Butterscotch Bread Pudding

11 10 2009


My grandmother taught me how to ride a bike. I was about 6 years old, and I had a Strawberry Shortcake bike with a giant banana seat and streamers dangling from the handlebars. It originally had training wheels, but my grandfather removed them shortly after I got it. My grandmother spent what seemed like hours running up and down the alley behind her house, holding the back of the seat of the bike while I pedaled, helping me balance. Eventually, she let go.

That was a life-changing moment for me. Being able to ride a bike made everything different. When I was a kid, it was a way to get a little freedom and to have some fun. When I was in middle and high school, it was a way to get exercise and to keep my head screwed on straight. When I got older, I spent 8 years as a bike messenger, so it was my livelihood and it also ended up being how I met my husband. Now it’s my main form of transportation, of exercise, of fun, and a great excuse to never, ever have to do my hair.


But back to my grandma. In addition to the bike thing, she was also a pretty great cook and wielded a lot of influence over how I eat. She turned me onto rice pilaf when I was, like, 8. She taught me how amazing mandarin oranges are. She never made me eat mashed potatoes when I went through my “I can’t eat anything mushy” phase.

Maybe it was because she was born and raised in Ireland, but her meals were often a little… different than traditional American meals. For instance, her idea of a proper Thanksgiving dessert wasn’t pumpkin pie. No, it was a trifle. Were we the only family in the US eating a layered concoction of lady fingers, whipped cream (always from scratch, never from a can), fruit, and various other bits and bobs? Let’s just say my friends didn’t seem to be eating trifles for their holiday desserts.

Bread pudding has always sort of been lumped into the same dessert category as trifles in my brain. Something they eat in British mysteries (“Inspector Wickett finished his Stilton and then asked Rutherford for a helping of bread pudding!”). So when I decided to make this dessert, I had my grandma in my mind the whole time. It seemed like it would be a quick dessert, an easy way to use up a couple slices of *ahem* aging bread, and a nice way to round out an autumn day of mountain biking. The recipe (from Small-Batch Baking, of course!) didn’t disappoint. It WAS easy! It was pretty quick. The pudding wasn’t too eggy, and the bread firmed up nicely after baking (I hate the idea of soggy bread.). Oh, and it was also a fun way to christen my new oblong ramekins I got at the thrift store yesterday!

I think the flavor was pretty good. Because it’s made with brown sugar, it definitely had a heady butterscotch note. The one thing I did NOT do, which would have truly made these massively butterscotchy, was to make the actual butterscotch sauce for it that the original recipe calls for. I KNOW! But all of my butterscotch/caramel-making endeavors end in sheer disaster. Ruined pots, second-degree burns, wasted sugar, acrid smells that really hang around. Ugh. If I had really been motivated, I would have bought a little jar of butterscotch or caramel sauce to pour over the finished product. Well, the final product was probably less stomach-ache-inducing this way, right? With or without the sauce, this would have been a perfect dessert at my grandma’s house.

Butterscotch Bread Pudding (from Small-Batch Baking)

Makes 2 individual servings

3/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light; it worked great)

1 T unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

1 large egg

White of one large egg

1 t vanilla

2 cups day-old bread, torn into 1/2 inch cubes (“hearth baked” bread is recommended, but I just used regular ole whole wheat)

Grease two 1-cup ramekins or custard cups (I used the aforementioned oblong ramekins)

Preheat oven to 350

Combine brown sugar, 1/2 and 1/2, butter, and salt in a small saucepan. heat over medium-high heat until the sugar and butter are melted (about 5 minutes). Stir often! Remove the pan from heat.

Beat egg and egg white in a medium bowl with a whisk or fork. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the eggs and whisk, whisk whisk. Add the vanilla, and whisk some more, until everything is very well combined. Now add the bread to the mixture, press and smoosh it down so that the bread is submerged. Let the bread soak for a while (5 minutes worked for me, but increase it to 10 if your bread is really hard) until it’s saturated.

Divide the bread mixture into the ramekins. Bake until they are browned and puffy, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool.


Now, here’s where Debby Maugans Nakos and I diverge a little. I sprinkled mine w/ a little powdered sugar, and Robert and I ate them for dessert. Debby suggests gently removing the puddings from the baking dishes, and serving them with banana pieces, whipped cream, and her luscious-sounding butterscotch sauce. Here’s the recipe for that, in case you’re not the butterscotch sauce idiot that I am:

Tennessee Butterscotch Sauce

1/2  cup sugar

2 Tbs Jack Daniel’s whiskey

1 1/2 Tbs butter

Place sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir it until the sugar is melted and is an amber color (20-25 minutes)

Remove from heat and carefully pour 2 Tbs water AND the Jack Daniel’s down the side of the saucepan. Debby says the mixture will bubble and steam and the sugar will crystalize.

Now return the saucepan to the heat and cook until the caramel dissolves, swirling the pan as it liquifies (5 min or so). Remove the pan from the heat again and add the butter and stir until the sauce is smooth. Let it cool slightly before using.

That sounds SO good! Oh how I wish I could successfully make something like that…




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: