If there’s one quality that is common to our Greatest Generation and the amazing generations that preceded it, that quality would have to be resourcefulness. In their homes, gardens and kitchens, our grandmothers were able to work what was nothing short of miracles, especially during wartime, rationing and depression. Their collective resolve that nothing would go to waste meant that their families were able to survive and thrive when others didn’t fare so well. They side-to-middling-ed their sheets, wallpapered their homes with newspapers and sewed underpants from flour sacks. And in the culinary realm, they used everything, from snout to tail, as they say, in an effort to waste not. Leftover bits of meat were added to limp veggies to create filling soups, stews and casseroles. Leftover potatoes were turned into tatty cakes. Veggie peels, bones and cheese rinds were simmered into luscious broths. Food was a finite resource and as a result, every effort was made to be sure that resource wasn’t wasted. So following in that vein, today is the first in a series I’m calling “Waste Not!”….all about reducing the amount of good food that goes directly into the garbage. Today, let’s talk about bread….and specifically, bread pudding!
A history of bread pudding-
The long and short of it is that bread pudding was created to make use of stale bread. Cooks from numerous cultures throughout history have put together stale bread, eggs, milk and savory or sweet spices to avoid throwing out food (and money!) that they simply could not afford to waste. What we know as bread pudding today is far more elaborate than what our grannies made, using artisan breads, expensive cheeses, nuts or spices, but the concept remains the same: to nourish family with comforting food and avoid waste at every turn. As food waste is still an issue in many homes, recipes like bread pudding are a simple way to use our resources wisely, reduce waste and provide a nutritious dish that will be loved by all. Save those stale rolls and dry bread in a ziplock bag in the freezer and when you’ve amassed enough, bake up a dish of authentic southern bread pudding!
Classic New Orleans Bread Pudding with a Bourbon Sauce:
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup Bourbon
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 8 slices day-old French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
Ingredients for Kentucky Bourbon Sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease a 6-cup (9 1/4 by 5 1/4 by 2 3/4-inch) loaf pan with the butter.
BREAD PUDDING: Whisk the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and bourbon together in a large mixing bowl until very smooth. Add the half-and-half and mix well. Add the bread and let the mixture sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Bake until the pudding is set in the center, about 55 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
KENTUCKY BOURBON SAUCE: Heat the cream, half-and-half, vanilla and sugar in a saucepan over high heat, whisking, for 3 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the bourbon. When bubbles form around the edges of the cream, whisk in the bourbon mixture. As the cream boils up, remove the pot from the heat and continue whisking vigorously until thoroughly blended and slightly thickened. Place over low heat and simmer for 1 minute. (This is not a thick cream sauce; it’s meant to be fairly thin.)
Yield: 2 cups
To serve, cut the pudding into 1-inch thick slices. Lay each slice in the center of a serving plate. Spoon some of the Bourbon Sauce over the pudding and top with whipped cream or ice cream.
(Recipe courtesy of Emeril LaGasse)
Isn’t that simple and delicious!? There is simply nothing as soothing and delicious on a cool fall evening than a big dish of bread pudding….and this recipes allows almost infinite flexibility in terms of adding flavors. As long as the egg-milk-bread ratio stays the same, feel free to add dried fruit, nuts, use artisan breads and favorite liquors, top with stewed fruit. Use what you have on hand to make something your family will enjoy! I hope you try it and I hope you LOVE it! Til next time!