Sometimes, "leftovers" can become a wonderful base for a new dish. That is especially true of a really good bread pudding.
For the best bread pudding, you need really good bread. Sorry, soft and squishy "WonderBread" types won't work too well, at least for the bulk of your pudding.
No, instead you need some fairly firm, preferably whole or multi-grain bread that was a little chewy when fresh. And then you need to let it "age" a bit. This is a great place to use up that extra loaf of bread you ended up with when you got too exuberant in making a big batch of the real homemade stuff. Or maybe your family doesn't carry about the ends of the bread or the "artisan" loaf you bought for sandwiches had ends too small to make really adequate sandwiches. These are the ideal components for making today's dessert, a rich and creamy pudding that certainly doesn't seem at all related to stale bread.
So, while this is a pretty easy dessert, it does take a bit of preparation time, especially in the gathering of the bread that is the basic ingredient. For more on stale bread, see the notes below the recipe.
The other plan ahead part of this dish is that it should be prepared at least several hours before baking, to allow the flavors of the custard to thoroughly infuse the bread. That actually can be an advantage, since you can make this up to a day or two ahead, cover tightly, and keep refrigerated until an hour or so before planning to serve.
So now to the recipe. Make this when you can get good apples at a seasonably reasonable price, and you'll have a fairly budget-friendly dessert you'll be proud to serve friends and family. It also is a little healthier than many desserts, with good amounts of protein and calcium from the eggs and milk.
This recipe makes enough to serve 10 to 12, so it is easily halved. For good measure, I've even included those amounts, along with some hints to make this even more of a budget-friendly dish.
Maple Flavored Apple Bread Pudding
6 c cubed firm bread--either slightly stale or dried (in the oven at 200 for about 20 to 30 minutes)
2/3 c brown sugar
1 t Mapleine or other maple flavoring
1 t vanilla
2 c milk--may need a bit more
2 t cinnamon
1/2 c butter
1/2 to 2/3 c sugar, depending on apples and your preference
4 c finely diced apples--no need to peel
3/4 t Mapleine or other maple flavoring
1 to 1 1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts
1. Prepare the apples. Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a heavy pan and add the apples. Cook over medium heat about 15 minutes. Stir in the walnuts and cook another 10 to 15 minutes until the apples are tender and the mixture is starting to caramelize. Remove from heat and stir in the Mapleine. Allow to cool a few minutes.
2. While the apples are cooking, spread the bread cubes in a well-oiled 9 X 12 inch pan or baking dish.
3. Beat the eggs, sugar, flavorings, cinnamon, and milk together.
Pour this mixture over the prepared bread, pressing the bread cubes firmly under the liquid. If they are not all covered, pour a little more milk over the top and stir in gently.
4. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
5. Remove the pudding from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes while covered. Remove the foil and return to the oven. Bake another 30 to 35 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out without any liquid clinging to it.
(If using a disposable pan as shown in the pictures, the pudding will cook more evenly if you use two pans, one inside the other, with a few tablespoons of water between. Set the pans on a large baking sheet. This will ensure that the edges will not get too brown before the middle is done.)
May be served warm (with a little ice cream melting over the top?) or cold. Serves 10 to 12.
I don't do too many product placement comments, but my mother used Mapleine all through my childhood, and I have continued including it in my meals over the years. Sadly, it is harder and harder to find this in most grocery stores. Here in our city, the local Fareway store still stocks it--thank you Fareway!--and you can find it on the internet, on Amazon, Walmart and other suppliers.
In case you don't believe me when I say this is so much better than any other maple flavors, just check out the reviews here:
Of course, if you want to make this recipe with real maple syrup (NOT the Mrs. Butterworth type substitutes), just substitute maple syrup for the brown sugar and start with perhaps a quarter cup less milk.
About "Stale" Bread
A particularly good way to save money on food is to cut down on waste...well, duh.
However, it sometimes seems as though we can never quite finish a loaf of bread or bag of hot dog buns before they get too stale (or, worse yet, moldy) to use. Just a little proactive thinking can keep you from throwing out perfectly good food, with very little extra effort.
First, check out this site for some ideas on making bread crumbs:
If instead you want to make dried bread cubes, for use in a bread pudding, as croutons, or even for stuffing, here's a quick "tutorial" that may help.
Step one: Pull the bread out of whatever wrapper it's in and cut or tear into pieces about an inch square. Don't worry if they aren't totally even, just approximately the same size.
Spread the bread cubes in single layers on a baking sheet. You could just set this aside (in an unused oven for example) for a couple of days until dried, but the flavor is usually better if you toast the cubes in a 180 degree oven for 20 minutes to half an hour, until each piece is well dried. Do be sure to dry thoroughly before putting into a tightly closed container. If they are not dry enough, they will get moldy! You can keep these on the shelf for a few weeks if you aren't ready to use them right away.
If you are planning to use all of the bread for stuffing or croutons, you could sprinkle with desired herbs before toasting. Just stir a few times while drying to be sure that the seasonings are well mixed. If you take this approach, you will probably want to use the bread cubes within a day or two, to preserve the flavors at their best.
Half a recipe
This makes a 9 X 9 square inch pan. Use these amounts, following the same method as in the recipe above.
3 c bread
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 t Mapleine
1/2 t vanilla
1 t cinnamon
3 T butter
1/3 c sugar
2 c finely diced apples
1/2 t Mapleine
1/2 to 3/4 c coarsely chopped walnuts
And, finally, some cost cutting changes, when the budget is really tight
Cut the butter back (in the larger recipe) to only a third of a cup--or even less, though the richness will be affected.
Reduce the amount of walnuts--or eliminate completely. This will change the flavor quite a bit, but it is also a possibility if anyone is allergic to tree nuts.
Make this when foods are seasonally well priced--apples in the fall, eggs at various times in the year when on sale--like right before Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter when stores are enticing home bakers to stock up.