BREAD PUDDING LOG

I'm a big fan of bread pudding. Of course, the more I eat of it, the "bigger" fan I become. It doesn't do much for my healthy diet. Yet, whenever I see it on a menu, I order it. Now that I'm keeping track of my bread pudding experiences, I can justify my action due to my professional obligation to keep this log current.

What was the name of that diner in Pennsylvania where I stopped one Sunday afternoon years ago? It was the ultimate pudding, as opposed to the other ingredient, bread, such that it was served by the scoop and served in a parfait glass with a sauce poured over it. (The photo below is similar.) Yummy. It will become apparent in this log that I strongly favor a bread pudding that has plenty of custard, and lean away from the bready ones.

These entries are chronological, with the newest being last. At the very end, you can find my own current recipe for not-very-sweet brandied pear vegan bread pudding.

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The Yellow Tavern, New Harmony, IN -- multiple visits

It's a requirement. Every day at 3 p.m. I show up at the Yellow Tavern for my bread pudding fix. It would rank as one of the best ever if it were just a little less sweet. The pecans are like little treasures hidden for a joyful discovery. The sauce is buttery and bourbony at the same time. The town itself is a destination, filled with historic buildings from the 19th century utopian communities that once located here. Now, the bread pudding is another reason to visit. I asked for the recipe. The waitress revealed that it is made by a local woman, who won't disclose what's in it. Hm-m-m-m-m. A mysterious bread pudding it is.

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Urban Eats Cafe, Dutchtown, Saint Louis, MO

“The secret is our whiskey sauce” said the attractive young lady behind the counter.
"Are you going to card me?" I asked.
"Naw, you look like you're old enough."
It was excellent, such that I ordered a second serving, which is rare, considering the calorie count. There are many things you can do right with bread pudding, and they succeeded in most of them. There are also some things you can do wrong, although, bread pudding is generally a pretty straight forward affair.

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Past Memorable Bread Puddings

I can think back to numerous bread puddings I have had, prior to keeping this log. I like some of the ones that are made in large quantity rather than individual servings, such as at buffet restaurants. For example, Hometown Buffet in Saint Louis, a chain restaurant, is pretty traditional, but tasty. Another was at the Country Club in Uvalde, TX. Friends took us there one Labor Day Sunday. The bread pudding was sitting on its own table, with little cups for self service. I commented on it to one of the servers, who admitted that she had made it. I think she should be proud. Then there was the bread pudding at Silver Bay YMCA on Lake George. Bruce Tamlyn, on the staff, is an equally avid bread pudding fan. Theirs was wonderful, served in large pans. Next to it was a large warmer -- like the kind of pot they serve soup in on a buffet -- but this was not soup, it was filled with warm vanilla sauce. You could take as much as you wanted. And I did.

When Lewellyn’s Pub opened a location in Webster Groves ,outside of St. Louis (then my hometown), it was my intention to go regularly to have their bread pudding, the flavor of which changed weekly. But I ran out of steam. The serving was huge, the pudding very dense. I was overwhelmed. In that regard, it was similar to the huge serving of bread pudding at Mimi’s Cafe, in various locations around the country. I once got an order to go and ate it over several meals. I am always intimidated by a dessert that is bigger than I am. How can someone eat such a huge portion after finishing a full meal? Crazy.

The south seems to like bread pudding more than the north (see photo above). Working in Ruston, LA, my labyrinth-making crew (in my absence) related to me the various local bread puddings. The same working in Little Rock, AR, and Augusta, GA.

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Bici's, University City, MO

We had the bread pudding here twice -- first Linda and me, and then with our friends Tom and Donna, at whose home we were visiting three blocks away. Sometimes, success lies in the presentation. At Bici’s, a little neighborhood place on Pershing Avenue, it started as a round cake that was cut into quarters, which were stood up in a row, with points upward, on a long narrow dish. The sauce was under, while on top, the whole thing was dribbled with chocolate. How can you not like it, when it arrives at the table looking like that!

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Harvest Restaurant, Saint Louis, MO

This is one of the finest restaurants in the area. It has been there for years, always consistent in its excellence. The prices reflect the quality. Linda and I went there, with Tom and Donna, to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. The fois gras appetizer may be the best thing I have ever eaten i a restaurant -- and I'm a vegetarian! The menu changes seasonally at Harvest, but not their signature bread pudding. This would be on my short list for the best bread pudding ever, anywhere.

The recipe is in the 2006 Taste of the Originals cookbook put out by St. Louis Original. It was also published in Sauce Magazine, a wonderful restaurant-oriented publication in St. Louis. When I lived there, I cut out many ads for restaurants I wanted to visit. At one per week, I couldn't catch up. This is such a superb masterpiece, that you deserve the whole picture. Here, in full, is the review from Sauce Magazine.

Harvest's Warmed Brioche Bread Pudding
By Katie O'Connor - Photo by Josh Monken
Posted On: 11/24/2008

Bread pudding’s got its fans, sure, but it’s not for everyone. Except this one; Harvest’s Warmed Brioche Bread Pudding is beloved by all who taste it. Maybe it’s the perfect balance of brioche to custard or (more likely) the bourbon in the sauce. Whatever the reason, it’s the one item that never comes off Harvest’s famously seasonal menu – not in 12 years. “I’ve always felt that our customers would riot like it if we changed the recipe,” said chef and owner Stephen Gontram.

Warmed Brioche Bread Pudding
Courtesy of Harvest Seasonal Market Cuisine’s Stephen Gontram

12 servings

2 loaves brioche
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups granulated sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean
½ cinnamon stick
¼ tsp. nutmeg, freshly ground
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Powdered sugar, for garnish

For the sauce:
2 cups granulated sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 cup buttermilk
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter
½ cup bourbon
½ cup dried currants

Whipped Cream
1 pint heavy cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Remove the outer crust from the brioche. Using a serrated knife, cut the loaves into 1-inch cubes; place the cubes into a large mixing bowl.
• In a sauce pot, combine the milk, cream, 3/4 cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, vanilla bean, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring the mixture to a boil and remove from the heat.
• In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks. Slowly pour half the hot milk mixture into the eggs and whisk to incorporate. Add the remaining milk mixture and whisk together.
• Let the custard cool slightly and then pour over the cubed brioche. Toss the ingredients together lightly and place in a greased 9-by-12-inch baking dish. Bake approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
• Make the sauce: In a sauce pot, combine all the ingredients except the bourbon and currants; bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the bourbon and currants, and set aside.
• Make the whipped cream: In a mixer, combine the heavy cream with the vanilla and sugar; whip until stiff.
• To serve, cut the bread pudding into desired sized pieces and place in a dessert bowl. Top with bourbon-currant sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Now, that's quite the recipe. But there is something amiss. Look at the photo. That wasn't cut from a 9 x 12 baking dish. It was clearly prepared in an individual ramekin. Nor is it served in a bowl. So, I suspect that this may not be the true recipe for the delicious dessert served at the restaurant. Stephen Gontram, you sly fox.

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BARcelona, Clayton, MO

Linda and I walked to BARcelona from Tom and Donna's house. It is on North Central, in downtown Clayton, where restaurants are lined up one after another, each with outdoor tables. Such a choice. We picked this one because there was a table available out by the street. Indeed, we almost got run over twice by a big Land Rover that parked next to us. The weather was just right, a beautiful evening. The bread pudding came in the center of a hot metal pan, like you would use for making one layer for a cake. Inside the pan was a virtual lake of carmel sauce, with the bread pudding in the center. I often complain that there isn't enough sauce with the bread pudding. Not this time. This was so far over the top that it is memorable, regardless of the fact that I don't even remember the bread pudding itself. Way too much carmel sauce, and far too sweet. Yet, we ate it all. What should we guess, perhaps 1500 calories? It took a few days to walk that one off.

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Newburyport, MA, at Loretta’s Restaurant on State Street

Linda and I have our eye (well, actually four eyes) on Newburyport, MA, It is a magical town with a great river marina and outlet to Plum Island and the ocean beyond. We would love to spend some summers here. Visiting friends, we spent a week exploring. Besides having coffee gelato every evening during our stroll down to watch the boats, we went to Loretta's, where Linda’s chef friend from Andover, Dana Wilson, works. The Thai noodle salad was to die for. His bread pudding was called “New Orleans style with whiskey praline sauce.” It came as a square, soft but firm, with the praline part on the top and a bit of sauce beneath it. It was an interesting combination of firmness but still having some softness to it. It was good, but far from the top echelons of bread puddingdom. It came warm with ice cream, which really helped, adding another taste dimension. I guess I didn't quite "get" the New Orleans connection. Perhaps I'd better get on down there and test the bread pudding in the Big Easy for myself to see what New Orleans style really means. Arnaud's, Broussard's, and many others feature this dessert. Just what are Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Legasse up to? Here's a link to FrenchQuarter.com that gives you some idea, including many bread pudding recipes.: http://frenchquarter.com/dining/BreadPudding.php.

