My father always gets a dazed and happy look in his eyes when this bread pudding is mentioned, it’s so good!
The recipe is based on a bread pudding recipe from the famed Bon Ton Cafe in New Orleans. My friend Becca gave us the recipe years ago and now it’s a family favorite, especially around the holidays.
The sauce uses plenty of bourbon (Becca says Bon Ton’s sauce has even more bourbon in it), but feel free to cut down the amount. We also give directions for making a kid-friendly bourbon-free version of the sauce.
What is Bread Pudding?
Bread pudding is simply cubed stale bread that is soaked in a mixture of milk, sugar, and eggs, and then baked. The result is something like the creamy middles from a stack of French toast.
What elevates bread pudding to the realm of a truly decadent dessert is the sauce. You can serve the pudding with a caramel sauce, a vanilla sauce, or a hard sauce like the one in this recipe that features bourbon whisky.
How to Make Easy Bread Pudding
Start with stale bread that’s at least a day old. Stale bread holds its shape more easily when soaking up the custard mixture. Fresh bread tends to fall apart and turn to mush. If you don’t have stale bread, you can heat cubed fresh bread in the oven to dry it out a bit.
Cut the bread into cubes and soak it in a mixture of milk, sugar, eggs, bourbon-infused raisins, and spices. Transfer everything to a casserole dish and bake for 35 to 45 minutes . You’ll know the bread pudding is done when the edges start to brown and pull away from the sides of the pan.
How to Make the Bread Pudding Sauce
While the bread pudding bakes, make the sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan and whisk in sugar and an egg over low heat. Cook the sauce just until it thickens, then remove it from heat and whisk in the bourbon.
Need an alcohol-free version? Just use water with vanilla extract and some cider vinegar in place of the bourbon.
Cover the sauce and place it near the stove so that it stays warm until you’re ready to serve.
Make-Ahead Steps for This Recipe
You can assemble the bread pudding in the casserole dish up to a day before baking it. Cover it and refrigerate until ready to bake. Let it warm on the counter while your oven preheats and then bake as usual.
Note that the longer you soak the bread pudding the softer and more custard-like the interior will be.
Tips for Making the Best Bread Pudding
- If all you have is fresh bread, here’s what to do: Cube the bread and scatter the pieces on a baking sheet. Heat in the oven at 200°F for about 10 minutes until the bread cubes are dry to the touch but still pale-colored. Proceed with the recipe as usual.
- Use a rustic French or Italian loaf: Use a good quality rustic loaf bread instead of pre-sliced bread for this recipe. You can cut larger cubes and the bread will hold up better than typical sandwich bread.
- Soak the raisins in bourbon before you start anything with this recipe. Let them soak for one to two hours. You can even soak them a day or two ahead.
- When making the sauce, don’t be tempted to turn up the heat . This can cause the egg in the mixture to curdle.
- If your sauce does curdle, try blending it until smooth in a blender.
Ways to Adapt This Recipe
You can swap the raisins for any other dried fruit you like, such as cranberries or cherries, or leave them out altogether. You could also add in up to a cup of chopped nuts, like pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts, or fold in some chocolate chips.
To make an alcohol-free recipe, use 1/2 cup of water mixed with 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of cider or white vinegar in place of the bourbon called for in the sauce, and soak the raisins in water for the pudding.
Storing and Reheating Bread Pudding
Bread pudding is best served right away after it’s finished baking. However, leftovers can be kept for up to five days refrigerated and can be reheated in the microwave.
To reheat, warm individual portions in one minute bursts in the microwave until warmed through. The sauce can be drizzled over top and reheated along with the individual slice.
Bread pudding does not freeze well, and so we do not recommend freezing.
More Recipes Like Bread Pudding
Video: Watch How to Make Bread Pudding
How to Make New Orleans Bread Pudding
Need a kid-friendly sauce without bourbon? Use 1/2 cup of water mixed with 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of cider or white vinegar in place of the bourbon called for in the sauce recipe. Get the raisins soaking in bourbon before you start anything with this recipe. You can even soak them a day or two ahead. The bread you use should be a little dry. If the bread you are using is fresh, after you cube it, spread it out on a sheet pan and put it in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.
- For the Bread Pudding:
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 loaf French bread, at least a day old, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6-7 cups)
- 1 quart milk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- For the Bourbon Sauce:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey (less or more to taste)
Soak the raisins:
In a small bowl, combine the raisins with 1/4 cup bourbon. Cover and soak for 1 to 2 hours. The raisins should soak up most of the bourbon in this time.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Soak bread in milk:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place milk in a large mixing bowl and add the bread that has been cut into squares. Press the bread into the milk with your hands until all of the milk is absorbed.
Add the egg mixture:
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the sugar, vanilla, allspice and cinnamon. Pour over the bread and milk mixture. Add the bourbon soaked raisins (with or without the remaining soaking liquid, according to taste). Stir gently to combine.
Transfer to pan and bake:
Pour the melted butter into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan. Coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well with the butter. Pour the bread milk and egg mixture into the baking pan.
Bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, until the liquid has set. The pudding is done when the edges start getting a bit brown and pull away from the edge of the pan. Can also make in individual ramekins.
Make the bourbon sauce:
While the bread pudding is cooking make the bourbon sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on low heat. Add the sugar and egg and whisk to blend well. Slowly cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, then remove from heat. Do not allow the mixture to simmer! (Or the sauce will curdle. By the way, if your sauce curdles, just take it off the heat and blend it smooth in a blender.)
Whisk in bourbon to taste. Whisk again before serving. The sauce should be soft, creamy, and smooth.
Serve the bread pudding with bourbon whiskey sauce on the side; pour on to taste. Best fresh and eaten the day it is made.
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