Advertisement

Fall style note: Slip into savory

Times Staff Writer

Built from bread, accomplished easily -- a union of earthy ingredients, a single pan, the heat of the oven -- a bread pudding is a disarmingly simple dish. Yet this unassuming nature hides a wealth of soulful flavors, of satisfying textures, of delicious possibilities. Dip your fork past the burnished crust, into the glorious bready interior, and taste the complex flavors such simplicity can occasion.

And if you need further proof of this pudding, try taking it savory instead of sweet. Because although it’s fantastic as a dessert, the rustic dish really comes into its own when laced with fresh herbs and excellent cheese, or shot through with shallots and bitter greens, even sausage or bacon.

A savory bread pudding may begin with kitchen conservation, but it can end up transforming your whole meal along with those surplus baguettes, leftover ends of sourdough boule and pain rustique.

Bread puddings have long been a thrifty cook’s secret recipe, but they’re a versatile platform for the creative cook too. To the basic ingredients -- kitchen mainstays of bread, milk and eggs -- all you do is add a few ingredients to create a flavor profile that fits your mood, the season and the contents of your refrigerator. Just mix everything up, let the mixture soak for half an hour in a baking dish, then bake it -- and you’ll have an easy, satisfying and surprisingly nuanced dish, a nice side or even a meal on its own.

Advertisement

First you’ll need about eight cups of cubed or torn stale bread. Although you can use most kinds of bread, a basic white or sourdough works best. If you use heartier breads such as whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel or other whole-grain breads, mix them with equal parts basic white to keep the pudding from becoming too dense and heavy.

--

The whole loaf

CONSIDER the flavors of the bread: A whole wheat will give your pudding a nice, nutty depth, whereas a rye will not only add caraway, but also a good sour note. And use the crust too -- you’re not making finger sandwiches, but a homey dish that gets added texture and flavor from using all parts of the loaf.

Advertisement

Then make a custard-like filling that binds together the ingredients. Although you can simply mix the milk and eggs together, try heating the milk first and adding minced herbs, black pepper or garlic to the pot.

Bring up the mixture to just below a simmer, then take it off the heat and allow it to cool slightly. The flavors will steep while the milk cools down before the eggs are added (which prevents curdling).

While the milk mixture is cooling, grate cheese and saute any vegetables or meat you’d like to put into your bread pudding. You can use whatever cheeses you may have on hand, or a combination of them, again being sure to orchestrate your flavors.

Combine grated Parmesan with some nutty Emmentaler or Swiss, or smoked cheddar with a mild Fontina. Pair Gruyere with fresh corn kernels cooked in brown butter for a rich, heady combination. Or match a subtle goat cheese with wilted dandelion greens and bacon.

Advertisement

Or don’t add cheese. A hearty mixture of sweet Italian sausage and a hefty amount of caramelized fennel doesn’t need anything but a handful of fresh chopped parsley to complete it.

--

Tinker away

LIKE many rustic dishes, bread pudding is a very accommodating recipe: You can use many combinations of ingredients as long as you match the flavors and textures, and consider the density of your composition. If you’re using a heavier whole-grain bread, add an extra egg and up the amount of milk.

Advertisement

If your bread is very dry, add more liquid; likewise if you can’t wait until your bread is stale, simply dry it out for a few minutes in your oven. (Freshly baked bread, though glorious in its own right, makes for rather mushy bread pudding.)

When the additional ingredients are ready, whisk the eggs into the cooled milk and combine everything with the bread in a large bowl. Spoon the entire mixture into a buttered baking dish and, while you preheat the oven, let it rest for about 30 minutes. Go make the rest of your dinner or brew a cup of tea.

This is not an insignificant step: For half an hour, the stale bread will absorb the liquids, and the flavors will further blend in the pan.

It’s also, literally, a good indication of how things stand: The custard should coat the bread mixture and cover it when you press down the ingredients. You don’t want the bread to be swimming in custard, but you don’t want it too dry either.

Advertisement

At this stage, you can correct the mixture if you need to, adding a little milk or cream, or stirring in a handful of bread or pouring out a little bit of custard.

Baked to a glorious golden brown, savory bread pudding is a fantastic side to grilled steak or a roast chicken; it’s also perfect served as a main course, with just a simple salad to accompany it.

