Challah and Pear Bread Pudding
I love bread pudding. Chad loves bread pudding. Bread pudding is delicious and an excellent way to use up bread that’s too stale even for french toast. And you can’t have french toast for dessert. But I had always thought you had to put it in a water bath to bake it, and I’m lazy, so that was always way too much effort. And then I ran across an old school recipe in an old Betty Crocker cookbook. And guess what? No water bath!
I was so onto this recipe, especially since at the time I had some not-so-great Icelandic brown bread I had baked the day before to use up, plus some leftover French bread. Well, alas the recipe called for 6 cups of cubed white bread (who measures? who cubes?) and did not say which size baking dish to use. So I used all my bread. And there was totally not enough liquid to soak it all in. So I added another egg and more milk and stuck it in the oven. Checked on it later – still to dry, so I dumped the whole thing back into the bowl and added more heavy cream mixed with brown sugar to soak it up.
Eventually it turned out pretty good (still a little dry). I’ve tried it several times since then and have finally figured out a decent recipe that uses a whole loaf of bread. Don’t you dare use pre-sliced, shelf-stable, store-bought bread for this. Especially not sliced white bread (unless it comes from the grocery store bakery and doesn’t have the consistency of Wonder Bread).
Autumn is hitting me hard these days and there is just something so deliciously warm (and autumnal) about bread pudding, especially when served with a little sweetened cream, whipped cream, or plain milk. You can eat it cold, but I love it hot. A warm caramel or nutmeg sauce would not be remiss here either if you really want to jazz it up as a dessert.
You know what the best part is about this dessert? The pears. They add a melting sweetness to the bread pudding that apples just can’t seem to replicate. You could leave out the pears, but if you do not substitute another kind of fruit, up the sugar to a full cup.
I made this bread pudding once when day-old challah was on sale at my local grocery store. The recipe calls for a whole loaf, but you could easily cut the recipe in half. I also make it in a slightly odd-shaped pan – an 8×11″ glass baking dish, which fits the bread pudding perfectly and makes nice tall squares. You could easily bake this in a 9×13″ pan, the bread pudding will just not be as tall.
Challah and Pear Bread Pudding
1 loaf day old challah or other hearty bread
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup (a.k.a. 1/2 a stick, a.k.a 4 tablespoons) butter
3 large or extra large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 red pears, chopped, skin-on
1/2 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat milk and butter over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Whisk together eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a very large bowl. Tear bread into bite-sized chunks. When butter is melted, add milk mix to egg mix and stir to combine. Add break chunks, pears, and raisins and stir/fold until the bread is soaked through and the fruit evenly distributed. Pour mixture into a glass 9×13″ pan (an 8 1/2×11″ pan actually fits this recipe just perfectly) and bake uncovered 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean.