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Cynthia Stone: Bread puddings—savoury and sweet

Whether you chose to make it sweet or savoury, bread pudding is hardy and a great way to use stale panettone or brioche.
Whether you chose to make it sweet or savoury, bread pudding is hardy and a great way to use stale panettone or brioche. - Cynthia Stone photo

If you follow the cooking shows on TV you’ve no doubt seen competing cooks stuck with some unusual bread product or other try and create a pudding. Seems like the perfect, most delicious way to get rid of stale panettone or brioche.

Although it uses up mysterious and often nonsensical basket ingredients, and it can take just seconds to pull together, bread pudding needs time. So there, that’s the only trick you need to know to enjoy today’s recipes.

Sausage and Onion Bread Pudding

What a terrific brunch or supper meal this makes. I say meal because it includes the meat, vegetable and starch that comprise a plate. Early in the day I might consider fruit salad as a perfect accompaniment. For lunch or supper, soup or salad alongside would be lovely.

Choose any sausage you like, or substitute bacon or ham, or even a combination of what you have on hand, leftover or in the freezer. I had a package of merguez lamb sausage that didn’t get eaten over the holidays and its spicy heat really dressed up day-old bread.

For a milder version leave out the harissa, although bread pudding is in danger of being bland without bold flavours to rescue it.

This dish can be stretched by cutting smaller pieces, and it is rich, so you can comfortably serve 6 to 8.

4 merguez or other spicy sausages
1 tsp. vegetable oil, if needed
1 large onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. each ground cumin and coriander
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups tightly packed hearty greens such as collards or kale, coarsely chopped
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. harissa or other bottled chili sauce
2 cups 1-inch hearty bread cubes
2 tbsp. golden raisins
3 eggs
½ cup whipping cream
½ cup milk
2 tbsp. soft butter or margarine

Fry sausage in a large, non-stick frying pan until cooked through. Cool, dice and set aside. If there is no fat left in the pan add the vegetable oil. If you have too much fat left discard all but 1 tsp.

Add onion, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and cinnamon and cook over medium low until onions are soft, about 6 minutes. Add greens and broth and cook, stirring now and again, until greens are wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated—a little left in the pan is fine. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for this step. Add garlic and cook another minute. Stir in harissa and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine bread cubes, raisins, onion mixture and cooked sausages. Whisk together eggs, cream and milk and pour over bread mixture in bowl. Press down to immerse bread in custard. Allow to sit 30 minutes until bread soaks up most of the liquid. Transfer to a greased 9-inch baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees F 40 minutes or until set and golden brown on top. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

Blueberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Blueberry Sauce

Here’s a deliciously warm dessert perfect for a cold day.

The original recipe called for sweet bread but I had croissants taking up too much room in the freezer and they were perfect. The puffed-up tops were beautiful and quite a bit dressier in ramekins than their baking-pan cousin. If you use large coffee shop croissants allow half per person.

Feel free to serve whipped cream, ice cream or vanilla custard on the side, although once I tried blueberry sauce there was no going back. If you prefer not to use alcohol a squeeze of lemon juice works well.

5 eggs
1-1/4 cups whipping cream
1-1/4 cups milk, any fat content
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. salt
6 small to medium croissants
2 tbsp. soft butter or margarine
½ cup frozen or fresh blueberries
½ cup white chocolate chips

Blueberry Brandy Sauce:

2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. brandy, optional

Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, vanilla and salt.

Cut croissants in half crosswise, as if you were going to make sandwiches. Butter each cut surface. Place bottom halves in 6 greased ramekins or a baking dish, cut sides up, pushing in to fit. You don’t want any big gaps, either. Sprinkle blueberries and white chocolate chips evenly on top and pour over half the custard.

Top with croissant halves, cut sides down. Pour remaining custard on top and press lightly on the croissants to help the custard absorb.

Place in a roaster and fill halfway up the sides with boiling water. Bake at 350 degrees F one hour or until a tester in the middle comes out clean and the tops are puffed up, brown and crisp.

For the blueberry sauce, combine berries, sugar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer about half an hour, until berries collapse and are juicy. Take off the heat and stir in brandy. If you prefer you can thicken the sauce with cornstarch slurry before adding the brandy.

Cynthia Stone is an information manager and writer in St. John’s. E-mail questions to her at cynthia.stone@nf.sympatico.ca

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