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The Interurban Grill in Ardmore, OK

This is one of those restaurants with antiques and signs and junk covering the ceiling and the walls. We were at La Quinta for the night, heading towards San Antonio with our 18-foot U-Haul truck full of my Saint Louis possessions. According to the menu, it was "Spiked Bread Pudding: Raisins and pineapple with a caramelized brandy sauce.” Brandy sauce, whiskey sauce, bourbon sauce, rum sauce. Sheesh, one could become a puddingoholic. I can see the AAA meeting: "My name is Robert, and I eat bread pudding." I can just barely remember a line from a folk song that talks about a man lying in the gutter with crumbs on his face. That could be me.

Anyway, the bread pudding was served in a bowl in an unspectacular way. It was cut in a square from a larger portion, so I suspected it would lean toward the bready side. However, it was very soft -- no resistance to the fork as it would were the pudding bready and tough. I suspect that this comes from letting the bread soak up all of the custard mixture before baking it, the same way one makes French toast, which has the same ingredients. The sauce -- sweet, as caramel is wont to be -- was tasty, with only enough to cover the top and a little in the bowl -- not a lake, alas. Overall, it was a good experience, especially since, given the ambiance, I expected the worst. A better presentation would have helped. But then, bread pudding is of humble origins -- why make pretensions.

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Ryan’s near Olathe, KS -- a buffet.

Pathetic is the word that comes to mind. It is sad to see abused and ill-cared-for bread pudding, left on the heat to dry out for hours. It sat forlornly in a large pan, as were the cobblers beside it. VERY bready -- the whole top was crusty and hard. No one pushed that bread beneath the custard to make sure it was softened. It had been there for some time, which is not surprising, seeing that it was seriously uninviting. So, it continued to dry out and get even worse. I tried to stir it to find some soft, custardy part, but it was barely even moist. Ugh. And no sauce in sight, to rescue it. (There was soft ice cream in a machine nearby.) An abysmal failure by people who just didn't care. I think I know why, as the vegetables were also a failure. It seems to be a buffet for meat eaters, with steaks from the grill, sausage, burgers, fried things, etc. That's what the carnivores come for. The rest is just obligation, just pretending. And not very well.. I see no reason to darken the door of another Ryan's.

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June 24, 2011 -- Rise Bakery, San Antonio

I've decided to start adding dates, so you can see the time frame of my entries. Almost all the above have been consumed in the past 18 months. Rise Bakery is near my home in San Antonio. With a coffeehouse atmosphere, they make a pretty good chai of their own recipe. In the display case, I noted some bread pudding, served with vanilla Bourbon sauce. Perhaps I am fussy or hung up in semantics. (See my article on yardsticks, which I insist must be 36 inches long. Is that unreasonable?) Similarly, the word “pudding” in Bread Pudding suggests, to me, a soft, custardiness which gives it the consistency of a pudding, often to be eaten with a spoon. Rise Bakery is, as its name implies, a bakery. Their specialty is bread, not pudding. I guess you could say that the name also has bread in it, and so it should be bready. Apparently that's how they feel. When I ordered a portion to go, the owner apologized in advance that there were no raisins. “Some people,” she noted,”Feel like bread pudding must have raisins.” Yeah, and I'm one of them. After this introduction, it will be no surprise to learn that the result was very much in the “cake” camp, and not the “custard” camp. Even warmed up in the microwave, it never got very soft. Like Interurban Grill, above, it was a square, but unlike it, the texture was not soft. Just not enough eggs or milk or some other ingredient to soak into the bread. The sauce was fine, but not very plentiful. In all, I had an experience more akin to eating a sandwich. I like their chai, but I won’t likely become a regular bread pudding customer .(See below for rescue.)

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BP Rescue

The above bread pudding from Rise Bakery was disappointing. So, I decided to rescue the half of it that I hadn’t eaten yet. I cut it up into tiny pieces and soaked it in rice milk. Meanwhile, I soaked some raisins in brandy, and beat an egg yoke, to which I added some chai mix (spiced black tea). I then mixed all of these ingredients together and baked them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. The top was just a little loose, so I turned off the oven and left it in there for a few more minutes. The end result? Very passable. Layers of flavors, nice and custardy, and I even used the second half of the bourbon sauce on top. This was a success. Maybe I need to open a rescue mission for neglected and inferior bread puddings.

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Dinah’s Garden Hotel in Palo Alto, Poolside Grill, July, 2011

Knowing the restaurant closed at 2:30 p.m., I rushed out (while Linda was napping) to order a bread pudding at 2:15. It called itself "New Orleans style." It came in a large, wide, soup bowl with the column-shaped pudding in a sea of sauce. That was a good start. The sauce was supposed to be vanilla, but it didn’t have much taste. The pudding itself was very lacking in custard content. It was another one that could be called bread pudding cake. I tried to think back to other New Orleans style bread puddings I’ve had. There was the place in St. Louis, called the French Quarter. It was very good -- all gooey and saucy. So, there definitely isn’t anything about New Orleans style that means “bready.” I suppose, to be fair, I need to start critiquing the quality of the breadiness, i.e. flavor, etc., rather than just dismissing it as not pudding enough. The chef tastes it. Certainly this was the intended result. Linda joined me, so we ate out by the pool. As usual, she had about two bites.As usual, despite the poor review, I still ate the whole thing. I don't have a souvenir photo of the bread pudding, but the setting (above) is quite lovely.

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Trader Vic’s, Palo Alto, July, 2011

Trader Vic's is part of the Dinah's Garden Hotel complex (see above). However, the Poolside Grill (above) is leased to outside parties, so Trader Vic's is in a different building,with a different chef and recipes. What a wonderful dinner we had, sitting on the terrace in the shade, a cool breeze rustling the palm leaves (after working in the sun all day, installing a labyrinth). The Prix-fix menu was a great bargain, as it cost no more than many of the entrees. For $25 it started with a flatbread entree that has a tasty shredded beet and goat cheese topping. Next came scallops with a carrot mouse and al dente green beans. Everything was perfection. The taste was scrumptious, the presentation, the setting -- we were very pleased. Well, OK, the service was a bit slow, but friendly. Perhaps she was politely avoiding rushing us. The third course was Mai Tai bread pudding, in keeping with Trader Vic’s Polynesian theme. It came on a plate that was nicely decorated in that way in which the chef makes a circle of sauce, squirted from a ketchup-like container, then uses a comb to spread it out in an artistic way. Linda commented on how pretty it was. In the center was steaming hot bread pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. No sauce. The Mai Tai taste escaped me completely. After a perfect meal and with the beautiful presentation, I was hoping for more. There was one cube of bread that never got soaked in the milk and egg mix. Exposed naked in the oven, it got quite crispy. I found that a little interesting, with the change of texture. Perhaps there is a way to make
little pieces of bread stick out of a more custardy mix, achieving the best of both worlds. This one, however, was totally like cake. When you slice cake, the texture is generally uniform. Here, there were voids much like baking a loaf of bread. Whatever it was, it wasn’t custard. If the bread pudding had been as excellent as the scallops, I would have been in heaven. However, I’m still here on earth. I would return in a heart beat to Trader Vic's again. I just wouldn't order the bread pudding.

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July 13, 2011, Mountain House, on the foggy ridge between Menlo Park and Half Moon Bay, CA:

Vanilla bread pudding with maple brandy sauce. That was our objective. The setting was exotic, wrapped in drippy misty fog amidst towering straight-arrow redwoods. Friends brought Linda and me there specifically for the bread pudding. The company and the meal were excellent. All hopes were raised for the bread pudding. We were not let down. It was just the right amount of custardiness (you know how I go on about custard . . . you see, it can be done right), yet firm enough to stand in two triangular pieces. (The photo below says it is their bread pudding, although the presentation is a little different.) When I ordered, I mentioned that I liked sauce. The waitress brought the usual serving, and then a tall shot glass of extra sauce, which I poured into the bowl, creating the kind of sauce lake of which I am fond. But I over did it. Too much sweetness in relation to the pudding itself threw it out of balance. My fault, not theirs. I was left with the taste of the sauce rather than the bread pudding. Upon exiting the restaurant, the manager asked how I rated their bread pudding. “High up on the scale of excellence,” I replied. “Just the right amount of custard. The only lack was presentation.” “Weren’t the two pieces piled up?” she asked. “Nope, side by side, sitting in a bowl of sauce." She hung her head. I went on. "The taste was great, but I have seen far more dramatic presentation.” Funny how people remember only the negatives. As I left, I heard her say to the waitress, “He didn’t like the way we serve the bread pudding . . ." missing completely the fact that it ranks in the top few of the best I have ever had. Was it a 10? Was it perfection? Is there such a thing in this physical world? My search continues.

