Classic Bread Pudding
I finally saw Julie and Julia over the holiday break. I really enjoyed it, if only for the idea behind it; I thought some of the writing wasn’t all that great. However, I did truly love the scene where she had a heart-wrenching day at work, and she came home and told her husband why she loves to bake: because it’s just truly satisfying – no, comforting - to know that when you put x amount of flour with y amount of butter and sugar, you always get z. Of course, I know I’m not quoting that exactly right, and I'm probably not even getting the scene entirely right, but you get the point. It's all about making sense out of chaos, even if it's in your own kitchen. After a long day at work, where the projects that I work on are not really at all under my control, it's just so lovely to come home and make something that is all my own, where I'm in complete command of the whole shebang.
And you know what else is satisfying? Being able to come across a recipe, saying to yourself, “Ooh, I’d like to make that right now,” and then realizing that you really can make that right now because you just happen to have all of the ingredients on hand. Magic, I tell you!
This bread pudding and me, we were meant to be. I just happened to have some almost-stale baguettes left over from this place, and the angels sang.
from Joy of Cooking
Butter for greasing the baking dish
12 to 16 ounces white bread, stale but not hard, crusts removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup raisins (optional)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole or low-fat milk
Whipped cream, milk, or heavy or light cream
1. Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Spread the bread cubes in the prepared baking dish. If using the raisins, scatter them over the top.
2. Thoroughly whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk in the milk. Pour this mixture over the bread and let stand for 30 minutes, periodically pressing the bread down with a spatula to help it absorb the liquid. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
3. Bake in a water bath for 55-60 minutes, or until puffed and firm in the center. Let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm or cold with the whipped cream, milk, or cream.
4. The pudding can be made several days ahead. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate. To reheat, bake for 15 minutes in a 325°F oven. (a microwave will also do in a pinch, if you just need to heat up a small square for yourself after dinner...like I do (oh, heaven!), since my husband doesn't like bread pudding).