Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®

February 2004
© 2004 by Bret S. Beall


On my first visit to New Orleans in 1993, I tasted bread pudding for the first time, and even took some cooking classes there, learning to make Bread Pudding myself. Since then, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and so I have altered proportions and ingredients, and then turned around and re-standardized proportions. Much of the technique came from a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking taught by that King of Cajun Cuisine, Mr. Kevin Belton, so I guarantee authenticity. I also guarantee that this is a fantastic way to use up old bread. Don’t like the ends of loaves? Cube them and put them in a bag in the refrigerator (I’ve kept them for months). Loaves get stale too quickly? Use them for bread pudding. Bread too hard to cut into cubes? I use a rubber mallet to break old loaves into ½ pieces (yes, it IS really messy, but these old dry hunks o’bread need to be that small in order to absorb the liquid properly). As an aside, this is a much healthier, much more affordable, and much more delicious and inviting bread pudding than many of the versions I have seen in magazines over the years. The keys here are soaking the bread cubes, and using truly flavorful ingredients rather than just more cream and butter.

Combine the bread, nuts, and chocolate chips/dried fruit (if using) in a large bowl. Meanwhile, combine the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in another bowl, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Combine the liquid with the bread mixture, and allow to soak for 30 minutes to an hour (depending on the dryness of the bread), stirring every 10 minutes, until the bread pieces are softened through. While the bread is soaking, preheat oven to 350ºF. Use the butter to grease a baking dish or casserole. After the bread is soft, pour the mixture into the greased baking dish, place in the oven, and bake uncovered for about 1 hour. Test for doneness using a toothpick, which should come out clean when the bread pudding is cooked through. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or cold for breakfast, brunch or dessert. Note: traditionally, New Orleans Bread Pudding is served with a bourbon hard sauce. I like it, but I just can’t justify the extra effort (though making a hard sauce is really rather simple).


Pumpkin Bread Pudding: Add about 1.5 to 2 c of pumpkin puree (1 can) to the milk-egg mixture and combine by stirring thoroughly. If you wish, omit the chocolate chips or dried fruit (or replace with 1 c roasted pumpkin or squash; see my recipe for Roasted Winter Squash Cubes at http://www.god-dess.com/services_recipesNov03.html for instructions). Optionally, add 1 T of “pumpkin pie” spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, or even Chinese 5-spice powder). The addition of ½ c of balsamic vinegar provides another delicious flavor element. Allow the mixture to soak as for New Orleans Bread Pudding above, and follow that recipe to completion. You may need to add another 15 minutes to the baking time; test with toothpick, until it comes out clean.

Fruity Bread Pudding: Substitute 2 c of fresh or canned chopped fruit for the 1 c of chocolate chips or dried fruit in New Orleans Bread Pudding. Follow the recipe to completion. The addition of ¼ c to ½ c of citrus juice (especially lemon or orange) will brighten the final product (and help slow carbohydrate digestion).

Applesauce Bread Pudding: Substitute 2 c of your favorite applesauce for the pumpkin puree in the Pumpkin Bread Pudding. Follow the recipe to completion. Optionally, add 1 to 2 c chopped apples (about ¼” dice) to the mixture for a REALLY apple-y bread pudding. The addition of ¼ c to ½ c of citrus juice (especially lemon or orange) will brighten the final product (and help slow carbohydrate digestion).

Chocolate Bread Pudding: To the milk-egg mixture in New Orleans Bread Pudding, add ¼ c top quality unsweetened cocoa powder, and another ½ c sugar; stir as thoroughly as possible, but the cocoa will really not break apart until it is mixed with the bread cubes. Increase the chocolate chips to 1.5 c (or more if you are feeling extravagant). You can omit the toasted nuts, but I wouldn’t. Follow the New Orleans Bread Pudding recipe to completion. Note: you can also add ½ c port, Madeira, cabernet or zinfandel (red!) wine to the liquid for an extra dimension of flavor (one that works well with chocolate).

Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding: Add 1 T of ground cinnamon with the cocoa to the DRY ingredients in Chocolate Bread Pudding will give the effect of Mexican chocolate. Use toasted almonds as the nut to complete the effect. Follow the New Orleans Bread Pudding recipe to completion.


I have already given my opinion of hard sauce, which would ordinarily be included as an application, so here are some easier options.

Bread Pudding a la mode:

Creamy Bread Pudding: Pour about ½ c milk or cream over each serving of any version of Bread Pudding for additional succulence and moisture. You can heat the milk or cream first, if you wish.


Theoretically, capirotada is similar to New Orleans Bread Pudding, except that a sugar syrup replaces the milk and eggs … oh, and there’s cheese in it! Regardless, this is yet another terrific recipe to have in your repertoire to use up stale bread (and doesn’t everyone have stale bread?).

Combine sugar, salt, water and reserved fruit liquid (and cinnamon sticks, if using) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes, or 15 minutes if using cinnamon sticks). Add the dried fruit, and allow the fruit to plump in the sugar syrup while it cools to room temperature.

Meanwhile, combine the bread pieces, nuts, drained fruit and all but 3 T of the cheese in a large bowl. When the sugar syrup is cool, remove the cinnamon sticks and pour over the liquid (with the plumped dried fruit) over the bread and mix well with a large spoon (if using, add the dried, ground cinnamon to the mixture just prior to mixing). Allow the bread to absorb the liquid for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Grease a large casserole dish with the butter or oil. When soft, put the bread mixture into the casserole, spreading it evenly in the dish; top with the reserved 3T of cheese. Bake covered for about 30 minutes, then uncovered for about 20 minutes to crisp the top of the casserole. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, for dessert, breakfast or brunch, or with the applications below.


Rich and Creamy Capirotada: Similar to the New Orleans Bread Pudding, replace the two cups of water with two cups of milk (no more, regardless of the dryness of the bread) and 2 to 3 beaten large eggs. This version will work better if the sugar is reduced to 1 c, so that the mixture doesn’t require heating (prior to baking). Since the liquid mixture won’t be heated ahead of time, use 1 T of ground cinnamon instead of the cinnamon sticks, and plump the dried in ½ c of hot tap water; add the plumping water to the milk and egg mixture before combining with the bread cubes, nuts, drained fruit and all but 3 T of the cheese in a large bowl. Follow the original Capirotada recipe from the point of combining the liquid with the bread mixture (except bake uncovered for one full hour). Serve hot, warm or at room temperature for dessert, breakfast or brunch, or with the applications below.


Capirotada a la mode: Serve hot/warm slices of Capirotada with your favorite ice cream, preferably vanilla, coffee or cinnamon, as a dessert. Experiment with other ice cream or sorbet flavors. Or add a dollop of REAL whipped cream. Clucking Capirotada: Using any version of Capirotada, serve with a fried/poached egg or two on top (keep the yolks soft and runny). This is a great breakfast or brunch dish, with an amazing array of tastes and textures. Serve with a side of ham, bacon or sausage (they work really well with the fruit!).

Creamy Capirotada: Pour about ½ c milk or cream over each serving of any version of Capirotada for additional succulence.

I will be offering recipes for Savory Bread Puddings in a future column … as well as some related recipes … all Simple! Sensible! Sensational!® Let me know what you think of these recipes by calling 773.508.9208 or email me.