You can find this photo at: http://www.dishtip.com/restaurant/highlightDetail/545680. In the same article, it lists five other establishments with bread pudding, complete with photos. These are:
1. Old Port Lobster Shack
2. John Bentley's
3. Flea Street Cafe
4. Milagros
5. Angelica's Bistro
Wow, there is no end to the possibilities with bread pudding. You might want to check them out.

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July, 2011, Santa Rosa, CA at Lea’s house

The dinner party was reduced a bit in number, but not quality. When Lea heard that I am a big bread pudding fan, she switched from the previous dessert plan to a favorite bread pudding recipe. When it was served, of course I raved about it -- that’s what you do when people do something special for you. I wasn’t just being polite. It was, in fact, very good. The evening before, she tore up French bread to let the pieces get “stale” over night. As an unusual touch, Lea added cranberries rather than raisins. I didn’t mention that I love raisins and don’t really take to cranberries much (although I am working on it, since they are reportedly good for the kidneys). The cranberries did not distract, however. The taste was very good. And it looked very nice, sitting in a whiskey sauce. It was in the mid-range of custardiness. At the end, she had turned up the oven so as to add a little crispy texture to the outside of the bread pudding. Of course, crispiness is a characteristic of cake more than pudding. But we're only talking about the surface. It did, quite successfully, add to the texture and interest. It also added a bit of crunchiness, in an acceptable way. The next morning, I had bread pudding for breakfast, sitting on the front porch, shaded by the pepperwood tree, watching people walk past Lea’s white picket fence. It occurred to me to heat up the bread pudding by frying it in a pan. I didn’t, but that may be an experiment in the future: fried bread pudding. Maybe it could be smothered in fresh blueberries. So, this has opened up a host of possibilities. Thanks Lea, for a great time. Also, for introducing us to Aztec mocha at the Flying Goat Coffeehouse. Never before have I had coffee with hot peppers and rose water as well as chocolate from Oaxaca. Coffee with a bite. I wonder if they have ever considered making bread pudding . . . .

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Breakfast: Bacon and Egg Bread Pudding

This makes sense to me. It did for someone else, as well. I found this on the internet at Agoodappetite.blogspot.com. Here is their commentary: "Yes, its another take on bread pudding, this time for breakfast. This actually started out as a joke from Matt saying that I'd made a dinner version & a dessert version now I just needed breakfast. Well. I started thinking about it & realized that the breakfast casserole that my family has every Christmas morning is basically a bread pudding so why not create my own breakfast version. This bread pudding gives you your eggs, toast & bacon all in one dish plus everything is coated in gooey melted cheddar cheese. Whipped up the night before & refrigerated, it's made for a weekend breakfast treat."

3 slices of bacon, chopped
2 C bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 eggs
1/2 C milk
1.5 oz grated cheddar
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cook the bacon in a skillet until it is crispy. Drain on a paper towel & set aside until cool. In a bowl mix together the cooled bacon, bread & 1 oz of the cheese. Divide between two ramekins. Whisk the eggs & milk together, salt & pepper. Pour over the bread in the ramekins. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Let sit for at least 30 minutes for the bread to soak in the milk & egg. You can also make these the night before, cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes until the pudding is puffed up & golden brown. Serves 2

Serves two! Great recipe. You don't need to make a whole casserole pan full. Here's a photo:

The blog listed above is for a couple in Minnesota who like to cook. If you go there, search under "bread pudding." You will find other recipes, including Ad Hoc Banana Bread Pudding, Leek and Bleu Cheese Bread Pudding, Apple Bread Pudding, and more. We haven't talked much, yet, about savory bread puddings, which are not sweet and serve as a part of the meal rather than as dessert.. They seem to cover the subject on this blog to some degree. I have more examples below.

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July 25, 2011 Calico Cupboard, La Conner, WA

La Conner is a wonderful little historic town, great for wondering, looking in shops, etc. We had coffee at the Calico Cupboard, along with an almond croissant. We decided to return for lunch. This is one of those bakery restaurants with display counters filled with delectable pastries.One of them, in a glass bowl, said “bread pudding.” The menu described it further: “Our homemade bread, loaded with cinnamon and butter, surrounded with rich creamy custard and topped with cinnamon sauce and real whipped cream. M-m-m-m-m-m.” Of course, even without the “m-m-m-m-m” part I would have tried it. It arrived looking like one of those puddings floating in a lake of sauce, but I soon realized that they had taken the pudding-in-a-bowl, added some sauce to the top, heated it up, and added whipped cream. The sauce wasn't very deep. The waitress said they often use their cinnamon rolls for the bread pudding. Hence, the cinnamon theme. It turned out to be well in the range of “proper” bread pudding, both a bit bready and custardy. More so, it looked very interesting - a mottled appearance that was very appealing. Linda said she liked it better than most of the ones we have had lately. According to the waitress, their other restaurant, in Mount Vernon, WA, was featured in an article in the Seattle newspaper a few weeks ago, in which they mentioned the bread pudding. It makes sense, doesn't it? A bakery, left over cinnamon buns, and bread pudding.

The restaurant had a second place in town, called “Seeds Bistro.” The waitress said they have a completely different bread pudding -- custard at the bottom, the bread, then white chocolate and raspberry sauce. We did finally return, and had that bread pudding (see further below).

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August 18, 2011, at home in San Antonio

The Rice Dream Rice Drink carton has a bread pudding recipe on it. Pretty straight forward, as follows:
1 lb. of bread
4 eggs beaten
2 yolks beaten
3 T. softened butter
1 ½ cups of sugar
¼ t. grated nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
3 C. of cold Rice Dream Vanilla
½ cups of raisins.

As usual, you tear up the bread into chunks and put it in a greased casserole. Then you beat the eggs and mix in the other liquids, sugar, and butter, which are poured over the bread and allowed to soak for 10 minutes. The raisins are distributed evenly, and the raisins and bread are pushed with a fork under the custard liquid. It is baked at 375 for 35 minutes covered with tin foil. Then, remove the foil, sprinkle a little sugar on top, and bake for another 30-40 minutes until brown and puffy.

Alas, no sauce. As I considered a sauce, my wife suggested using Splenda, to lower the calories and sugar content. So, I looked up Splenda recipes on the internet, finding Grandma’s Apple Bread Pudding with vanilla sauce. The bread pudding recipe was pretty standard. The sauce was interesting, calling for:
¼ C. of Splenda
2 T. of Splenda brown sugar blend
½ C. of milk
½ C. of margarine
1 t. of vanilla

Bring all ingredients except the vanilla to a boil. Turn off heat. Add the vanilla. Serve hot, over the bread pudding. So, I made some of that. I haven’t eaten any of this yet (later, watching TV). Under different conditions, the above sauce recipe could as easily have just called for equal parts of sugar, milk, and butter. Of course that would be very rich. I used soy milk rather than the Rice Dream, as I find it gives a creamier texture. I didn’t have the brown sugar blend, so I left that out, reducing the sweetness. I used soy butter, rather than margarine. So, this could be called soy sauce. Oh, that name is already taken. OK, vanilla sauce. I resisted adding whiskey.

It has caused me to consider the wonderful bread pudding at the Yellow Tavern in New Harmony, IN (reviewed at the beginning of this log). The sauce there is very thin. Linda said, “this has a lot of butter in it.” Considering the above recipe, perhaps the secret recipe in New Harmony has lots of butter and bourbon in it. It is thin, and yellowish in color. My vanilla sauce was also very thin.

Recently, I bought a box of Louisiana Purchase Premium Bread Pudding Mix at the store. Linda was dismayed, but I explained that this is for science. It's my duty. I’m expecting the worst (I haven't made it yet). The sauce has two ingredients: 14 oz. of sweetened condensed milk and two or three ounces of bourbon. Wow. I’ll continue this blog after I have tasted my bread pudding. . . .

OK. Pretty good. It was soft, rather than stiff and bready. I liked that. The bread from which it was made was a natural bread by Great Harvest bakery, which has some nuts and grains in it, which enhanced the bread pudding. (The recipe called for French bread, which would have been much more bland.) The raisins added sweetness, which is good, because it wasn’t overly sweet. Some bread pudding is so sweet that I can barely eat one portion. This one, I could eat the whole thing. Our kitchen is not a serious one, in terms of cooking equipment. I had to bake the bread pudding in a glass pie pan, which made it rather shallow -- not more than an inch, maybe less, deep. So in the serving bowl, it looked almost like a cookie. Linda didn’t like the sauce at all. “It would be better with whipped cream,” she suggested. In fact, the recipe, on the Rice Dream carton, does suggest adding a dollop of a non-dairy dessert whip.

