How often do you buy bread and not get a chance to use it before it goes stale? I don’t know about you, but this happens to me all the time. That doesn’t mean I toss the bread out, though. Stale bread has all kinds of good uses – like bread crumbs, croutons, and my favorite – bread pudding.
At the restaurant I worked back in Connecticut, bread pudding was on the dessert menu every day, and the variety was always changing. It’s an economical dish using household staples of bread, milk, and eggs. And its flavored with almost anything. Chocolate, raisins, nuts, dried or fresh fruit are all options. Really, anything goes with bread pudding. Even the type of bread doesn’t particularly matter. Chances are, you could make this right now with what you already have.
When done right, bread pudding should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That’s why stale bread is key but not absolutely vital. If your bread is not stale, you could leave it out on the counter for a good 24 hours. But if you don’t feel like waiting, a slight toasting in the oven will do the job. The bread needs this degree of crunch; otherwise, you’ll be serving mush pudding.
I find that the amount of liquid needed can vary depending on the degree of staleness of the bread and the type of bread used. Some absorb a ton of liquid and others do not. That’s why I say to use a bit more half and half than you might actually need. If you have leftover, keep it cold and pour over the warm bread pudding when ready to eat. You could use all milk or all cream or a non-dairy option just as well.
Vanilla Chai Bread Pudding
- 1 loaf of your favorite bread (about 6-7 cups) stale is great but not completely necessary
- butter, for greasing
- 5 cups half and half
- 4 tablespoons quality chai tea
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Slice or tear up the bread into large chunks. If not already stale, spread the bread out on a baking sheet and place in the preheating oven for a few minutes until slightly toasted.
- Meanwhile, combine the half and half with the chai tea in a small pot. Bring to a gentle boil on the stove and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- While the tea simmers, grease a 9x13x2″ baking dish with butter.
- When ready, strain out the tea leaves and stir in the honey, salt, and vanilla. Cool for about 5 minutes, then reserve one cup for now.
- In a bowl, beat the eggs until whites and yolks are well combined. Add to the half and half and pour the mixture over the bread. Toss the bread together with the almonds and raisins to coat the bread well in the egg-milk mixture. The bread should be well saturated. If not, add in some of the reserved cup of half and half. Top with a few of the almonds.
- Place the bread pudding in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check on it about halfway through. If it looks like it is too dried out, add some of the remaining half and half and continue baking.
- When done, serve warm, with any of the cold half and half drizzled over the top.