The Proof is in the Bread Pudding Transcript

Half Baked Bakery

    [AB walks past the display window and walks back, sniffs] Mmm, bread pudding. My favorite dessert since, well, forever. I mean, yeah, cake hits the spot from time to time, and I've never been known to turn my spoon down at ice cream. But saying no to bread pudding of any shape, size, or flavor, is something I simply cannot do. Heck, I'd even accept it from strangers.
    The attraction, besides the flavor, the texture, and heady warm aroma is that, well, there's something noble about bread pudding. About worn-out, stale, old bread rising up from its crumbs to be reborn, Phoenix-like, as dessert. Bread pudding is an act of culinary defiance, born of an unconquerable sweet tooth. Bread pudding proudly proclaims, though the pantry bears not, though mad dogs claw at the door and the winds of Thor are blowing cold, I shall have my pudding, not to mention my ...

[Good Eats theme plays]

The Kitchen

    Although every culture that bakes bread has a version of bread pudding, no one beats the English when it comes to bread utilization. After all, this was the culture that, before the advent of plates, served their meals upon trenchersthick slabs of toasted breadand, who often served their soups, or sops, inside hollowed-out loaves. And yes, that's where we get the words sop, as in "sop it up," and soup.
    Eventually, some cook, desperate for dessert, decided to soak some old bread crusts in milk, add some sugar, and bake. But this English connection really is important, because as any Pink Floyd fan can tell you, "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding." See, in England, "pudding" means dessert. So, bread pudding means "bread dessert" and does not necessarily refer to pudding in the American-Bill Cosby sense of the word.
    Now, despite the fact that American recipe writers have spent the better part of a century trying to gussy up bread pudding, we can tear it down to its basics, and understand what really makes it tick, as long as we think "car".
    [walks over to a very small British car in the living room area] Think about it, the main part of a car is the chassis and the body, okay? And that would be played in bread pudding by, of course, the bread. It's the star of the show. Then of course, you have accessories. Things that add interest, but are not necessarily required. Mud flaps, sun-roofs, audio systems, fuzzy dice, and what-not. In a bread pudding, that would be flavorants, and of course, hunks and chunks: things like nuts, fruits, chocolate, and the like.

    Now the driving force of a car is, of course, the engine, all right, the power plant. And in the case of bread pudding, that role is played by a custard, a balanced combination of eggs and dairy. Now, getting the whole thing right into a package that works, requires a very carefully thought out formula.

Engine = Custard

    And we here at Good Eats Industries, have carefully thought one out.

AB: [whistles for a blackboard, which rolls into view] Come on, come on.

    All right, here we go. Ten to 12 cups of bread, and yes, it's a measurement by volume. More on that later. Five cups of dairy in the form of half-and-half. One cup of sugar which can be of mixed varieties. Three whole eggs, three egg yolks, and two ounces of a user-defined liquid flavorant, a spirit, extract, et cetera. Please commit this sequence to memory. Ten to 12, five, one, three, three, and two. Believe me kids, one day this could save your dessert life.
    3 EGGS
    3 YOLKS
    [at the refrigerator] A custard is technically defined as eggs and dairy. And although the modern cook may not have much choice when it comes to the first, the second's pretty much wide open. My preferred dairy custard is half-and-half, which typically contains 12 to 18 percent fat, depending, of course, on the brand. Could you actually make your own? Yeah, sure. Whole milk typically runs you 3.25 percent fat, and various creams will run you 18 to 36 percent fat, so you know what? I'm going to let you do the math.

12% - 18%


18% - 36%

    [at then pantry] Since it contains both water and fat, dairy is an efficient solvent, capable of extracting flavors from a wide range of spices, like, say, well, a cinnamon stick, say, maybe 15 clove spikes, and, eh, 15 black peppercorns, a teaspoon of dry orange peel, and half an ounce of crystallized ginger. We made this ourselves, but that's another show. You're going to want to chop that up, by the way. Last, but not least, of course, a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg. I always keep one in my pocket, and I bet you do too. 1 Cinnamon Stick
15 Whole Cloves
15 Whole Peppercorns
1 tsp. Dry Orange Peel
Oz Crystallized Ginger
1 tsp. Freshly Grated Nutmet
    [at the microwave] Deposit all of your spicy goodness into a microwave-safe container, along with three of the five cups of half and half. And we're going to microwave this on high for three minutes. After that, check the temperature, and continue nuking in 30-second increments until 180 degrees is attained. Now I prefer the microwave for this job for the simple reason that in my experience, dairy in a pot boils over the second you turn your back. The microwave, not so much. 3 Cups Half & Half

    [later, testing with a Thermapen] Ah, 183 degrees. A slight overshoot, but perfectly acceptable. So, we cover and steep for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, we'll contemplate the ovum.

    Although eggs are certainly delicious, the real reason they're in our custard is because they are a binder. Now binding is primarily the duty of protein, of which eggs are considered the international gold standard. Proteins of course are composed of amino acids, and eggs, especially egg whites, contain copious amounts of cystine and methionine, which, in turn, contain sulfur, which, oddly enough, is critical for the production of feathers, an important part of any chicken. Sulfur is also responsible for strong eggy flavors and aromas, which is why I replace three of the egg whites with yolks, since they contain all of the fat that an egg has to offer, and can create a richer, creamier pudding.

Cystine    Methionine
Phenylalanine    Valine
Tryptophan    Soleucine
Lysine        Threonine

Many anthropologists argue that the word "bread"
originally derived from the word "brew".

The Kitchen

    You can certainly whisk this all up by hand, but I truly believe a blender is the tool for the job. Just make sure that your carafe will hold at least eight cups, which most do. Now the eggs will go in first. Three whole eggs, and three yolks. Then set your blender to its lowest setting, all right? This will give the egg proteins an opportunity to denature, that is, open up, unwind a little bit. 3 Whole Eggs
3 Egg Yolks
    Now when they just start to thicken and lighten in color, you can add the sugar. Now I think I'm going to go with half dark brown and half white sugar today, and I'll go with the light stuff first. Boost the speed to one quarter power, and in it goes. Do not just dump it in all at once, or you will find that the resulting custard will be grainy and loose, which isn't even half as good as it sounds. Okay, keep in mind that the brown sugar is usually a little on the clumpy side, so go very slowly here. Cup Sugar
Cup Dark Brown Sugar
    When the sugar is thoroughly integrated, no more little clumps running around in there, go ahead and add the remaining two cups of dairy. Again, go slowly. We're essentially making an emulsion here, so speed kills. 2 Cups Half & Half

    [retrieving the dairy from the microwave] All right, finally, we're ready to add the steeped dairy, but be careful to strain out all but the tiniest solids. Now don't worry, even though this is still hot, once combined, we'll only be around 90 degrees, which poses no threat of curdling the eggs, certainly not with all the sugar and fat that's in here.

    Now keep in mind we still have two ounces of flavorful liquid to come, and I like spiced, dark rum, although any dark rum, or even cognac, would work in a pinch. There. 2 Ounces Spiced Dark Rum

Not ready to bake? Stash your covered custard in the fridge
for up to 72 hours. Reblend before use.

    Now that we have constructed ourselves a sound power plant, and added a few flavorful accessories, it's time to procure the proper body.

Half Baked Bakery

GUESTS: Yeast Sock Puppets

    [outside] Never forget, my friends, that the name of the dish is "bread" pudding, and that the eponymous ingredient should never be lost in the shuffle. Now, we have few actual requirements for the bread, but the first one is we have got to have

YEAST SOCK PUPPET: [appears, belches, exits]

... a yeast bread, typically produced through considerable kneading. A process which creates gluten strands in the dough, which can capture and hold the gaseous by-product created by the yeast, and stand up to the structural rigors of bread pudding, which shall become evident forthwith.
    [inside] I am visiting my local bakery to fulfill bread pudding requirement number two, only great-tasting breads go into bread pudding. I mean, just as you wouldn't want to cook with a wine you wouldn't drink, you wouldn't want to make bread pudding with a yeast bread you wouldn't eat, all right?
    Now many different loaves here would do just fine, but here are my two favorites of all time. We have here challah, or chal-lah, which is a relatively tender yeast bread containing a fair amount of egg, and a classic boule [pron: BOO-ul], a lean French bread, which I find superior to the often bland baguette.

AB: My good woman, this is a handsome boule.

    That's French for "ball", you know?

BAKER: Thank you Sir. I bake them myself.
AB: Excellent! Tell me, might your boules be stale, ma'am?
B: Of course not. What kind of baker do you take me for?
AB: I meant no offense. Simply that a loaf begins to stale the moment it exits the oven.
B: Well mine don't.
AB: Yes they do.
B: Do not.
AB: Do so.
B: Do not.

    Clearly it is time for a teeny taste of science.

