Classic Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is one of those classic desserts. It gives me that nostalgic feeling and brings me back to the days of my childhood when my great-grandmother used to bake it. Usually she only baked bread pudding when we had stale bread that she didn’t want to throw away (she didn’t think I knew that!). Bread pudding is a relatively simple dessert to make, and here is a recipe for Classic Bread Pudding that you’re sure to enjoy if you’re a fan of the bread and custard dessert.

For anyone unfamiliar with bread pudding, it is a bread-based dessert. Bread pudding is a recipe usually made with stale bread and milk or cream, eggs and sometimes a form of fat (oil, butter, suet) and depending on whether the pudding is sweet or savory, other items may be added. Sweet bread puddings tend to use sugar, syrup, honey and dried fruit (like raisins) as well as spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla. Also called “bread and butter pudding”, the latter is a traditional type of popular British cuisine, includes raisins mixed through and also includes extra custard on the side. The earliest bread and butter puddings were called “whitepot” and used either butter or bone marrow. One of the earliest published recipes is found in John Nott’s Cooks and Confectioner’s Dictionary from 1723.

You can use stale bread if you like, but this bread pudding recipe calls for a French or Italian loaf, with the crust removed. You will want to remove the crust as it won’t soften like the rest of the bread and may become chewy and unpleasant. Slice the loaf up and layer in your cooking dish. Your ‘bread part’ is done!

The custard is whipped up from a combination of eggs, half-and-half, granulated white sugar, vanilla and nutmeg which are all whisked together before being poured over the bread base. This liquid mixture is known as custard. While custards can be a thin pouring sauce (like crème anglaise) or thick like pastry cream (crème patissiere) used to fill éclairs, this recipe will cook to a pudding consistency, though most of it will soak into your bread.

In North America half and half almost always refers to a light cream typically used in coffee. The name is actually a reference to the content of half milk and half cream (it usually has a fat content of between 10.5 to 18%). For this recipe you can use either milk or half-and-half (the latter will give a slightly creamier feel and taste, but a higher fat content).

An important tip is to let your dish set for 30-40 minutes while the bread soaks up the custard mixture. Cook time is only 30 minutes and you have yourself an easy, delicious, classic bread pudding. One of my favorite additions is to whisk a little milk and confectioner’s sugar into a thin, liquid consistency and lightly pour over the top to complete this beautiful dish.

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