I’ve had a notion for quite a while now that I’ve wanted to try making a vintage bread pudding. It must be all the cold weather we have endured here because, to me, bread pudding sounds comforting and warm. It’s also one of those dishes that I’ve spotted in nearly every vintage cookbook I’ve bought or browsed-so the hardest part of picking which recipe I would recreate was sorting through all the possibilities!
Bread pudding is a frugal dish and, according to Foodtimeline.org, dates to Medieval times. It was probably created by frugal cooks who didn’t want to waste even a few slices of bread, no matter how stale it was. So they soaked it in milk, stirred in some fat and eggs and something sweet, and baked, boiled or steamed the whole concoction until it was ready to eat. There are so many variations of the recipe that you could probably make one a day for a year!
I finally landed on this recipe, which was originally printed in a book called Compleat Housewife by Mrs. E. Smith, published in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1742. It’s a baked version, super easy to mix up, and it’s wonderfully flavored by the addition of real, grated nutmeg. If you’ve only ever used nutmeg from a jar, you don’t know what you’re missing. The difference between jar nutmeg and grated nutmeg is akin to the difference between dried basil and basil fresh from the garden. It’s so fragrant and wonderful!
You can use any kind of bread to make this-even leftover buns! I used half a loaf of gluten-free bread. The bread really provides the structure but the taste is hidden by the spices, eggs, and butter. It makes a great dessert-cover it with glaze or jam if you like, sprinkle it with sugar, or eat it plain with tea.
2 cups milk
1/2 loaf of bread or 1/2 package of buns, broken into small pieces or crumbled, if possible
2 whole eggs plus one egg yolk
1/2 of a nutmeg, grated or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and coat an 8 x 11 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Place the milk in a heavy saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the bread, eggs, nutmeg, sugar and butter and stir it until well combined. Pour the whole mixture into your greased pan and bake for 35 minutes or until the pudding gets a brown, caramelized look to it and is bubbling around the edges. Bring it out of the oven and let it cool for 10-15 minutes to allow it to firm up a bit and then enjoy!