Why don’t I make bread pudding more often? The simple answer is that I don’t often have enough bread on hand, but my happiness with this particular recipe may inspire me to keep a loaf or two in the freezer expressly for bread pudding. I will label it “pudding bread” and be ready to bake at a moment’s notice… Studded with apples and heady with cardamom, abundant vanilla and a simple custard make this bread pudding just right; I taste aspects of apple crisp in the crunchy edges and baked apples, elements of Swedish bullar in the cardamom-laced pieces of bread. It is equally good cold or warm from the oven and you could eat a bowl for breakfast without thinking twice– the ingredient list is almost the same as French toast, after all. I used a recipe from The Pioneer Woman to determine the ratio of bread to eggs & milk and then accented the base recipe with my favorite flavors; I like that her recipe uses sourdough bread, which holds up nicely in the custard and gives a pleasant chewiness to the sugar-crisped top and edges. You could substitute almost any bread– French, Italian, cinnamon raisin, even brioche– providing that it is a day or two old. Fresh bread is too soft, doesn’t absorb the egg mixture as well and has a tendency to become soupy.
If apples aren’t on hand, you can certainly leave them out of the bread pudding, but I recommend them for the interesting texture and slight sweetness they bring to the final dish. (Pears would work, flavor-wise, though may not hold their shape the same way.) I used a giant Honeycrisp and didn’t bother to peel it; any apple you would use for pie or crisp would work wonderfully, peeled or not, as you please. Cardamom is one of my very favorite spices to bake with, particularly at this time of year, and I used a lot here on purpose; I enjoy the fragrance almost as much as the flavor and love how it works with vanilla. If you don’t have cardamom to use, I think an equal amount of cinnamon or even nutmeg would be very good with the apples and custard.
As we head into the holiday season, consider this bread pudding as a crowd-pleasing addition to any dessert table. Or, make a batch for yourself– you deserve it! Serve it with ice cream, whipped cream or a drizzle of caramel and try, just try, not to have a second helping.
Bread Pudding with Apples & Cardamom (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
- 4 – 5 c. cubed day-old bread, preferably sourdough
- 1 – 2 apples, cored and cut into 1/2″ cubes (about 1 c.)
- 2 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 1/2 c. whole milk
- 2 T. vanilla
- 1 3/4 c. brown sugar
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or equivalent and add the cubed bread and apples to the pan; toss gently to combine. In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter with cardamom and salt and allow to sit for a few minutes so the cardamom perfumes the butter slightly. When the butter has cooled but is still liquid, whisk in the eggs, milk and vanilla (yes, 2 tablespoons in this recipe). Whisk in the brown sugar until it has dissolved in the egg mixture and then pour the custard over the bread and apples. Use the back of a spoon to gently press on the bread until all pieces have been wet by custard. Before baking, allow the pudding to sit for about 15 mins. at room temperature so the bread soaks up more moisture; you will notice the ingredients begin to expand.
Bake for 75 mins. until bubbling and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10-15 mins. before serving. Serve warm or cold with ice cream or whipped cream or just enjoy plain.