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Classic Cookbooks: Bread Pudding

For me, one of the pleasures of being a young adult was discovering that many of the foods I had rejected as a child were actually edible and, in fact, rather tasty. My mother says I wasn’t a picky eater, but there were certain textures and flavors that did not work for me—mushrooms, fish, olives, guacamole (!), cherries, and, perhaps most deeply, bread pudding.

My grandfather took me to a buffet dinner when I was very small, younger than six, and after surveying my dizzying options I chose bread pudding for dessert because it had such a lovely cinnamon aroma. When the first bite landed on my tongue, I crumpled—mushy bread was not on my list of acceptable textures. The disconnect between inviting smell and (to me) repulsive mouthfeel was so jarring that I did not eat bread pudding again until I was 28, hungry for dessert on a whim, and in possession of a stale loaf of bread.

Now I have more than once bought bread specifically for bread pudding, though it’s obviously much more of a thrifty thrill to make it from a neglected half-loaf that’s already lurking in the kitchen. This week I tried the Joy of Cooking’s basic recipe, and it was so good—especially with whipped cream on top, which I tried at the book's wise suggestion. There are variations with chocolate and bourbon and brioche and whatnot, but the plain old white sandwich bread version tasted mighty fine to me, bringing my happy month with Joy of Cooking to a sweet conclusion.

(My only complaint is related to my own technique, I think. I ended up with a fair but not ruinous amount of not-so-appetizing clear liquid underneath the bread pudding. I assume the eggs released it because the custard wasn’t setting altogether properly, but does anyone know for sure? I once made Suzanne Goin’s bread pudding and produced an even greater amount of liquid, plus a scrambled eggy taste. Since it’s the only recipe in Sunday Suppers at Lucques that has not worked brilliantly for me, I must assume that I am somewhat bread-pudding-challenged. I did use a bain-marie, so I’m not sure how else I could coddle the custard.)

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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