Last Friday, for the second time in my life, I had the pleasure of trying bread pudding. We were having the usual free Friday lunch at my workplace, and the dessert options are usually fruit or cookies. Well last week the cafeteria decided to give us bread pudding as a special treat, how nice! I was a bit skeptical at first, because it looked a lot like stuffing… but after my first bite I was completely hooked and my first thought was that I must learn to make my own bread pudding! Like no other dessert I've tried before, bread pudding has a mild creamy flavor that simply melts on your tongue, and a unique soft, chewy texture that isn't at all like eating bread. The bread pudding I had that day also had some blueberries baked in, which gave the pudding a wonderful fruity sweetness, since the pudding itself is not too sweet. Just heavenly – my kind of comfort food!
So this weekend I finally went grocery shopping and restocked my fridge (which is why there haven't been any updates this past week… I didn't feel like making more eggless and butterless baked goods). Being a frugal student, I always check the clearance racks at the supermarket, just in case there's anything useful to me. This time I saw a huge loaf of sliced Italian bread on sale for just $1, because its sold-by date was that same day. Well no problem, I could just freeze the loaf and keep it for however long I want – what a steal! I wasn't actually thinking of the bread pudding when I bought the bread, but today the thought came to me and I was simply giddy with the idea that I had the perfect bread for bread pudding. The one thing I didn't have was berries or raisins, which are usually added to bread puddings, so I just used an apple instead. And it being St. Patty's Day weekend, I knew it was the perfect occasion to pull out that Bailey's Irish cream and add a little zing to my bread pudding. The stage was set!
While I was looking up bread pudding recipes, a realization dawned on me – these things aren't so good for you haha. Most recipes called for 4-6 eggs, several cups of milk and heavy cream, and lots of butter. I'm sure it makes for a fabulous bread pudding, but Mah's comment a little while back did remind me that maybe I could make a few modifications for a healthier bread pudding. And I'm proud to report that I did succeed in making a healthier version of bread pudding without sacrificing much at all :) My boyfriend, like the typical guy, was a bit wary of the notion that I'd be making healthy substitutions to a rich and creamy flavored dessert. But after taking a bite of the finished thing, he happily told me that it tasted creamy and custard-y. Success! The secret is in replacing eggs with applesauce, and using low fat milk instead of whole milk and heavy cream. Usually applesauce can be substituted for oil in muffins and breads, but it works great in this recipe in place of eggs because it is not necessary for providing leavening or structure. Of course, I didn't replace all of the eggs… that would probably result in a pretty awful pudding. So remember, no matter what you substitute, try not to get rid of all of it. I used that rule of thumb for my low-fat creme brulee, and it worked really well. Compromise means everyone is a winner right? Haha. Now I share with you how I tweaked the basic bread pudding recipe to get a tasty but not-as-bad-for-you bread pudding :)
Bread Pudding with Apples and Bailey's Irish Cream (serves 4-6) adapted from Allrecipes.com
10 slices of Italian bread, or any bread of choice (I prefer a crusty bread)
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and diced
4 tbsp salted butter, melted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 cups milk (1%), scalded
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp Bailey's Irish cream
pinch of salt
brown sugar to top
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9" diameter round pan, or equivalent square baking pan.
2. Cut bread slices into cubes (don't remove crust). Toss in melted butter, then mix in diced apples. Lay into baking pan.
3. Scald the milk by heating over medium heat until just starting to bubble at the edges (do not let boil!). Remove from heat immediately.
4. Beat together eggs, applesauce, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Slowly stir in milk. Add Bailey's Irish cream and mix well.
5. Slowly ladle the milk mixture over the bread cubes in the baking pan, making sure to coat all the bread. The liquid should come up to just short of the rim of the pan. Let bread soak in milk mixture for 10 minutes.
6. Sprinkle brown sugar over top and bake for 30 minutes, or until bread bounces back and liquid does not ooze out when pushed with a spoon. Serve warm or cooled, with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
Having tried the bread pudding both hot out of the oven and later when it had cooled off, I would say that I think I like the texture of the cooled pudding better. That's obviously a personal thing, since I like my bread pudding a bit chewier, whereas others might like it more soupy or soggy. The hot bread pudding certainly has more liquid in it, so it has more of a melt in your mouth, custard-like texture, which my boyfriend really liked. I thought the apples in the pudding were great – they complemented the cinnamon in the pudding, and added a nice little bit of soft crunch and sweetness.
Next time I would add more brown sugar to the top, since it made for a really great crunchy topping. I'd probably also double the Bailey's, since the flavor was subtle here. But I have to say, I couldn't tell at all that there had been applesauce substituting for most of the eggs in this recipe, and I think that the fact that it uses apple as a component hides the applesauce flavor very well. The bread was soft, the flavor was mild and creamy from the milk, and there was just the right amount of sweetness so as to not overwhelm the dessert. It was certainly great with some vanilla ice cream on the side… although I suppose that would negate the strides towards making this dessert somewhat healthy right? Happy eating! ;)