I liked the sauce. I cut the Splenda back from what was called for, so it was barely sweet. In fact, the taste of the soy butter was more predominant than sugar, which at initial taste, is almost salty. So, I certainly didn’t overdo the sweetness. Some people might find this too dull. I liked it, but probably wouldn't serve it to company..

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Tost Bistro, San Antonio, TX, Aug. 19, 2011

Bread pudding, the breakfast of champions. I had it this morning (the one described above -- the Rice Dream recipe). After all, bread pudding has the same ingredients as French toast, or an omelet and toast. We have now eaten about half of the quantity that we made. So, with bread pudding at home in the refrigerator, it might be considered excessive to have ordered it for dessert this evening at Tost Bistro, a French-influenced neighborhood restaurant, which we visited with another couple. Yes, we had coupons from restaurant.com. It seems, any more, with Groupon and Social Living, and other discount sites, there is no need to ever again pay full price when going out to eat. I don’t see how that works very well for restaurants, but it’s OK with us.

The food was excellent. Linda’s scallops were yummy. My escargot were a bit disappointing. I like them swimming in garlic butter, which I mop up with the bread. They were served in the traditional six-snail-dish, but the butter was watery and bland. Not buttery. Maybe the escargot were frozen and gave off water when cooked. Why else would it be watered down? Makes no sense. So, what should I expect from the menu item, “bread pudding with creme anglaise?”

Apparently they put a dollop of creme anglaise on the plate, and covered it with the square piece of bread pudding. Nowhere near enough. Creme anglaise (“English cream”) is a thin custard, used as a dessert sauce. You know by now how much I like custardy bread pudding. So creme anglaise makes good sense, as a pairing. It could have had some bourbon in it, but it was good. I immediately asked for more sauce, which was brought to me in a tiny bowl. Maybe three tablespoons. This is a far cry from the bread puddings I have had that were swimming, yea, drowned, in a lake of sauce. But then, that would be rather decadent. In talking about bread pudding sauces, our friend Joyce mentioned a wonderful recipe from a Holland America cruise ship. The sauce was Eagle Brand condensed milk and bourbon. So, the sauce on that packaged bread pudding that I mentioned yesterday might turn out better than I thought.

When I tell people that I downloaded 200 bread pudding recipes from the internet, they wonder how there could be so many variations. Then I saw someone on a bread pudding site who has 800 recipes. Well, tonight’s pudding is a good example of a variation. Yes, it was soft and custardy. Hooray. In this case, the bread was crumbled into fine crumbs and then blended (in a blender or food processor) with the custard mixture, so it was a uniform consistency, like a very thick custard, with no overt trace of bread (and therefore, no breadiness). It had a uniform all-the-way-through texture. Some of the cakey and dense ones have a similar uniformity, but are drier and hard. So, this was very good. Then, it had something on top. I believe it was apple. On the side was a small lump of something that seemed applesauce like, and on the other side were three thin slices of apple. I would think the topping was added later, after the pudding had been cooked, and then, perhaps, put under the broiler or salamander. The body of the pudding was kind of a light color, whereas the top was brownish in color. It worked quite well. What was lacking was presentation. Yes, the three apple slices spiffed it up a bit, but otherwise, it was a lone square of bread pudding sitting on a hidden spot of sauce in the middle of a big plate. I guess you could call it artistic, if the art was minimalism. My final analysis is two thumbs up. Good show. Especially since I don’t think French cooking usually includes bread pudding. Oh sure, the Rice Dream recipe called for French bread, but I don’t think I have ever seen bread pudding, as such, in France. It would make sense, no? French restaurants probably have lots of bread left over. Why not use it. French bread pudding? I’ll have to keep my eye out the next time I'm in France. Tres bien!

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Menger Hotel, San Antonio

This is a review of a bread pudding that I haven’t had - - - yet. It is based on an article in the Sunday paper, in which someone ate at the historic Menger Hotel in downtown San Antonio, at the Colonial Restaurant, and loved the bread pudding. They wrote to the newspaper asking if they thought the hotel would divulge their recipe. And they did, which was the basis of the article. The bread pudding, it seems, has been a consistent item on the buffet, through a long chain of chefs and management over decades. It has had staying power. The hotel was the place that Teddy Roosevelt recruited his famous Rough Riders. Part of the hotel is restored to its 19th century Victorian glory. So, don’t you think a decadent bread pudding would fit right in?

The process is pretty normal, but different in ingredients and details. First, it is baked at only 325 degrees. Secondly, it is baked only 20 minutes with the foil covering, and 10 to 20 more after it is off. The custard, it points out, will continue to set after removed from the oven. In other words, “Don’t over cook it.” That's half the cooking time of most bread puddings. The other decadent part is the bread. It is made from day-old croissants. The recipe has one other stand out ingredient. Here it is:

12 croissants
12 eggs
1 C. sugar
½ C. maple syrup
2 t. vanilla extract
4 C. of heavy whipping cream

That’s right. Heavy whipping cream. No wonder it’s a favorite. Think how rich that must be. And one egg per croissant. That's a lot of egg (hence, custard). It is cooked the usual way: Break the croissants into pieces, pour the mix over them, push them down under the custard, cover with foil, bake. But we’re not done. There is the rum sauce.

4 C. of heavy whipping cream
1 C. packed brown sugar
2 t. cornstarch
½ C. rum

Yes folks, another quart of heavy whipping cream. The cornstarch is whisked together with the rum and added to the cream/sugar mixture, after it has been brought to a boil. Keep whisking in the rum for eight to ten minutes, until the sauce thickens. Serve warm.

This should be called whipping cream pudding, with some bread in it. Let’s talk calories for a moment, shall we? I don't know how they calculate these things, but the newspaper article gave the relevant statistics. In the pudding, 63.7% of the 440 calories per serving come from fat. I’m sure that would be butter fat. In the sauce, 70 percent of the 320 calories per serving are from fat. Now, that is a total of 760 calories for one serving. The recipe makes 12 to 16 servings, and these figures are based on 1/16th. But, of course, a real serving is probably half again as large. Maybe twice as large. This being a buffet,.what about the seconds? Oh, oh, oh. I think we could safely estimate 1200 calories per serving. I’d better stay away from the Menger Hotel.

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Osta, Mokara Hotel and Spa (on the Riverwalk), San Antonio, TX, August 21, 2011

Osta is an upscale restaurant, part of an upscale hotel and spa. The food was a bit pricey, but the quality was there. Now, we were just blocks away from the bread pudding described above. Tempting. Very tempting. To order yet another bread pudding, so soon, was quite excessive on my part. What can I say? So, the four of us shared one dessert. It came well presented, in a large bowl with fresh blackberries and strawberries on it. After that, it was very ordinary. The whiskey sauce was thin and bland. The pudding itself was standard -- somewhat soft but not as custardy as I like it. This was not bread pudding with a twist, or taken to another level, although that was true for their other dishes. Plus, it probably cost eight dollars. Everyone had a bite or two, and I finished up the dregs. The first look was hopeful, but after that, quite disappointing. I think I would rather go to the Menger Hotel (above) and be overwhelmed by the richness of all that whipping cream. At least it wouldn’t be bland. Someone in the kitchen at Osta ran out of creative ideas when it came to the bread pudding.

*******

Seeds, LaConner, WA, December 23, 2011 or Maybe Rock Fish Grill, Anacortes, WA

Above, under July 25th, I reviewed the bread pudding at The Calico Cupboard in LaConner. Seeds is across town, a bistro under the same management. We drove over from Anacortes, where we were visiting grandchildren (and their parents). LaConner is small but picturesque, right on the Swinomish Channel. Having less than 1,000 residents, it was once named after the Channel. but that changed in 1870 to honor Louise Ann Conner, wife of the trading post owner. Writer Tom Robbins is from here, but I wouldn't recognize him if he were to serve me the bread pudding himself. The name Seeds comes from the local industry of raising and selling seeds, especially rutabaga. In the courtyard is the oldest beech tree in the state of Washington, planted in 1890. I just want to know who went around and catalogued and dated every beech tree in the state. The signature dessert at Seeds is white chocolate bread pudding with raspberry sauce. Here is how it is pictured on their website:

It looks great, but that's not what we were serve. Yes, there were two triangles surrounded by a pinkish colored sauce, presumably raspberry, but didn't look at all like the photo.We had gone there specifically for this dessert. The bread was thoroughly soaked with the custard mixture, the way it should be. Frankly, I didn't take notes and now, several weeks later, the details fade. I remember liking the sauce, and feeling that its color enhanced the presentation. The problem is, I had a second bread pudding two days later, and can barely distinguish between the two. The second was at the Rock Fish Grill in Anacortes. It was a little breadier than I like, with caramel sauce, which I think is too sweet. I was offered a scoop of ice cream with it, which I declined. I remember thinking that I should have accepted the ice cream, it would have perked it up quite a bit. I guess I'll have to go back and take better notes next time.

