I’m just gonna go ahead and put this out there. I don’t bake much. Ok, I don’t really bake at all. Despite my love of desserts and the occasional fantasy about owning a quaint little bakery in which I produce bread and other delicious treats all day – I’m rarely motivated to whip up something on my own. There usually needs to be a holiday involved.
There’s all sorts of reasons I justify this laziness. Too many steps, exact measurements, ingredients I never seem to have on hand. At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure it boils down to the simple fact that my kitchen, almost always, ends up looking like a complete and utter war zone. Flour everywhere, batter everywhere, mountains of bowls and utensils crowding the sink, dissembled machines overrunning my counter space, etc., etc.
This past weekend, however, I was randomly determined to attempt a small batch of bread pudding. There had been half a French loaf going stale on my counter for about a week.
This thing was a brick but I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. Pulling from a few different recipes, I came up with a ‘custard’ breakdown that was pretty close to a typical French toast recipe. I also happened to have a banana and a small amount of walnuts at my disposal and voila! The vision for my banana nut bread pudding was born.
Now, it’s fair enough to assume that to some people, bread pudding would be a walk in the park. After all, you just mix the ingredients and pour over cubed bread, easy. But this was all new to me and I was taking my mission very seriously. Throughout this process there were triumphs, there were freak outs, and yes, there were even a few tears.
In the end, she wasn’t the prettiest bread pudding I’ve ever seen, but the taste was pretty darn good. It wasn’t as sweet as I was expecting it to be, but I actually really liked it that way. I’m not always a fan of overly sweet desserts; plus a nice dollop of whipped cream added the perfect sugary touch.
All in all, I thought the flavors worked really well with one another – the warm cinnamon, the creamy banana, the crunch from the walnuts- and the week old bread was given new life.
Everything was cooked, nothing was burnt, and no one got sick. Not bad for a first try, not bad at all. I’d even go so far as to say I consider my first endeavor in bread pudding to be a pretty successful one.
Of course, there were things I learned along the way:
#1. – There’s a reason people use shallow baking dishes during this process, as opposed to the loaf pan I used. A shallow dish/pan would allow for more of the crispy topping and not so much of the soggy base. It also means less water for the water bath, making for a less stressful transfer in and out of the oven.
#2. – Make sure to aim properly when pouring the custard over the bread/banana mixture to avoid spilling all over your counter top. You’ll want every luscious drop to make it.
#3. – Make sure to aim properly when adding water for the water bath, to avoid diluting your custard. If this does happen, try soaking the water up with a paper towel and sprinkle a little extra cinnamon and sugar over the spot to compensate. (Lesson 2 and 3 might explain why my pudding didn’t end up as sweet).
#4. – This bread pudding works really well for breakfast! It echoes the whole French toast thing.
The bones in this recipe are good and it’s pretty low maintenance as far as desserts are concerned. I definitely recommend bread pudding (even if it’s not this version) to anyone looking to use up leftover stale bread or a new idea for dessert. If anyone out there has other tips, suggestions, or their own baking adventures- please feel free share. I’d love to hear them.
Banana Nut Bread Pudding
5 cups diced French bread (1 inch cubes)
2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tblsp. honey
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract ( I used bourbon vanilla)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 cup of toasted walnuts (coarsely chopped)
1 ripe banana (cut into chunks)
1 tblsp. sugar (to sprinkle over top)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and use the middle rack.
Whisk together the milk, eggs, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl until the eggs are broken up and the mixture is smooth. Evenly distribute the bread, banana, and walnuts in a 2 quart baking dish, pour the custard mixture over everything, and set aside to soak for at least 15 minutes. (**If you use a baking loaf pan like I did, layer everything starting with the bread, then banana, then walnuts. You’ll want just bread and walnuts for the crispy topping).
Then, evenly distribute 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top and set the filled baking dish into a larger roasting pan. Add enough hot water (hot tap water is fine) to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until custard is set and top is lightly browned, about 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from water bath and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.