I feel like I am filching from Bakerina, in using this title (and you must read her Tale of the Accidental Pie if you haven’t), but I guarantee my tale will be much less intricate, interesting, or gastronomically delightful.
And with an intro like that, how could you not read on? I’m a whiz with a story hook, no?
So. The sad, lonely challah bread I found at the store. I made it promises of greatness and brought it home. Little did I realize that, oh yeah, there are other ingredients involved in bread pudding, many of which I neither thought to purchase or had on hand here at home. So I pulled out my first recipe and realized I was missing half of the ingredients for which it called. Well, look, there are plenty of fish in the sea (even the sea of bread puddings). I will simply find a different recipe that is more in keeping with what I have available here in my modest pantry. Also I will steer away from the recipes which call for egg yolks because I hate separating eggs and then wasting half of them. So I looked through all of my cookbooks. Then I poked around on the internet for a while.
Then I concluded that no matter which recipe I used, I was going to have to improvise.
What better way to improvise than to enlist the help of one of my favorite assistants? Yes, while Chickadee played at the neighbors’, I reality-checked my recipe tweaks with a 4-year-old who thinks pop-tarts are the perfect food. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And my expectations were low, so what the heck.
First, I apologized to the challah. (I wanted to pretend I thought I was doing something lovely for it, but what with the High Holidays and all I figured it was best to be honest.) Then I buttered the baking dish and sliced the challah into strips, and let Monkey rip it into cubes. The recipe called for only 3/4 of the loaf, but I let him have at the entire thing because I figure only about 3/4 of it ended up in the dish. Then I started mixing up the custard, and that’s where I started offending the culinary deities. I had no cream; I didn’t have enough eggs. I poked around in the pantry and looked up substitution charts and melted a whole lotta butter and pulled out some white chocolate and eye of newt and mixed it all up.
“Can I lick the spoooooooon?” begged Monkey. Visions of nursing him through a night of salmonella poisoning danced through my head. I tried to buy him off with a piece of white chocolate, but he was unimpressed. Oh well. Into the oven it went.
Chickadee came home and I set out dinner: roast chicken, asparagus tips, and apple wedges (we’re still working through those never-ending apples). The complaining began. I reminded the children that there was bread pudding in the oven for dessert, for anyone who ate a decent dinner. They kept complaining, but did eat a fair amount. Then: the moment of truth. I cleared the dinner dishes and went to take out the pudding. The children stood as close as I would allow, and watched me pull the pan from the oven.
“That’s not red!” protested Chickadee.
“Bread pudding, honey.”
“Oh. Why is it all lumpy?”
I tried to explain that this was not pudding that comes in a big creamy blob in a little plastic cup. She was skeptical. And really, I’d been there for the creation of this thing, so I couldn’t say much to assuage her fear. I had no idea if this would tempt the tastebuds or be just another experiment gone awry. It smelled good, though.
The suspense continued as I hustled the kids through showers and into their pajamas, and then we headed back downstairs for dessert. I dished it up. The kids watched me expectantly. I took a bite.
It’s yummy. The children both preferred the crusty top to the custardy bottom, but they both ate it. Would you like the recipe? Here it is: rip up a challah loaf into a baking dish. Put a pot over medium heat and melt some milk, sugar, spices, vanilla, white chocolate, some other random stuff, and a whole mess of butter. In a separate bowl beat however many eggs you have. Temper the eggs with the hot mixture, combine, and pour over the bread cubes. Bake for an hour in a water bath. See? Easy. No, I cannot give you measurements or any more detail than that. Yes, you should say thank you to the challah for being sturdy enough to stand up to that sort of brazen mistreatment.
No, you should not make this if there are only three people in your family. It serves… ummmm… twenty? At least? I don’t know. Guess what we’re having for breakfast tomorrow?