    Let's say for just a moment that these baguettes are amylose molecules, the long, straight chains or polymers of smaller glucose molecules that make up most of the starch in wheat. Now amylose comes in tight little packets called starch granules, and when they get warm and wet, as in bread dough, these packages pop [pours the baguettes out onto the floor], sending the amylose out into the liquid phase of the dough, creating a paste that we think of as freshly baked bread. Amylose (polymers of glucose molecules)

    But here's the thing. Just because the bread is baked doesn't mean it's dead, all right? Things keep happening. Moisture starts slowly migrating from the interior out towards the drier crust, and these molecules slowly start to realign with each other, an arrangement not unlike a crystal. This process, called "retrogradation", explains why the Chinese take-out rice in your refrigerator right now has turned into wee little hard rocks, okay?
    Now, this retrogradation, combined with the slight drying of the interior that happens over time, results in the physical phenomenon we refer to as 'stale'. And stale bread has always been considered good for bread pudding, because this structure is very, very strong, and will not dissolve until the temperature is raised once again.

AB: And so madam, I ask you one final time, have you any stale boule?
B: No, because like every other baker these days, I use dough conditioners.
AB: Ah, which explains their lustrous shine?
B: I'm talking about natural substances which can enrich the texture of the bread, and which use enzymes to slow retrogradation and staling.
AB: Thus buying you more time to sell your wares.
B: Thus giving my customers more time to enjoy them.

    Okay, exactly. So we see that these days, it's actually kind of tough to find a truly stale loaf of bread.

AB: I will take this boule, Madam. Thank you very much. Have a wonderful day.
B: Hey, what about all the baguettes?
AB: Oh, um, no thanks. They're on the floor.

Bread stales fastest around 40F, so consider refrigerating your loaf overnight before turning it into pudding.

The Kitchen

    All right, time to build a pudding. Place your loaf on the counter thusly. And fetcheth forth your biggest serrated knife, either a bread knife or a slicer.

    Now we are going to take a seven-inch disk right off of the top, and I suggest that you use a measurement device just to be sure. So, here we go. Just looking at what seven inches looks like there. Good. So I'm going to start cutting right about here. Go slowly and keep your fingers up out of the way. I'm going to cut about halfway through, turn, keep cutting around, turn, until your disk comes off. Use as little pressure as possible. Now this [the lid that just got cut off] goes straight into the pan. I'm just going to tear this into chunks. Perfect. 10" Round French Boule

    Now we do with the interior. Now we want to get as much of this out in an orderly manner, so I'm going to actually make a cut at an angle down into the shell, turning. I do not want to go through the shell. We need it to hold liquid later. So I'm just getting up under there. I'm going to create some little plugs to pull out, so straight in and across. I'm going to make parallel cuts here, about an inch. Again, not going through the bottom or the sides. Turn 90 degrees, and repeat the procedure. We're going to basically create these little plugs. If you've ever had a camera case with the pull-out foam, this is just like that, only you're not going to keep a camera in here. There. Now just reach in, and start pulling out the plugs. Reach down as far to the crust as you possibly can. The goal here is to hollow as much of the bread out as possible, without breaking the crust. [places plugs into the pan]

    [at the oven] Since most modern breads stale so slowly, we'll lend it a hand by allowing it to dry in a warm oven for anywhere from half an hour, up to two hours at the lowest setting. Now granted, dry is not the same as stale, but at least dry bread is thirsty bread, and that's a darn good place to start.

Warm Setting

    [back at the counter top] And now we reach another crossroad on the path to bread pudding customization. This is where we could consider various hunks and chunks, such as chocolate, nuts, and cake cubes, cookie dough, I don't know, dried cereal, and a wide array of fruits, both fresh and dry. Now I'm going to go with a cup of dried fruit, mixing together golden raisins, which are the only raisins I actually like, and dried cherries, which are good and good for you. Just strew them right onto the bread. There. Cup Each Dried Cherries &
    Golden Raisins

    Now, add the custard. Odds are good that this bread is not going to drink up all of this custard. That is okay. I'd rather have a little too much than too little.
    Now, many is the recipe that calls for moving this straight to the heat. But I want complete and absolute saturation, so I'm going to let this rest for at least a couple of hours at room temperature. So cover, just with plastic wrap, push right down on top of the bread. Now, if you want more time, you could stash this for up to eight hours in the refrigerator, which of course would reinforce staling even further, which would make the bread hold together even better. Not altogether a bad idea.
    Now just in case it has sprung a leak, park your bread shell in a 10-inch skillet, just to be safe.

