Stale bread is great bread. Think – pudding!

I love baking bread – French sourdoughs, millet, polenta and sunflower, oatmeal with sesame seeds, pumpkin and poppy seed, you name it. I usually make two to four loaves a week, if not more. I know, it’s a bit of an obsession, but I just can’t keep my nose away from the yeasty dough rising on the kitchen counter. And the aroma of hot, crusty loaves will draw my husband from the furthest corner of the garage.
It’s no surprise then, that partial loaves grow a bit stale, even as new loaves bake. What to do?
Well, I try to stay ahead of cycle by gifting fresh loaves to friends. As some loaves begin to dry, I’ll cut thick slices and soak them in a thin mix of eggs, milk and vanilla. Then into a buttered pan they go for French toast. Yum.
And if I find myself with an extra half loaf, well, that’s when I heat up the oven for bread pudding. Here’s how:
Ingredients:
– 3.5 c bread in 3/4″ cubes. Nearly all breads, except for strong rye, will work.
– 3 eggs
– 2 c whole milk
– 2/3 c sugar
– 2 tsp vanilla vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp almond extract
– Some gratings of nutmeg
– 2 T cold unsalted butter, diced
– Optional: 1/4 c raw sunflower seeds, or raw pumpkn seeds, or sliced almonds, or a mixture
– Optional: 1/4 c golden raisins, or dried sour cherries, or snipped dried apricots, or a mix
Prep
– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
– Butter an 8″x8″ glass or nonstick baking pan
– Have medium-sized saucepan at the ready
– If using dried fruit, microwave with 2T brandy or water 15-20 seconds, then cool 15 minutes.
Directions
1. Spread the bread cubes on a cookie sheet and toast until a lightly browned. This will take 10-15 minutes. Check periodically to make sure they’re not burning.
2. Let the cubes cool, then transfer them to a deep mixing bowl.
3. Scald the milk over medium heat and pour over the cubes. Let this sit for 15 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the eggs and sugar until light. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
5. Pour the egg-sugar mixture, the fruit and seeds (if using), into the milk-bread mixture. Stir gently and briefly, then pour into your buttered baking dish. Be sure to scrape all that lovely goodness into the bake.
6. Dot the top with the butter.
7. Butter one side of a sheet of aluminum foil to fit over the baking pan.
8. Bake about 40 minutes. The pudding will look a bit undone. Don’t worry – it’s done.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Top it, if you’d like, with whatever you want: ice cream, half-and-half, yogurt, fresh berries.

PS – You know, it’s funny. It was about two years ago that I began searching for a good bread pudding recipe. I went through all my cookbooks, searched magazines online, and googled for more. Turns out I adapted this recipe from Beth Hensperger’s Bread Machine Cookbook. I highly recommend the book to anyone with a bread machine.

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