Makes: 6 servings
Time: About 1 hour, largely unattended
There are few ways to use leftover bread that equal this. You can vary the recipe any number of ways, starting with different kinds of bread (whole wheat, challah, rye or cinnamon raisin) or day-old pastry (Danish, cinnamon rolls or muffins). Cut them into large cubes; you'll need about 3 heaping cups. Feel free to add chocolate chips, nuts or chopped dried fruit. Top the finished pudding, if you like, with plain or flavored whipped cream or vanilla custard sauce.
3 cups milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
8 slices white bread, preferably stale, crusts removed if they are very thick or dark
Heat the oven to 350°F. Over low heat in a small saucepan, warm the milk, butter, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt, just until the butter melts. Meanwhile, butter a 6-cup or 8-inch square baking dish (glass is nice) and cut or tear the bread into bite-sized pieces; they need not be too small.
Put the bread in the baking dish and pour the hot milk mixture over it. Let it sit for a few minutes, occasionally submerging any pieces of bread that rise to the top. Beat the eggs briefly and stir them into the bread mixture. Mix together the remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Set the baking dish in a larger baking pan and pour hot water in, to within about an inch of the top of the dish.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until a thin-bladed knife inserted in the center comes out clean or nearly so; the center should be just a little wobbly. Run under the broiler for about 30 seconds to brown the top a bit if you like. Serve warm or cold. This keeps well for 2 days or more, covered and refrigerated.
Chocolate Bread Pudding:
In Step 1, melt 2 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate with the butter and milk.
Apple-Raisin Bread Pudding:
In Step 2, add 1 cup peeled, cored, grated and drained apples and 1/4 cup or more raisins to the mixture along with the eggs.
Rum-Raisin Bread Pudding:
Add 1/4 cup dark rum and 1/2 cup raisins to the mixture along with the eggs.