Bread Pudding For Jennifer Lewis

My mother didn’t cook. The only thing I ever saw her make was this bread pudding. This is how she did it. She took her casserole dish and buttered it so the pudding wouldn’t stick. Then she toasted bread, buttered it, and tore it into bite-sized pieces. She did that until the dish was full. She added whole milk just until all of the bread was covered. She beat an egg or two in a small bowl and stirred it into the milk-bread mixture. She added sugar, about 1 cup for a 2-quart dish. She added a (very) healthy splash of vanilla. Then she cut up a few pats of butter into dice and stirred them in. She also added cinnamon (I add both cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg). She baked it at 350F until it had risen and was done, somewhere between 30-45 minutes. It was delicious.

My version is very similar. I like to use challah bread, but any white bread will do. I like vanilla paste, but any real vanilla extract can work. Don’t use imitation vanilla. Sometimes I add fruit, like dried blueberries or strawberries, dates or figs, mango or raisins (if I’m making this for others, I don’t care much for raisins) in the winter, or fresh peaches, blackberries, or bananas in the summer. If I’m using dried fruit, I warm the milk and soak the dried fruit for about 15 minutes before adding it to the bread. When I use berries, I add a tiny bit – a pinch – of lemon zest, and I mix all of the wet things (plus the lemon) together before adding them to the bread. I put the butter and spices on top and stir them in just before baking. The pudding puffs up like a souffle, then falls after you take it out of the oven.

Make a vanilla sauce, and blow your diet out of the water….

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