[Photograph: Gentl & Hyers]

David Tanis loves good bread. In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to it in his new cookbook, One Good Dish. And while there are a few recipes calling for a fresh loaf, he finds most of his creativity in using older, staler loaves. This fact may sound strange, but I find it incredibly useful. I often have an "aged" end or two of bread that I bought with the good intentions of demolishing every slice in a single day, but eventually succumbed to the reality of an unpredictable diet. Take this ham and Gruyère bread pudding. It's a quick, easy recipe that makes use of some of the most easily staled bread (a baguette), transforming it from a doorstop to a creamy, rich, custardy meal. Cubes of smoked ham and two layers of melty Gruyère don't hurt either.

Why I picked this recipe: I often have stale bread around the house; why not turn it into a casserole of comfort?

What worked: Tanis's the ham, cheese, and butter bread pudding is like the demure French ham sandwich's loud, boisterous cousin—in a good way.

What didn't: I would have actually preferred a little less cheese (more like 4 ounces). I thought its presence slightly overwhelmed the rest of the dish.

Suggested tweaks: Tanis suggests adding a handful of steamed spinach or chard to the custard mix and/or sprinkling on a few different minced herbs with the scallions.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of One Good Dish to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.


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