A sudden heat wave here in New York has rendered this post somewhat temporarily useless…none of us are turning our ovens on if we don’t have to. But, if you live somewhere where it’s mercifully less hot than it is here in this sweltering metropolis, by all means, get to baking. Summer berry season is in full swing, with stone fruits like peaches and cherries arriving in droves too. (This gadget helps indulge my cherry obsession.) I love showcasing perfectly ripe fruit by pairing it with a simple yet rich and buttery side-kick. Of course, almond cake is always a marvelous option. Or pound cake or shortcakes. But last week, I was in a brioche mood, and with a fridge full of lovely berries, a yummy, custardy bread pudding seemed just the thing.
Yes, it means turning your oven on in the summer…but only up to 325°ish. And good bread pudding is so darn versatile—it’s good hot, it’s good cold. Slice up the leftovers, and fry them a bit in butter for the best French toast ever. Drizzle your bread pudding with some hot chocolate sauce and sprinkle it with toasted chopped nuts. It’s the perfect thing for a weekend-rental-get-out-of-the-city-I-don’t-care-where-or-if-it’s-got-a-decent-kitchen sort of dessert. I’ve provided a recipe below, but it’s really something you could pretty much eye-ball, using a coffee cup if that’s all your charming country bungalow has to offer.
You basically want a minimum of two eggs for every cup of milk, and to have enough custard to cover the bread by about a quarter-inch. I’m always down to flavor desserts with booze, but the rum here is optional. The honey is a flavorful sweetener, and the cardamom gives the whole affair a touch of musky mystery, but cinnamon would work too, or any other baking spice you might be into or have on hand in your homey sea-side shack filled with ocean breezes. (Can you tell I need to get out of town?)
While everyone started tucking into their summer feast of grilled goodness and veggie bounty, you, in your airy linen dress, popped the bread pudding in the oven so it would be ready by the end of dinner. Twilight beckons, as do the crickets and fireflies (there are no mosquitos in my fantasy,) and you repair to your much-deserved seat on the coveted porch swing, a plate of rich bread pudding on your lap. A girl can dream...
In the meantime, there's bread pudding here in the city, too.
7 ounces of brioche or other tender, soft bread
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Pre-heat oven to 325° F. Slice bread into 1-inch cubes. Place bread cubes in a 9-inch loaf pan.
2. In a blender, combine whole milk, eggs, honey, rum, vanilla, cardamom, and salt and puree to combine. Or if you're at a country house, just whisk or use a fork to mix all these ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Pour custard over brioche cubes.
4. Place loaf pan on a sheet tray (in case of spill-over) and then place in oven, baking for about 50 minutes, until custard is mostly set (it should still be a bit soft in the center). Allow to cool before slicing if you want nice slices, or eat it warm by serving with a spoon.
5. Serve with fresh fruit and powdered sugar. Or whatever else you like.