And if you want a more sophisticated take, simply divide the bread pudding mixture among ramekins and serve your guests individual portions. Or, when the season’s right, add asparagus or ramps, fresh morels or even some shaved truffles into the mix.

After you discover how easy and satisfying bread puddings are, the bits of leftover bread won’t lurk in your kitchen for long.

Advertisement

You may even find yourself buying bread just to make the puddings -- an ironic twist that a baker would surely appreciate.

--

amy.scattergood@latimes.com

--

Advertisement

Corn and brown butter bread pudding

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Servings: 6 to 8

Note: Use any high-quality country white bread such as pain rustique; you will need a loaf that weighs about a pound.

Advertisement

3 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

Advertisement

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter, plus additional for buttering the pan

2 ears of fresh sweet corn, kernels removed (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Advertisement

5 eggs

8 cups stale country white bread, crust on, cut or torn into about half-inch pieces

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, rosemary, thyme, sage and black pepper. Heat over high heat until just before the milk reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Advertisement

2. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, whisking occasionally until melted and the solids turn golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the corn and salt and stir over low heat for about 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Whisk in the cooled milk and then stir in the bread, cheese and the corn mixture until well combined. Pour the mixture into the baking dish, pressing down on the bread to make sure it is submerged. Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes while the bread absorbs the liquid.

4. Bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown, rotating once for even cooking. Serve immediately.

Each of 8 servings: 438 calories; 21 grams protein; 38 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 23 grams fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 186 mg. cholesterol; 590 mg. sodium.

Advertisement

--

Fennel and sausage bread pudding

Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Servings: 6 to 8

Advertisement

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for buttering the pan

3 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Advertisement

3 links mild Italian sausage (about 15 to 18 ounces each)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)

1 tablespoon minced shallots

Advertisement

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

5 eggs

8 cups stale sourdough bread, crust on, cut or torn into about 1/2 -inch pieces (about a 1-pound loaf)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Advertisement

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, fennel seeds and black pepper. Heat over high heat until just before the milk reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. Remove the sausage from its casings and break apart into small pieces in a medium saute pan. Cook over medium heat until the sausage is thoroughly cooked and beginning to brown. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

3. Wipe out the pan and heat the 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil over medium heat until frothy. Add the fennel and cook until caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes. Add the shallots and salt and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside.

4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Whisk in the cooled milk and then stir in the bread, sausage, fennel mixture and parsley until well combined. Pour the mixture into the baking dish, pressing down to make sure the bread is submerged. Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes while the bread absorbs the liquid.

Advertisement

5. Bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown, rotating once for even cooking. Serve immediately.

Each of 8 servings: 434 calories; 19 grams protein; 39 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 23 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 167 mg. cholesterol; 896 mg. sodium.

--

Bread pudding with dandelion greens and bacon

Advertisement

Total time: 1 1/2 hours

Servings: 6 to 8

Note: Dandelion greens are available at well-stocked supermarkets and farmers markets. Use any high-quality wheat and country white bread, such as pain rustique. For the wheat and white breads, you will need the equivalent of about a 1-pound loaf.

Butter for buttering the pan

Advertisement

3 1/2 cups whole milk

1 large clove garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2 -inch pieces

Advertisement

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 bunches dandelion greens, washed and dried, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces (about 9 cups)

2 shallots, minced

6 eggs

Advertisement

8 ounces fresh goat cheese

8 cups stale bread, half whole wheat, half country white, crust on, cut or torn into about 1/2 -inch pieces

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, garlic and black pepper. Heat over high heat until just before the milk reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Advertisement

2. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. When the bacon is cooked, keep the pan on the heat and add the olive oil, dandelion greens and shallot. Stir until the greens are wilted, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the cooled milk and the goat cheese and whisk until combined. Stir in the bread, dandelion green mixture and lemon zest and mix until combined. Pour the mixture into the baking dish, pressing down to make sure the bread is submerged. Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes so that the bread absorbs the liquid.

4. Bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown, rotating once for even cooking. Serve immediately.

Each of 8 servings: 431 calories; 23 grams protein; 41 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 20 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 190 mg. cholesterol; 734 mg. sodium.

Advertisement


Advertisement