Aug 9, 2009

Sunday Morning

I love Sunday mornings. They are, without a doubt, my favorite part of the week. I’m usually out walking in the park with my dog and some old friends, followed by bagels & coffee at our usual spot. But every once in a while, when my walking buddies aren’t around, I get to spend Sunday morning at home – and that’s a real treat.

Coffee, toast and watching A&E are my Sunday treats but I woke up this morning to discover that the beautiful bread I got earlier in the week had gone stale. Really stale. Like too-far-gone-to-be-revived-by-the-toaster stale. So toast for breakfast was out.

I don’t know about you, but stale bread always makes me think of bread pudding (I know, I have a one-track mind) so I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks – Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and found an easy recipe. I stuck to the basic recipe, but bread pudding is a perfect canvas for adding your own twist. If you’re into raisins (which I’m not), some golden raisins would be perfect. Really any fresh or dried fruit would work and you can vary the spices – nutmeg, cardamom, ginger – whatever you’ve got.

Clockwise from top left: Bittman's book, the star ingredient, out of the oven, good morning!

I put the pudding together, put it in the oven, took the dog for a walk around the neighborhood, and got back just in time to make a pot of coffee, pull the pudding out and sit down to watch Private Sessions with Gene Simmons followed by an episode of Barefoot Contessa. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Basic Bread Pudding
Adapted from How to Cook Everything

3 cups milk
4 TB butter
1.5 tea ground cinnamon
.5 cup sugar (I used Vanilla Sugar, see below)
Pinch salt
8 slices white bread, cubed
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat milk, butter, cinnamon, sugar and salt over low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Do not let it come to a boil! Place bread in a small baking dish and pour hot milk mixture over it. Let bread soak for a few minutes, pushing it down to make sure everything is submerged.

Beat the eggs and add them to the baking dish, stir to combine. Sprinkle sugar over the top and place the small baking dish inside a larger one. Add hot water to the larger dish until it’s about an inch from the top (you’re creating a water bath so the pudding cooks gently).

Carefully – very carefully – put the whole contraption in the oven and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until center is softly set.

Usually bread pudding is dessert and you’d serve it with whipped cream or ice cream. Since I was having mine for breakfast I topped it with a little maple syrup. Gilding the lily a bit, I know - but it was delicious. Next Sunday? I'm going to pray for rain so I can do it all over again... 

How to: Vanilla Sugar

This is silly simple... go to a high end market and splurge on a whole vanilla bean. Come home, put a pound of sugar in an airtight jar, nestle the vanilla bean down in the middle, put the lid on and let it sit for a few days. The longer the bean is in the sugar, the more flavor you'll get. And when the first batch of sugar is gone, just refill the jar - the bean will keep working for awhile. Use it in your coffee, on oatmeal, or as the finishing touch on cookies or cakes. 

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