Listen to me: This is what you do next time you have leftover bread, the kind that’s sitting around on your counters, clogging up space, suddenly as rock-hard as a baseball bat, tempting you to throw it away. It’s what you do when you want to whip together dessert and do it as mindlessly as possible, using up things you already have. And, most importantly, it’s what you do when it’s the second week of January and there’s snow all around you, covering the roads and the trees and the people and freezing on your car and making you wish you lived in Florida—until you remember hearing they’re having bizarrely cold weather, too.
You make bread pudding.
Now that we’ve settled firmly into the winter after the holidays, the winter of icy temperatures and big snowstorms and longer commutes that don’t double your road trip to Thanksgiving dinner but to work every morning, it’s time for the kinds of foods that are steamy, gooey and creamy inside. This bread pudding, which is a cinch to whip together, fills your kitchen with the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg and apples and offers the kind of custard that soaks into every inch of bread crumbs while it bakes. I used whole wheat bread, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use whatever you have on hand—a raisin bread would be lovely.
It’s perfect for people like me, who tend to let their bread get hard and crusty and then wonder what to do with it because heavens! you can’t think I’m going out to the store now in this weather!, and I suspect it’s good for people like you, at least if you live anywhere like here, and could use something sweet and stew-like to cradle in your hands. Make it and tuck in for the night because face it: this winter thing isn’t going anywhere.
Whole Wheat Bread Pudding with Apples, Raisins & Walnuts
Adapted from Epicurious.com
I threw the chopped figs into this mixture on a whim, because I had them and thought, Why not? Well, I’ll tell you now why not: the figs will remind you of Fig Newtons, which were very good in third grade but not as much in your January bread pudding. I left it in the ingredients list, but next time I’ll refrain, and I leave you to make your own judgment on this.
12 slices of wheat baguette (or 6 slices bread), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup honey
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/8 cups milk (I used a combination of 1% milk and heavy cream)
1/2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 large Honeycrisp (or other type) apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried figs*
Preheat oven to 325°F and grease an 8 X 8 baking pan.
On a cookie sheet, spread the bread cubes in an even layer, then stick them in the preheated oven to bake about 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, eggs, yolk and vanilla.
In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, cinnamon and nutmeg to a simmer and immediately take off the heat. Whisking constantly, slowly add this hot milk mixture to the egg mixture. Let the custard cool slightly. (Inhale deeply and think how much better life is when creamy, spicy mixtures like this are in front of you.)
In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, apple, walnuts, raisins and, if using, figs. Gently stir the custard into this bowl, tossing once or twice. Let stand for about 10 minutes, until the liquids have soaked into the bread throughout.
Spread the pudding evenly into the 8 X 8 baking pan. Bake until everything is brown and the edges are bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool, then slice and serve warm, topped with ice cream.