*******

Mary, in Palo Alto, sent me a local column that was on bread pudding. It caught her eye for two reasons. One, because we went out to eat at the Mountain House when Linda and I were visiting, specifically for their bread pudding (see previous review), and two, because one of the recipes was reportedly from Luby’s Cafeteria in Texas -- a chain here, which I have been known to frequent. Now that we are dealing with recipes, we start to see the differences First, here’s the

Luby’s Bread Pudding with Lemon sauce.

6 T sugar
2 T. cinnamon
3 C milk
7 extra-large eggs
¾ C. sugar
½ t. vanilla
8 slices homestyle white bread cubes
¼ C. raisins

Mix the sugar and cinnamon and put aside.Whisk together milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add bread to liquid mixture and let sit for 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Add sugar/cinnamon and raisins. Stir. Bake in 2-quart baking dish at 350 degree oven covered with foil for 45 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for 10 minutes more.

Vanilla sauce::

Combine ¾ C. sugar and one cup fresh lemon juice in pan. Heat. Whisk 2 T of cornstarch in 1 ½ T water. Add slowly to heating mixture. Heat until thickened.

The columnist seemed to feel that 7 large eggs was a lot. To me, that assures it will be custardy. Note that it cooks for a total of 55 minutes. That is very typical, totaling the foil-cover and uncovered baking times. The next recipe, in the same column (supposed to be more decadent) is quite different.

Irish bread Pudding with Caramel Whiskey Sauce

¼ C. melted butter
10 oz. baguette cut into 1-inch slices
½ C. raisins
1 ¾ C. milk
! C. and 1 T sugar (separate)
1 T vanilla
12-oz. can evaporated milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 t. cinnamon

Already we see some differences. Only two eggs! This isn’t going to be very custardy. The process is a bit different, and the cooking time, at the same 350 degrees, is only 35 minutes total, all uncovered.

Butter the bread slices and arrange in pan, butter side up. Cook in oven for 10 minutes. Let raisins marinate in the whiskey for a while. Combine milk, sugar, vanilla, evaporated milk, and eggs. Note that the milk and evaporated milk make more than three cups of liquid -- the amount in the Luby’s recipe (that had 7 eggs!). Add bread cubes and raisins to liquid, press down to cover, let stand for 15 minutes. The Luby’s recipe is to wait for all liquid to be absorbed. Most of the other recipes, like this, just want the bread to be covered by the liquid, or at least coated in it. I have had some bread pudding that looks like it is going to be bready, but turns out to be soft and good. Perhaps that is the result of letting the liquid be absorbed by the bread. Similarly, perhaps custard takes a while to bake. This recipe, with only two eggs, is baked for much less time. I suspect it will be considerably breadier. (The hint comes in the directions: When it is baked, “Cut into squares . . .") Put all of this in a 9” x 13” baking dish, sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar and cinnamon on top. Bake for 35 minutes.

The sauce is more involved, as we have to make a caramel sauce.

1 ½ C. sugar
1C. water
¼ C. butter
2 oz. Neufchatel or cream cheese
¼ C. Irish whiskey
¼ C. milk

Cook sugar and water in a heavy pan over medium heat, stirring. Once sugar dissolves, simmer for 15 minutes without stirring until mixture turns golden brown. Turn off heat. Whisk in the butter and cream cheese. Cook slightly, then add whiskey and milk. Serve warm.

Wow. I’ll bet the cream cheese makes the sauce quite rich. I found this exact same recipe by "recipegirl" on the Internet, along with the above photo. It looks a bit cakey.

***********

Paula Dean's bread Pudding Recipe

Mysteriously, this gives the total time as being 25 hours and 10 minutes, with 24 hours and 10 miinutes being "inactive" time. The inactive time is never explained. (Eat it the next day???)

2 cups granulated sugar
5 large beaten eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups cubed Italian bread, allow to stale overnight in a bowl
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup chopped pecans
For the sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup brandy

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan. Mix together granulated sugar, eggs, and milk in a bowl; add vanilla. Pour over cubed bread and let sit for 10 minutes. In another bowl, mix and crumble together brown sugar, butter, and pecans. Pour bread mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over the top and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven.

For the sauce:
Mix together the granulated sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir together until the sugar is melted. Add the brandy, stirring well. Pour over bread pudding. Serve warm or cold.

Note that there is no foil covering the pudding in the oven. Now, with Paula Dean, you expect something really unhealthy. Note the amount of sugar: At least twice that of most recipes. A total of three cups of sugar to three cups of bread, plus another cup of sugar in the sauce. Plus a stick and a half of butter. No surprise here. I'm surprised she uses bread in the recipe, and not stale doughnuts.

*******

Linda often makes custard, which is baked in the oven while sitting in a pan of water. Sometimes, she puts bread in the custard, which comes close to being bread pudding (except for the proportions, which are still for custard). On a website called "Men in aprons" I found this recipe which finally treats bread pudding as if it were custard! Written by Adam on December 13, 2007.:

Bread Pudding Flan

I really did not know how else to describe this other than "flan." They are cooked similarly to flan or custard, in small ramekin cups. But they require far less work in preparation than flan.

6 slices white bread, staled
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup milk
2TBSP strong coffee or espresso
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tsp. vanilla
1 Tsp. cinnamon
4 TBSP Butter in all
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP Brandy or Cognac


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a kettle of water to boiling. Slice up the stale bread into small cubes, about 3/4-inch thick. Set aside. Grease 4-6 ramekin dishes with some butter or shortening. In a medium sauce pan, heat the milk, coffee, and 2 tablespoons of the butter just to a simmer. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, white sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add the bread cubes and toss to combine. Now add the milk mixture and turn gently to combine. Let the mixture set in this bowl for about 5 minutes for the bread to absorb the liquid. Ladle the mixture into small ramekins and place in a deep casserole or pan. Before putting the pan into the oven, pour in the hot water into the pan around the ramekins to go about 1/2 the way up the sides. Cook in the oven for about 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and remove ramekins from water bath. Let cool 15-20 minutes to set up completely.
Make the brown sugar sauce by whisking the brown sugar, butter, and brandy over medium heat until the mixture simmers.
Invert the ramekins over individual plates and let the flan fall away. Spoon the sauce over the top and serve.

*******

Michy's
$$$$ American (New), Seafood, Bistro
6927 Biscayne Blvd, Miami 33138

The bread pudding is the signature dessert at Michy's. It's made with challah or brioche, egg yolks, raisins, cream, and brandy. The reason I am including it here (although I haven't been to Michy's) is beacuse the photo looked so good.

Savory Bread Pudding

This is an area in which I need to do a lot more research. :-) On the internet, for example, the Mushroom Council (I'm not making this up) offers a savory mushroom bread pudding. I found several very good looking recipes on the following website: http://www.stephencooks.com/2005/08/_tomato_bread_p.html The recipes are far too complex to include here, but I do have a photo of the tomato bread pudding.

Bread Pudding Photos

Go to google.com and search under images rather than web. The result is hundreds of bread pudding photos. Actually, at the top, it says 1,350,000 results. Can that be true? Here are few to tempt you, until I can review more in person.

Where's the bread pudding? Berries indeed.

This is another one from Stephencooks (see above). Maine blueberries.

This is another savory one.

This is from Eating Well. How about eating the whole thing!

*******

I took notes for several more bread puddings, but I lost them. No matter. After a while, it all gets pretty redundant. However, these last two entries are pretty interesting.

I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron
The author of I Remember Nothing says this is a family recipe used for years at holiday time. In terms of unhealthy ingredients, it vies with Paula Dean for the worst recipe I have ever seen. No wonder she remembers nothing. The whole family is probably in a coma. (Compare this with my next recipe, my own vegan bread pudding.)

5 large eggs plus 4 yolks
1 C. granulated sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 quart whole milk
1 C. heavy cream
1 t. vanilla extract
12 half-inch slices of brioche, crusts removed,buttered generously

Gently beat together eggs, yolks, salt and sugar.
Scald milk and cream (don't boil).
Remove milk, add vanilla, cool.
Stir gently into egg mixture (don't beat).
Overlap bread slices in prepared dish, butter side up.
Pour in the mixture.
Put dish in larger pan of water, bake 45 minutes at 375 degtrees.
Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and brown under the broiler.
Serve with heavy cream

*******

Robert's Almost Vegan Brandied Pear Bread Pudding

My new heart healthy diet (vegan, low fat, low sugar) is restrictive in terms of finding suitable dishes in restaurants. Almost all of the recipes and bread puddings discussed above are now forbidden. What to do? Cook at home. There, I can make certain substitutions, modifying normal recipes, to arrive at my healthier version. This bread pudding is no exception. I had it for breakfast this morning, as well as dessert last night. When I made it, I didn't measure any of the ingredients, so this is a general description.

