I stared at the four leftover hamburger buns from last week's dinner. There are only three of us, one being an almost-four year old, so we don't eat a lot. That gigantic 8-pack of hamburger buns the stores insist on selling is just too much.
I was fortunate, though, because even though the bread crumbled apart like rotted plywood, there was no mold to be seen. It was old and it was dry, but it was not yet showing any signs of developing into sentient life.
Most people would do the sensible thing, and throw that mess out.
I, however, have never made any false claims of sensibility. The bread was old and dry, but it wasn't going to make anyone sick. I have no shame, so naturally, I decided to use it.
No, I was not going to force my family to eat nasty, crumbly bread. Even I have limits.
You know all of those really yummy recipes that have been passed down for generations? Those recipes that make people's eyes light up because they instantly send threads of joy through a home from the moment their scent begins to gather in the air?
Some of them were created as a way to get rid of food at the end of its usable lifespan.
Like bread pudding. mmMMMMmmm.....
So, yeah. I totally threw that dried out mess of hamburger buns together with a load of other ingredients, to create my favorite comfort food.
Bread pudding is one of those beautiful baked foods that has the ability to morph into several different varieties, and still taste perfect. You don't need to be a perfect cook. As long as you have the basics down, you're good to go. Throw in what you like, and leave out what you don't.
So what are the basics, exactly?
Bread, milk, and eggs. You'll need a bit of butter to coat the pan, as well. That's it. Everything else is totally up to you. Want it sweet? Savory? Spicy? Then, in the wise words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Make it so. There are no limits, and that's why I love it so very much.
I tend to cheat.
I enjoy creating a recipe that I can call my own, so every time I make bread pudding there's a slightly different taste to it. What this means, unfortunately, is that I always need to look up a random bread pudding recipe to see how much milk, bread, and eggs are used.
Pictures are a useful guide in this. Some recipes are more moist than others, so I look for the consistency that's most likely to cause salivation to occur on that given day: Do I want smooshiness, or do I prefer something a bit more cake-like?
Once I figure that out, I grab whatever ingredients make me smile, and throw it all together.
Usually, it's a success. Just use your taste buds as a guide.
Unfortunately, because I don't have any specific recipes, I'm one of those people that everyone gets frustrated with.
Poor, Unfortunate Soul:
"This is wonderful! What's your recipe?"
"Oh, I just mix up a couple of eggs, this much bread (place hand gesture here), a few glunk-glunk-glunks of milk, somewhere around a cup of sugar, a big ker-plunk of vanilla..."
Poor, Unfortunate Soul:
"On second thought, why don't I watch you make it some other time?"
Fortunately, though, I know this has a habit of being frustrating, so I won't leave you hanging. Instead, here are a few recipes you can experiment with, that I got from Yummly.com:
A basic, Traditional Bread Pudding recipe
Chocolate Bread Pudding (because... who doesn't like chocolate?!)
Mango Cardamom Bread Pudding (That just sounds decadent!!!)
Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding
Arugula, Bacon, and Gruyere Bread Pudding
Tomato Bread Pudding (Add more Tabasco if, like me, you prefer more spice)
This is just a start. There's so much more! Don't let that dry bread go to waste. There are tons of excellent bread pudding recipes out there for you to try.
As a special note, I think I should mention that whenever you see a specific type of bread in one of the recipes I listed (french, white, etc.), that's merely a guideline.
Use what you have.
Bread pudding is about re-using bread that otherwise wouldn't have a chance to get eaten, and transforming it into a masterpiece. I don't care what the television personalities say.
It's not about getting "just the right materials" to impress some chef on a cooking show. No matter what bread choice you make, the only people that matter are the people that are eating it, and if you love it, so will they.