pan dressing with a refreshing bottle of Ghost River Golden. The maltiness of this beer will pair well with the beef, chicken, pork or lamb you serve with the pudding.
courtesy of Wine Market, 4734 Spottswood — Pinot Noir has an affinity for the earthy flavors of mushrooms. Choose a Burgundy from France, as their higher acidity will help offset the richness of the dressing. Faiveley Bourgogne Rouge, 2009, $20 Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune, 2009, $25
SPICED APPLE BREAD PUDDING
I made this for a church dinner, minus the spiced rum, and it turned out to be one of my favorite bread puddings — ever. Upon tasting Pritchard’s spiced rum, which is buttery and has just enough spice to be warm across your tongue, I knew a splash or two would make a great addition to the recipe.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
2 tart apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and diced pinch of ground cinnamon
1/4 cup Pritchard’s Spiced Rum (optional)
6 large eggs
2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup milk
1/2 loaf Texas toast or other thickly sliced bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (9–10 slices)
2 croissants, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2–4 tablespoons Pritchard’s Spiced Rum (optional)
In a large sauté pan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add apples, just a pinch of ground cinnamon, and spiced rum. Cook, stirring frequently, until apples are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and gradually add sugar and salt. Set aside.
In a large pot, over medium heat, warm milk and half and half to a simmer. Add warm milk mixture, a cup at a time, to egg mixture, stirring constantly. Make sure all sugar has dissolved. Strain mixture. Add apples, bread, and croissant cubes. Mix thoroughly and let it rest for 15 minutes or so to soak up liquid.
Lightly butter a 9” x 13” baking dish. Pour bread mixture into pan. Cover tightly with parchment and then foil. Bake at 300° until mixture is set (doesn’t jiggle). Remove parchment and foil and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
To make sauce: In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and rum and cook until sugar has dissolved. Slowly pour in cream. Add a pinch of salt and taste. Don’t skip the salt here. Sweet things require just a touch of salt to balance things out. Serve bread pudding with warmed sauce. Serves 4–12.
courtesy of Wine Market, 4734 Spottswood — A slightly sweet version of Gewurztraminer will echo the flavors of apple and baking spices. Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, 2011, $13 Hook & Ladder Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley, 2010, $16
courtesy of Boscos Brewing Co. Growlers available at 827 S Main St. and 2120 Madison Avenue — The caramel character in a growler of Boscos Midtown Brown Ale is a natural complement to this dish (think about those caramel apples available in the fall). The chocolate character of the slightly roasted malt in this beer will blend ideally with the cinnamon and spiced rum, if you care to add it.
Bread pudding around town...
Ubiquitous in the ’80s and ‘90s, bread pudding is still a popular dessert and savory side dish.
Alchemy — Irish car bomb bread pudding made with Baileys Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey
Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen — Bread pudding on the fall dessert menu made with Gibson’s donuts served with coffee gelato.
Booksellers Bistro — Sweet bread pudding
Café Society — Bread pudding of the day
Ciao Bella — As a special, a recent version was Crown Royal, maple, bacon, pecan, and chocolate bread pudding.
Felicia Suzanne’s — Currently it’s white chocolate and fresh coconut bread pudding with warm Tennessee whiskey sauce and spiced cream.
The Grove Grill — Sweet gingerbread pudding served with eggnog ice cream
Restaurant Iris — Oyster bread pudding as a side dish, and sweet bread pudding topped with candied pecans (no fruit). The recipes are from Kelly’s grandmothers.
Rizzo’s — Bread pudding of the day. They are usually sweet, but sometimes savory. A recent version was butternut squash bread pudding.
South of Beale — Jack ‘n’ Coke — Coca- Cola bread pudding and Jack Daniel’s ice cream. The dish was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
St. Jude Banquet Menus — Classic bread pudding with a praline sauce (made with brioche and golden raisins). A guava-pineapple bread pudding is popular at Christmas.
Sweet Grass / Next Door — Frequent dessert special — all sorts of ways — chocolate chip, banana rum raisin, oatmeal raisin with white chocolate, and Baileys sauce
Trolley Stop Market — Sweet bread pudding, as a special