Half a loaf of whole grain bread, several days old and getting hard, cut into cubes.
I buy eggs whites in a carton. I used about 3/4 cup, roughly, whisked slightly (this is the exception, as egg whites are not vegan. A substitute egg product could be use, such as Eggbeaters.)
Generous amount of rice milk, perhaps 1 1/2 cups or so
Some vanilla extract
One squirt of Agave sweetener
Some raisins or craisins
Two or three ripe pears
Splash of brandy

As you know by now, I like my bread pudding custardy. Egg whites and rice milk still make custard. Put the bread in a large mixing bowl. Stir together the rice milk, egg whites, vanilla, and Agave, then pour the mixture over the bread. It should be very sloppy, more than the bread can absorb. I used a chopping tool to reduce the size of the bread cubes for a more uniform texture. While this is sitting, pour a splash of brand into a pan and heat. Peel, core, and dice the pears. (I didn't peel mine. As a result, I can taste the little pieces of skin. I think it would be better peeled.) Add pears to brandy and braise for five minutes or so until the pears are tender. Add pears and raisins to bread mix. Pour into a very lightly oiled pan sufficiently large so that the bread pudding is about 1 1/2 inches deep. Bake uncovered and without a water bath or foil in a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes. Enjoy!

You will find that this relies only upon the raisins and pears for sweetness. It is soft and delicious. There are some variations that might be good. One is to make a sauce. I haven't figured out a good vegan sauce yet, so instead, I put some sugar-free (fruit juice sweetened) marmalade on top and heated the bread pudding in the microwave. The particular brand that I buy, St. Dalfour, from France, has many interesting flavors. Why not add them right in the bread pudding itself? I think I'll try that next time.

*********

Liberty Bar, San Antonio, TX, Sunday, February 26, 2012

The story goes on at Liberty Bar in San Antonio, with Linda and a friend. With my new diet, there isn't much that I can find on most menus. I had a beet salad and then lo and behold, they had bread pudding with hard sauce. Weakling that I am, I ordered it, with help eating from Linda and our friend Ann. It was decent, had raisins, good sauce. I'm sure it had whole eggs, and milk, or even cream. And sugar in the hard sauce. I have to put bread pudding out of mind now.

Robert Tries Again

Except for my own. So I made another batch. I followed on the recipe that I made the other day. This is so easy, it takes about 10 minutes to make. We had some old bread from Great Harvest Bread Company, that had whole grains and nuts and seeds in it. I used that. I cut the bread into cubes and put it in a large mixing bowl. Then I poured Rice Milk until I could see the milk at the top of the bread. No measuring. I poured some egg whites in, maybe calf a cup or so, and a splash of vanilla. So, I decided to put some of that great all fruit jam from St. Dalfour into the pudding. I scooped out about half the jar of Red Raspberry Pomegranate. It's a small jar. I threw in some raisins. Once again, the mix was very soupy. Into a prepared pan and into the oven at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. It wasn't quite set, so I turned off the oven and left it in there.

The results were excellent -- oft and custardy yet with body,. Not sweet. But there was a problem. The seeds from the bread, or maybe from the Red Raspberry jam, kept getting stuck in my teeth. Irritating. Again, I spread a little of the jam on the top of the bread pudding, giving it color and adding a little sweetness. The jam that I had put into the pudding was not apparent, in either taste or color. It didn't show up as, say, fruit would have. A second time I ate it I put maple syrup on it. The third time, a different flavor of jam. The fourth time . . . well, you get the idea. The pudding had no fat, no cholesterol, no sugar (except for the fructose in the fruit), no dairy. I surely won't be able to find anything like this at a restaurant, so I'll just stay home. So there!

**********

Nambawan Cafe Bar Pizza Internet, Port Vila, Vanuatu, April 19, 2012

Turquoise. That's the color one finds the water in tropical climates. It's common in the Caribbean. And also here, in the South Pacific. Dozens of rattletrap minivans transported curious cruisers from the Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship five bumpy kilometers into town. The temperature is in the 80's, and the humidity the same. Sweat was showing through my blue T-shirt by the time we walked the few blocks to the above named establishment. Across the water, past the small pontoon platform with the helicopter perched on it, is Iririki Island, with small rental thatched huts lined along the water.

Internet access is free here at Nambawan, with a purchase. I ordered a large banana pineapple melon juice drink. Our iPad wouldn't connect until the proprietor rebooted the router. Then it worked. Beside the order counter, I discovered a display of pastries. To the far left, on the top shelf, beside the coconut cake, was "bread and butter pudding," the British name for bread pudding. Go figure. Even though it certainly contains white flour, milk, and whole eggs -- all now forbidden -- I made an exception and ordered one portion. It turned out to be quite decent. Cut in a square and served with one scoop of (also forbidden) vanilla ice cream, the raisins were visible on the top,likely distributed there after the mix was poured into the baking pan. The texture was firm but not dry. In fact, the moistness was visible throughout the striated body of the pudding. How that was done, I'm not sure. Not too sweet, it had the classical taste of bread pudding. What a pleasant surprise, especially since this e-zine gave me an excuse to break my new diet and try it. (Incidentally, I have lost 17 pounds since going vegan, having weighed in at 171 pounds at the fitness center onboard the ship yesterday. I'm a smaller person than I used to be.)

The name of the cafe seems to resemble the English phrase, "Number One." That's no coincidence. It is Bislama, one of the three official languages of Vanuatu (the other two being English and French, thanks to the pre-1980 rule of those countries during their colonial period when this area was called New Hebrides). It incorporates pidgin English. For example, "I want" is spoken and spelled as "mi wanem." The phrase "I don't know" is "mi no savee." To ask where someone is from is to ask "You belong where?" spoken and written as: "yu blong wea?" It reminds me of the way I speak French.

I don't see how this account of bread pudding can go on, but I never would have predicted this. Curiously, back home in San Antonio, it is only Wednesday, April 18. I'm on the other side of the International Dateline.As the cruise continues, we are going to have two April 23rds, to make up for the day we lost flying down under. Thus, our 17 day cruise from Sydney to Honolulu will actually be 18 days.

Rhapsody of the Seas, South Pacific Ocean, April 23, 2012

Our cruise ship stops twice in Samoa, once in the independent part, and then in Pago Pago, in American Samoa, a US territory. We left Apia just as the sun was setting. The two local pilots guided the ship through the treacherous shoals and reefs into open water. Then a large tug boat pulled up next to the ship, matched its speed, got good and close, at which time the two pilots jumped across the gap from the cargo door of the cruise ship onto the tug. Those of us watching this act or daring doo from Deck 5 above cheered and hooted loudly. The pilots were dressed in their dress uniforms. Only two or three cruise ships a month come into the port. The pilots looked up and waved and called out, "Come back again." Then the tug turned and headed back towards shore. Usually the pilot's boat is small and maneuverable, not a whole big tugboat.

Just prior to departure, Linda and I had rushed our dinner on Deck 9 in the Windjammer Cafe so as to see the locals due a traditional fire dance on the pier. Sure enough, two men in native costume (which is to say, not much costume), we twirling and throwing and otherwise dancing with batons that had huge fireballs burning at each end.Very dramatic. It's amazing they don't burn themselves, especially when "eating" the fire, as they did once or twice. The smoke smelled like kerosene, so it certainly couldn't taste very good.

As we were rushing out of the dining room we noticed a covered chafing dish in the dessert aisle, labeled "bread pudding.". We threw a spoonfuls into a bowl and gobbled them down, promising to return later for a larger helping. When we did, later in the evening between dancing venues, it was all gone. No seconds. So my tasting was done quickly. Linda felt that it was undercooked. I don't think so. I think it was just slightly separated. Around the edges, it looked a little breadier. Where we took it, from the middle, it was almost all custard.

My bias has been clearly stated. I like custardiness. This bread pudding had raisins and a classic vanilla flavor. There was available a Catalan Cream sauce, but I didn't have any. So was this the perfect bread pudding? No. I'll have to admit that the imbalance toward custardiness was too extreme. It no longer tasted like bread pudding, just pudding. It does have to have some bread in it to merit its name. I think some bread crumbs were ground up and incorporated into the custard, which is a technique that I like. Alas, I wasn't able to test several samples, try the Catalan Cream, or otherwise conduct a full test. Hopefully I will get another chance some time during the cruise.

