Lately I’ve been playing a lot of mind games with myself:
The laundry/kitchen/bathroom is half clean, not half dirty.
It’s not a six-month-old color job here on my head, it’s Unintentional Ombre.
My belly button is getting higher! (As opposed to other things getting, er, lower.)
You see where I’m going, here? It’s so Zen, right? I think I’m going to stay on this Thought Train as long as it keeps working for me. And since the latest affirmation is “Bread pudding isn’t dessert, it’s breakfast!”, I’d say you’re gonna want to go on ahead and get on board.
Armed with a gorgeous loaf of challah (Holla!!!–sorry, I’m not sorry) and an enormous, on-super-sale thing of fresh blueberries, breakfast bread pudding was on my brain this past weekend. Actually, bread pudding is often on my brain–I’m a huge fan of it in general terms, just because it’s so dang versatile. My favorite ratio is a 1-pound loaf of bread, 6 large eggs, and about 3 cups liquid dairy (lowfat or whole milk, half-and-half, or cream). Once you’ve got those in your hot little hands, anything can happen. Anything, I tell you!
You can make it sweet and very dessert-like, changing up the bread, using sweeteners of all sorts (I used maple syrup instead of sugar for this most recent one, and zow!) and dialing the sweetness up or down to suit your tastes. Make it as rich or light as you like, by playing with the proportion of cream in that 3 cups of dairy. Throw in seasonal fruit of all sorts or (hello!) chocolate. Serve it warm with a melting scoop of ice cream or whipped cream and die a slow, sweet, wonderful death by bread pudding. Not too shabby.
Or! You can go savory with your bread pudding and have the most fantastic throw-together dinner ever. This is a go-to around these parts, as a side dish or a main event. As long as you’ve got that bread, eggs, and dairy situation covered, you can get savory-style craaaaazy. Spices! Diced meats! Odd ends of cheeses! Vegetables just about to plotz on you! It all can go into the mix. And if you omit the meat altogether, you’ve got a really, really good vegetarian menu option. I told you about a heavenly wild mushroom and thyme version before, and I whipped up a kid-friendly riff (on video!) for the good folks at Kin Eats a while back. (And on a not-kid-friendly note, savory bread pudding has got to be one of the best eat-while-drinking-lots-of-wine foods there is. Trust me, I am an expert on such Important Life Things.)
But this here combo of rich, eggy challah, totally perfect blueberries, and hits of maple and vanilla made our weekend breakfast mighty fine over here. It was unexpectedly awesome–reminiscent of blueberry muffins, pancakes, and french toast, all at the same time. Repeat after me: it’s not dessert, it’s breakfast.
Blueberry-Maple Breakfast Bread Pudding
Serves 6 to 8
I used the Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding recipe from Pure Vanilla as my baseline here. To start, I used a whole 1-pound loaf of challah instead of an artisan white bread with a thicker crust. I swapped out the sugar for pure maple syrup, and reduced the milk accordingly to make up for the liquid sweetener. (Tip: To substitute maple syrup for white sugar, use about 1/3 less maple syrup than sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by about 2 tablespoons for every 1/4 syrup you swap in.) I used Grade A maple syrup for a hint of maple flavor, but I’d recommend a darker Grade B maple syrup to bump up the maple flavor even more.
I love this recipe as-is, but I think it would also be awesome to add in a little citrus–a little lemon or orange zest would be divine.
1 1-pound loaf challah or brioche, crust and all, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 large eggs
2 3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 375°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Place the bread chunks in a large bowl.
In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt until well-blended. (Alternatively, I like to throw all of these ingredients into a blender to get a supersmooth custard in short order.)
Pour the custard over the bread chunks and stir gently to coat. Gently fold in three-quarters of the blueberries. Let soak for 5 to 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining berries.
Bake uncovered until puffed and golden, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.
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