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Kitchen Mailbox: Creamy, dreamy bread puddings a comfort on cool nights

Thursday, October 07, 1999

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Cloudy days and cool nights -- it's comfort food season. Comfort food can range from hearty fare to simple delights, like bread pudding.

The word pudding is derived from an old English word for swelling. Food was enclosed in a casing (for meat) or a cloth pudding bag (for fruits, nuts, sweeteners and thickeners). When the pudding was boiled or steamed, it expanded and produced a swollen appearance. Today, we don't need a pudding bag, just a few bowls, and, for some recipes, a roasting pan.

Bread pudding is made with cubes or slices of bread saturated with milk, eggs, sugar and spices. A variety of nuts and fruits may be added to this dessert. Bread puddings are essentially custard. Custards are usually baked in a water bath (bain marie), which acts as an insulator from the oven's heat and prevents the custard from overcooking (custard baked in water baths turn out with a creamy consistency). There are, however, bread puddings that do not call for a water bath, as in our first recipe.

Leona H. McManus of Bethel Park sent us her version of bread pudding. Out of all the recipes we tested, this was the easiest to prepare. We loved the combination of raisins, nuts and cinnamon. It was almost like eating oatmeal cookies without the crumbs.

The water bath we mentioned comes into play for our other bread pudding recipes. They are a bit more involved than the first, but worth it. The Apple-Cinnamon Bread pudding uses apples sprinkled with cinnamon as a topping for this light-as-a-cloud pudding. The cinnamon bread adds a delicious touch.

Our last pudding recipe, Chocolate Bread Pudding, is almost indescribable. Imagine a liquid chocolate bar or a hot chocolate so thick you need a spoon. And the White Chocolate Sauce that accompanies this dessert makes Chocolate Bread Pudding even more heavenly.

Also, Pat Sadler of McCandless saw our recipe for Carrot Cake and thought we might like to try her recipe for Autumn Peanutty Carrot Cake. In her note to Kitchen Mailbox, Sadler wrote, "I have never enjoyed carrot cake very much. But when I saw your recipes for it, I thought of two more recipes that make carrot cake something special." Sadler was right, Autumn Peanutty Carrot Cake is something special. Who would have thought that carrots and peanut butter chips worked well together?

Bread Pudding

3 slices dry white bread
2 eggs slightly beaten
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1/2 cup nuts (we used walnuts)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup coconut, optional

Butter a 2- to 2 1/2-quart oven-proof bowl. Break bread in large chunks; place in the bowl.

Beat eggs; set aside.

In another bowl, microwave milk on high for approximately 2 minutes; remove milk from microwave and whisk in the beaten eggs, cinnamon, butter, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir in the nuts, raisins and coconut.

Pour mixture over bread.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. Serve warm or cold.

Apple-Cinnamon Bread Pudding

1 1/4 pounds (3 medium) Golden Delicious, Gala or Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, cored and sliced (3 cups)
Cinnamon sugar: 1/3 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (set 1 teaspoon mix- ture aside for topping)
3 tablespoons butter or mar- garine, melted
4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 or 9 slices cinnamon-raisin bread, cut in 1/2-inch cubes (5 cups)

Place oven rack in middle position. Preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9- or 10-inch deep-dish pie plate. Have ready a roasting pan larger than the pie plate.

In a large bowl, toss apple slices with 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar.

Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and spread 1/2 the apples to cover the bottom. Cook 1 minute per side or until partially cooked. Remove to a large plate. Repeat with another 1 tablespoon butter and remaining apples. Add to plate.

Meanwhile, put eggs, milk, vanilla and remaining cinnamon sugar in the bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter and whisk until ingredients are well blended.

Spread bread cubes in pie plate. Arrange apple slices in concentric circles on top. Pour egg mixture evenly over apples; sprinkle with reserved 1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar.

Set pie plate in roasting pan, place pan on middle oven rack and add very hot tap water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of pie plate.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Remove pie plate from water. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. Makes 10 servings.

Women's Day Magazine

Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 pound challah, brioche, or other light egg bread, (we used challah bread from Gi- ant Eagle bakery)

Taking care to preserve as much of the crumb mixture as possible, trim off and discard the crusts. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes, making 6 to 7 cups.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly:

1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Remove from heat, then add:

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Let stand for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth.

Whisk together thoroughly in large bowl:

2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

Add:

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

Whisk in the chocolate mixture, then stir in the bread cubes. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours, gently stirring and pressing the bread down now and then with a spatula to help it absorb the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Generously butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Pour the pudding mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top. Bake in a water bath until the center feels firm when pressed, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool for 45 minutes, then serve with Warm White Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows).

Pudding can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. To reheat, bake in a water bath in a 300-degree oven until a knife inserted in the center for 2 seconds comes out warm, 15 to 30 minutes.

Warm White Chocolate Sauce

9 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped or broken in- to small pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place a skillet of water over low heat and heat just until the water is hot enough to steam, about 145 degrees. You should be able to hold a finger in the water for 2 seconds without discomfort. Combine the chocolate, butter and heavy cream in a heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl in the water bath and stir until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat and stir vigorously until smooth. Serve at once or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Reheat by setting the sauce in hot water, as above, and stirring until thin.

"Joy of Cooking" by Irma S. Rombauer

Pat Sadler of McCandless sent in this recipe.

Autumn Peanutty Carrot Cake

3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups grated carrots
1 2/3 cups (10-ounce package) peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two, 8-inch round baking pans.

In large bowl, beat eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir together flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and cinnamon; add to egg mixture and blend well. Stir in carrot, peanut butter chips and walnuts; pour into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Beat 2 packages (3 ounces each) softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter until smooth. Gradually add 4 cups powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.

Makes 12 servings.


If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.



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