Rhapsody of the Seas, South Pacific Ocean, April 27, 2012

Wouldn't you know, they served bread pudding again. This time I took a bigger portion and ate it leisurely. It was completely different. It had chocolate in it, which isn't my favorite. I consider chocolate to be a cheap trick to please people. Put chocolate in it and they'll like it. Nevertheless, everything else was very good. Again,the crumbs were ground up and added to the custard to make a uniform consistency. It was soft but not too soft, as above. It was sweet, but not too sweet. We both agreed that we could have easily eaten another big bowl. In fact, Linda did get a little more, and I had a few more bites of it. It was made is a large scale, in one of those steam trays put into a buffet heated dish with the sliding curved cover over it. We have been two weeks at sea, now. We love every minute of it.

Texas Two Step, San Antonio, TX, June7, 2012

When the bread pudding came to the table, I was puzzled. It looked like a big piece of Texas toast, which is to say, a thick piece of bread with a thick crust around it. Did they just soak a piece of bread in custard mixture, whole? Then I looked closer, and could see divisions within the pudding (interspersed with custard), representing the usual torn pieces of bread. So how did the crust get around the perimeter? The pudding was served with a sweet butter mixture and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Although very bready in appearance, the taste, when dipped in the sauce, was excellent. It seemed to have some apple in it, and maybe a little cinnamon, I asked the waitress if this was a slice from a larger piece. "Oh yes," she exclaimed." It's this long . . . " and she held her hands about three feet apart. "It's a big long thing." I had already eaten part of the pudding, so my observation was not complete, but my guess is that the crust was not all the way around, like bread, but on three sides, where it rested inside the pan. But why was it bready and crusty? And how did they then remove it from the pan to keep the integrity and the crust intact? Hm-m-m-m-m. This is a puzzler. So, it's called bread pudding and looks like a piece of bread, but tastes like pudding. Very clever. Because I'm off of dairy products, I gave Linda the ice cream. I did take a few dips in the butter sauce, but not much. Really. Oh, I guess the custard had dairy in it, too. And eggs. Oh, well. We used Linda's pathetic little phone for the photo. Sorry about that.

 

Ceres Restaurant, Beechwood Hotel, Worcester, MA, June 21, 2012

We have eaten at this restaurant several times. Nicely upscale but not too pricey, the food is given careful attention. So, my expectations were high for the bread pudding created by Andrew, one of the chefs. It normally comes with blueberry coulis, but instead, I had them add a scoop of vanilla bean bourbon gelato. Because bread pudding is now generally an exception to my vegan diet (since the custard has both dairy and eggs), I hope that my naughty departure is worthwhile. Alas, here I was disappointed. With apples and blueberries, the bread pudding is much more cakey than I like. Mind you, there may be others who like a good piece of cake, who would enjoy this. The taste was quite good. But the texture was way off. At least it was relatively small.

 

A NEW GOLDMINE OF IDEAS!

Oh my goodness, my brother David sent me links to the New York Times health section, which had run several bread pudding recipes. Those led to even more links, and, most importantly, NEW IDEAS. And we thought we had covered it all. Ha! Never! There is no need to include complete recipes now. The process of making a custard and baking in the oven is pretty clear. So, I will just share more ideas of possibilities and ingredients.

Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding
The New York Times article was by Tara Parker-Pope. If you go to their website and search under bread pudding, you will find numerous entries. Parker-Pope credits several chefs with the recipes, including Chloe Coscarelli's Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding. The secret ingredient is coconut milk. It may be non-dairy but not low fat. That's why it tastes so good. The pumpkin comes from a can plus semi-sweet chocolate chips. The spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Savory Bread Pudding With Swiss Chard and Red Pepper
I haven't made many savory bread puddings, but I would like to. Here is an idea from Martha Rose Shulman, author of The Very Best of Recipes for Health. Sounds like a book worth investigating. Here are the main points regarding her recipe. Using stale baguette, rub the pieces of bread with garlic in addition to mincing some. Steam the chard in advance, cool, squeeze out water. Dice a red bell pepper, saute with the garlic and onion. add fresh rosemary. For cheese, use Gruyere and Parmesan Before combining the ingredients, she uses an immersion blender to turn the bread and milk into a consistent mush. Combine everything except the eggs, put in a baking dish. Then beat some eggs with a little milk and pour over the top. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Dinner's ready.

Egg Beaters Recipe - Slow Cooker
The New York Times website had a link to recipes on the Egg Beaters website, www.eggbeaters.com. Since I try to avoid fat and don't use whole eggs, this was of interest to me. Of course, Egg Beaters still have egg in them. The point is to lower cholesterol, not avoid eggs. In all of the recipes they use PAM Original No-Stick Cooking Spray, to reduce the amount of oil. Use fat-free milk and Egg Beaters to complete the recipe. One interesting twist is to spray your slow cooker with PAM and cook the whole thing on a low setting for two and three-quarters hours.

Five-Minute Bread Pudding
Bread pudding can be made pretty quickly, but here is an idea for an individual serving made in the microwave. Here is the actual recipe:

PAM® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
2 slices cinnamon raisin bread, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup Egg Beaters® Original
1/4 cup fat free milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Reddi-wip® Original Dairy Whipped Topping
Spray inside of large microwave-safe mug with cooking spray. Place bread in mug; add Egg Beaters, milk, sugar and vanilla to mug; mix well. Microwave on HIGH 1 minute. Stir; microwave 30 seconds more or until set. Top with Reddi-wip just before serving.

I'm not sure how you mix well something in a cup. Maybe I'll try this. Hold on . . . . OK, I'm back. Here's what I did:

No PAM
1 slice of bread (two seemed excessive for one cupful of pudding)
One half of a yogurt container of egg whites (maybe 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
One half of the same container of rice milk
Squirt of Agave Nectar
Dash of vanilla

I forgot to put in raisins! Can you imagine? They were right there on the counter. I was distracted by the above recipe. I didn't think you can mix anything in a cup, so I cut the bread into tiny squares and them into a cereal bowl, along with the other ingredients. Part of the deal is not to wait for soaking time. So, I poured the mixture into a cup and put it in the microwave. One minute. Stir. 30 seconds. Stir. 10 seconds. Looking in the window of the microwave I could see the level of the bread pudding rising, soon to spill over the top. That's when I stopped the microwave to stir. My total time, piddling around, was still only five or six minutes. The taste was good, the consistency soft. I could see making up a whole recipe when guests are over for breakfast, fill individual ramekins, and then microwave them. However, the best bet is a single serving. Easy. Quick. It's basically French toast in a cup. It would probably be good with maple syrup on top. Tomorrow I think I will add some of these fresh cherries. And what about using the non-fat chocolate milk that I have for drinking after my workouts. Think I'll give that a try, also. Forgetting the PAM was a problem. The bread pudding was well stuck onto the cup and took some scrubbing to remove. If not PAM, maybe something else. Butter?

Here is another one from the Egg Beaters site, which has many other interesting recipes besides bread pudding.

Greek Islands Pita Bread Pudding

1 medium orange
1-1/2 cups light soy milk or evaporated skim milk
1-1/2 cups low fat (1%) milk
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
5 tablespoons honey, divided
3 whole wheat pita breads
10 tablespoons dried currants, divided
PAM® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
1-1/2 cups Egg Beaters® Original (1-1/2 cups = 12 oz)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

. . . Peel orange being careful not to break segments. Pull or trim away excess pith from peel; discard pith. Cover orange sections; set aside. Place peel in medium saucepan. Add soy milk, low-fat milk, rosemary and 3 tablespoons of the honey; cook over medium heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
. . . Spray 2-1/2 quart deep, round baking dish with cooking spray while heating milk. Cut the edge of each pita about two inches, then fill each with 3 tablespoons of the currants. Stack pitas on top of each other; cut the stack into 6 wedges. Arrange the stacked wedges in a circle around baking dish. If any currants fall out, add to dish.
. . . Strain milk mixture into separate medium bowl; discard rosemary and orange peel. Whisk Egg Beaters, vanilla and cinnamon into milk mixture until blended. Pour over pita wedges. Let stand 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut reserved orange into sections by cutting between membrane; cover and refrigerate.
. . . Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle almonds over dish, then drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of the honey. Bake 45 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
. . . Serve each stacked wedge warm or at room temperature topped with the remaining honey and remaining currants. Place a few orange sections to the side.

This seems to be very involved. I would try to find a way to simplify. I had never thought about pita bread. Go figure.

Cinnamon Raisin Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Another recipe from Egg Beaters. Make it the usual way. Use a can of pumpkin and for bread, cinnamon raisin bread. It has a whole cup of brown sugar. Too sweet for me, but the ingredients sound interesting.

Squash and Feta Savory Bread Pudding

Now, back to Martha Rose Shulman who "presents food that is vibrant and light, full of nutrients but by no means ascetic, fun to cook and eat." Well, it's hard to beat that. I hope she's OK with my exposing her bread pudding recipe in return for this exposure to her work and book.