    [at the oven] All right, the bread soak has 40 minutes to go, so I'm going to boost the oven to 325 degrees. It's a relatively low temperature, and that's because we've got a lot of mass to heat through, and the slower we heat the pudding, the smoother the custard will be.

325 Degrees

    Although it is a completely optional step, I like to squirt the inside of the bread shell with melted butter, not only to up the flavor quotient, but also to aid in toasting. And now, straight into the oven. 1-2 Tbs. Melted Butter

    The soak still has half an hour, but we're going to let this [bread shell] get a little bit of a head start.
    [later, bread shell removed and next to pudding] All right, time to load up the pudding. Begin by just grabbing handfuls and placing it kind of up underneath the lip. We don't want any air gaps under there, and then just fill all the way to the top, doming it every so slightly. Pour on a little custard, but stop before it pours up over the edge of the crust.
    All right, into the middle of the oven, and set your timer for two hours. At that point, we should be right around 165 degrees.

"Poor Knights of Windsor", "Wet Nellie", and "Whitepot" are all versions of bread pudding in England.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    When it comes to serving, you've got options.
    If you prefer the luscious interior, feel free to just spoon right in. But I find that the real charm of bread pudding is in the contrast of custard and crust, of creamy and crunchy. So I slice it like what it is, a loaf of bread. And, I prefer it straight up, although whipped cream would be nice, as would a hard sauce, but that's another show. Hey, jot that down would you, Thing, please?

THING: [opens a think 3-ringed binder book entitled, "... that's another show" and jots it down]

    Wow, that's a thick book.
    Now I can see that some of you are saying, "Nice, but not exactly convenient." Well just to prove how extraordinarily versatile this dessert can be, we will produce yet another with the, hmm, two minutes that remain. Let's say that, quite suddenly, you were struck by the desire for bread pudding.

    Facing your refrigerator, you find one cup of milk, and three of half-and-half. Not exactly the five cups we need, so we will compensate with two whole eggs and three yolks, which, of course, will go into the carafe of your favorite blender on low speed, until smooth, like that. 2 Whole Eggs +
3 Egg Yolks
    Then, you would slowly introduce the sugar. But of course we're having to adjust down for the amount of dairy, so three quarters of a cup only. Cup Sugar
    Then, half a cup of, let's say, hot chocolate mix. Now this is "Good Eats" brand, but you can use whatever you happen to have around. Cup Good Eats Cocoa Mix
    Once that is integrated, add the dairy, nice and slow. Remember this is like an emulsion. 3 Cups Half & Half
+1 Cup Whole Milk
    Since this one's for the kids, I think it would be a little unethical to dose it up with a lot of rum, but nothing wrong with a couple of shots of espresso to keep them bouncing. I've got two ounces here, that's a quarter cup. 2 Ounces Espresso
    Now technically this puts us at our liquid limit, but what the heck, a tablespoon of vanilla extract won't hurt anybody. There. 1 Tbs. Vanilla Extract
    Now, let's say you had carefully cubed and frozen 18 ounces of challah bread. Now would be the time to get that out. Let it thaw while you butter up a 9" x 13" baking pan. When the bread is nice and thawed, mix it with six ounces of chopped, bittersweet chocolate chunks, and then pour on the custard nice and slow, so the bread can drink it in. Then, a layer of plastic. There. 18 Ounces Challah Bread,
6 Ounces Bittersweet
    Chocolate Chunks

    Once again, I want to let this sit for at least two hours at room temperature or eight hours in the fridge.
    [at the oven] Again, we bake at 325 degrees, until the bread cubes start to crisp and the internal hits 170 degrees, which, because we're dealing with less mass, will only be about 45 minutes.
    [the baking is done] Excellent. Now if more crispy crunch is desired up top, spritz with a little bit of butter, and then set your oven to broil, still on the middle rack, for four to five minutes. And remember to leave the door slightly cracked, so that the thermostat doesn't kick the broiler off.
    [getting in the car that is still in front of the fireplace] To enjoy, you can certainly reheat in oven or microwave, or simply serve at room temperature, which is my preference.
    Well I hope we've inspired you to undertake the act of dessert defiance known as bread pudding. It is a dish that, despite ancient origins and a marginalized reputation, is well worth the test drive.
    See you next time on Good Eats.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

*from the Led Zepplin song, "No Quarter"
** from Pink Floyd's, "Another Brick in the Wall"

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Last Edited on 12/05/2011