Raise your hand if you’ve ever found yourself stuck with a stale loaf of bread and a craving for dessert! Yep, us too. This leftover bread pudding is the solution.
A Short History of Leftover Bread Pudding
Apparently our need to use up stale bread is very, very old. Culinary Historians can trace leftover bread pudding’s origins to the 11th century, when food was scarce and stale bread was WAY too hard to chew. Imagine, if you will, what it might have been like to perform the feat of chomping through stale bread without modern dentistry and, thus, without teeth! Leftover bread pudding was invented to circumvent these two issues, in an era well before worrying about food waste was cool.
Back in the Middle Ages, however, bread pudding was far less luxurious than it is today. There was no delicious creamy custard sauce surrounding the stale bread hunks (see our previous discussions of how a custard bath can make just about anything delicious). Medieval cooks simply poured hot water over the bread, and mixed it with honey and spices and told their families to be glad they were getting something to eat. We’re happy that we’ve evolved in so many ways since then. It’s nice to have teeth, and it’s nice to have our bread pudding emerge in sweet, creamy, buttery form. As if this bread pudding wasn’t decadent enough, we prefer it studded with dark chocolate, drizzled with caramel sauce, and with whipped cream on the side. Yep, welcome to the 21st century. Aren’t you glad you live here?
A Note About Bread
This leftover bread pudding recipe can really handle just about any old type of bread, but really sings if you happen to have gone to Costco, gotten overly excited about the enormous trays of croissants, and find yourself with a surfeit of croissants that have passed their prime. If you don’t have day-old bread lying around, you can cut up fresh bread, throw the bread pieces on a baking sheet, and toast it in the oven at 350 F for 5-10 minutes until it dries out a bit. This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but helps the fresh bread absorb a bit more of the custard. If you have little bits of leftover stale bread, you can cut them into 1-inch pieces, and accumulate them in the freezer (we like to store them in a freezer bag), until you have enough to make a homemade bread pudding.
- Yield: one 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf or one 8 x 8 inch cake, serving 8-10.
- Active Time: 15 minutes
- Bake Time: 35-45 minutes
For the Leftover Bread Pudding
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream, half and half, or whole milk (depending on the desired level of decadence)
- 6 cups of bread (croissants, challah, french bread, regular white bread, cinnamon raisin bread, or even hot dog buns), cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate or raisins, roughly chopped (optional)
For the Caramel Bread Pudding Sauce
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
Make the Leftover Bread Pudding
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and line an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan or an 8 x 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.
- Whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt until well combined.
- Add in heavy cream (or half and half or milk, whichever you are using), then whisk until smooth.
- Place 1/3 of the bread cubes in an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half the chopped chocolate.
- Add another 1/3 of bread cubes, followed by the remaining chopped chocolate.
- Add the final 1/3 of bread cubes.
- Pour the custard mixture over the cubes of bread. Mash down with your fingers to be sure that each cube of bread has absorbed the egg custard sauce.
- Let the bread mixture soak in the custard sauce for 8-10 minutes.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25-35 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes until top is brown. The bread pudding is done when the center of the pudding is set, but still soft.
Make the Caramel Bread Pudding Sauce
- Melt butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.
- When the sugar is fully dissolved, remove from heat and add the heavy cream, salt, and vanilla. Stir to combine. The caramel sauce can be made 2 days ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.
- Cut an individual slice of the leftover bread pudding.
- For best results, garnish with whipped cream and drizzle with warm sauce.
- Consider whether you’re feeling really piggish and need to also top with some vanilla ice cream. We didn’t say do it, just consider it!
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