4 ounces whole-wheat bread or baguette, crusts removed
(weigh after removing crusts)
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk (1 percent or 2 percent)
1 1/2 pounds mixed green and yellow summer squash, grated
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small or 1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
4 eggs
2 ounces feta, crumbled (1/2 cup)
1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)
 
1. Slice the bread about 3/4 inch thick. If the bread is not stale, toast it lightly. Cut 1 of the garlic cloves in half and rub each slice of bread with the cut side of the garlic. Then cut the bread into 1-inch dice, place in a bowl and toss with 1 cup of the milk. Refrigerate for 1 hour, tossing every once in a while. Mince the remaining garlic and set aside.
2. While the bread is soaking, place the grated squash in a colander and salt generously. Toss and let sit in the colander in the sink for 15 minutes, then squeeze out water.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or a 10-inch ceramic tart pan. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes, and add a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and grated squash. Stir together until the garlic is fragrant and the squash limp, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped mint or dill and the parsley, and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Remove the bowl with the soaked bread from the refrigerator. Using your  hands, a whisk or an immersion blender, mash or beat the soaked bread so that the mixture turns to mush. Add the squash mixture and the feta to the bowl and stir together. Scrape into the oiled baking dish. Top with the grated Parmesan.
5. Break the eggs into the bowl and beat with the remaining milk, salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon) and freshly ground pepper.  Pour over the bread mixture and place the dish in the oven. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until the mixture is puffed, golden brown on the top and set. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes or longer before serving.

Savory Whole Wheat Bread Pudding With Seared Tomatoes and Mushrooms

Sound like Martha Rose Shulman again? That's right.

4 ounces whole-wheat bread, crusts removed
(weigh after removing crusts)
2 garlic cloves
1 3/4 cups low-fat milk (1 percent or 2 percent)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons dry white wine (optional)
1 pound roma tomatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 eggs
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)
1. Slice the bread 3/4 inch thick if using a whole loaf. If the bread is not stale, toast it lightly. Cut 1 of the garlic cloves in half and rub each slice of bread with the cut side of the garlic. Then cut the bread into 1-inch dice, place in a bowl and toss with 1 cup of the milk. Refrigerate for 1 hour, tossing every once in a while. Chop the remaining garlic and set aside.
2. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or a 10-inch ceramic tart pan. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet. When it is hot, add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until they have seared and begun to soften, about 2 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and thyme. Stir together until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms are tender, 1 to 2 minutes, and add the wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine is no longer visible in the pan, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
3. Remove the bowl with the soaked bread from the refrigerator. Using a wooden spoon, a whisk or an immersion blender, mash or beat the soaked bread so that the mixture turns to mush. Add the mushrooms to the bowl and mix together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scrape into the oiled baking dish.
4. Heat the skillet that the mushrooms were cooked in over high heat, and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. Using tongs, remove the tomato slices from the bowl and arrange in the hot pan. Sear on each side for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and arrange in a layer on top of the bread mixture in the baking dish. Season with pepper and sprinkle with rosemary. Top with the grated cheese.
5. Beat together the eggs with the remaining milk, salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon), and freshly ground pepper. Pour over the tomato and bread mixture and place in the oven. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until the mixture is puffed, golden brown on the top and set. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes or longer before serving.

How to Make a Recipe

Look at the last two recipes and note the similarities. Of course, if it's bread pudding, it must have certain similarities. These each have:
4 ounces whole-wheat bread or baguette, crusts removed (weigh after removing crusts)
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cups low-fat milk
2 ounces of some kind of cheese
1 ounce of parmesan cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
The remaining ingredients differ according to what kind of savory bread pudding you are making. Below are the savory ingredients from the above two recipes, to compare. Needless to say, you can change these and add some other kind of savory ingredient.

1 1/2 pounds mixed green and yellow summer squash, grated
1 small or 1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons dry white wine (optional)
1 pound roma tomatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Cherry Bread Pudding

I hope I'm not over doing Martha Rose Shulman. She tells about French baker Jacquy Pfeiffer, who has a pastry school in Chicago. He makes something called a bettelmann, a traditional Alsatian dish made with day-old brioche. She toned down his recipe so it wouldn't be so rich.

4 ounces stale white or whole-wheat bread, crusts removed (weigh after removing crusts)
1 cup low-fat milk (2 percent)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Softened butter for the baking dish
3 eggs, separated
50 grams (1/2 cup) almond flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kirsch (optional)
2 tablespoons mild honey, like clover
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 pound cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1. Cut the bread into 3/4-inch squares. Combine the milk and vanilla and toss with the bread in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch ceramic tart pan or 2-quart baking dish. Arrange the pitted cherries in the dish.
3. Remove the soaked bread from the refrigerator and beat with a whisk or an immersion blender until it becomes a mush. Beat in the egg yolks, almond flour, cinnamon, kirsch if using, and honey.
4. In a clean, dry bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, begin beating the egg whites on low speed. Gradually add the sugar, turn up the speed to high and whip until the egg whites form a soft meringue, about 1 minute. Be careful not to over beat, as you do not want the mixture to dry out. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the bread mixture. Scrape into the baking dish. Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top.
5. Bake 40 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

Refrigerating the milk and eggs for two hours is rather lengthy. Again, rather than having identifiable chunks of bread, the bread and milk are whipped into mush. I generally like that move, as it usually makes the final product more custardy. Adding flour as a thickener is also unusual. Why not just adjust the amount of liquid? Remember my bread pudding is very liquid, all of which sets into custard. Using egg whites to lighten the dish counters the extra heft of whole wheat bread.

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Bettelmann

Well, what is a bettelmann then? At cooks.com I found the following recipe:

10 slices day old pumpernickel or rye bread, cubed
1 to 1 1/2 c. apple cider
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. sugar
2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 c. raisins
2 tbsp. butter
Mix bread cubes with enough cider to moisten and soften. Combine cinnamon and sugar. Alternate layers of bread, apple slices, cinnamon, sugar and raisins in a 2-quart buttered casserole. End with a top layer of bread cubes. Dot top with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla and ice cream.
Rye, pumpernickel and even white bread are often used in such hearty German desserts.

With no milk or milk substitute, this isn't really a custard base. Ending with a layer of bread on top, I'm going to guess, makes this a bit bready in presentation. The layer approach makes me think of desserts in which you layer slices of bread and berry compote, with no cooking -- just let it sit and absorb the juices, softening the bread. While made with bread, such a dessert isn't really a bread pudding, just soaked bread.

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Summer Pudding

This is a recipe for soaked bread. The bread should be a good firm white bread, not Bunny Bread. Remove crusts. Choose two pounds of your favorite berry, wash, trim as needed, dice if it is a large (i.e. quarter strawberries). Add a cup of sugar and water, the ratio being according to your desired sweetness and the type of fruit. In a saucepan, cook the fruit and water until the fruit is soft but not mushy. It should retain its shape.

To combine the bread and fruit compote you can take several approaches. One is to line the bottom and sides of a suitable dish with bread (easiest if it is rectangular - such as a loaf pan), pour the fruit into the dish, then add bread on top. Find something flat that will just fit into the pan (such as a slightly smaller loaf pan). Put it on the top and add something for weight, such as a bag of beans or a can of something. Refrigerate overnight. The bread and fruit will become one.

The fruit colors the bread which, in the case of blueberries, can be quite dramatic. Essentially, the bread just becomes the thickener for the fruit. After making it once, you can adjust how much liquid you feel is necessary. Another way to make it is to simply stack slices of bread, pouring compote between them. Too much bread will; not get a good result. If yu stack the bread, you need lots of compote. Press over night. Bread should be the first layer on top and on the bottom. In the heat of summer, there is no need to turn on the oven. (Of course, the microwave bread pudding recipe doesn't require baking, either.)

Emeril's Summer Pudding

I'm not going to take this very far, really. Just one more variation, coming from Emeril Lagasse. Heating the fruit, he adds 1/2 to one cup sugar but no water. I would think you want as much liquid as possible. Add two tablespoons ruby port or brandy. Yeah, jazz up the dessert a bit. Emeril uses a round bowl lined with plastic wrap. Arrange with breadon bottom and sides, add fruit, cover with bread, press for at least eight hours in refrigerator. Being a round bowl, it should be easy to find a plate just the right size for the pressing.When it is time to serve, put a plate over the top of the bowl, top side toward the bowl. Inverse both bowels and shake lightly to free up the dessert. It should plop down onto the plate. Remove bowl and plastic wrap. You should have a dome-shaped dessert. He retains a little of the compote to put over the top, and serves it cold with whipped cream.

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