Recently, I’ve been dreaming of Mrs. Victorine’s bread pudding. It was a dense, custardy block of deliciousness, dotted with raisins and presented chilled.
Mrs. Victorine was our neighbor across the street in Hilo, Hawaii, where I grew up. As neighbors do in Hawaii, we often shared food back and forth—fruits and vegetables from our backyards, and food we cooked and baked.
After Mr. Victorine died, for quite some time afterwards, my mom would send us over with a plate of dinner for Mrs. Victorine.
In return, Mrs. Victorine baked us bread pudding, which was always a hit with our family. But she would never divulge her recipe and since she passed away years ago, that recipe is lost forever.
In retrospect, it was probably just a basic, old-fashioned bread pudding recipe. But since my mom, despite being an adventurous cook and a good baker, never made bread pudding for us, it seemed extra-special.
Over the weekend, I tried recreating Mrs. Victorine’s bread pudding, merging different recipes. My first attempt, when sliced and served warm, was a very soft, light bread pudding—not the consistency I was looking for. When chilled, however, the pudding firmed up and was more like what I remembered.
Thinking about the texture of Mrs. Victorine’s bread pudding, I remade it again yesterday, adding two more slices of bread. The texture was firmer and is close to what I was trying to replicate.
This is a very simple recipe, with just a few everyday ingredients. But you will need a larger pan with high sides to fill with hot water to put the loaf pan in, for baking. This water bath is called a bain marie, and the purpose is to distribute the heat around the bread pudding so the pudding will cook evenly. A baking dish with high sides, a roasting pan or broiler pan will do the trick.
A note of caution, though: if you put a stainless steel loaf pan into an aluminum baking pan for the bain marie, the aluminum pan will develop black stains. I’ve tried googling to find out what causes the chemical reaction, but I can’t seem to find an answer.
Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding
6 cups bread cubes, cut in ½-inch squares (about 6 bread slices)
½ cup raisins
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature or cut in small pieces
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 350⁰F. Butter a 9 ½- X 5 ½-inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, combine bread cubes and raisins and toss to combine; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, butter, sugar and salt and heat over medium heat, stirring, just until milk is very warm and butter has melted. Do not boil.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Gradually stir warm milk mixture into eggs, whisking continuously to keep eggs from cooking in the hot liquid. Immediately add bread mixture and stir gently to combine. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
Put loaf pan into a deep baking dish with high sides and put the baking dish in the oven. With the oven door still open, carefully fill the baking dish with hot water to come up to half the level of the loaf pan. Close the oven door.
Bake for about 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean.
Remove the loaf pan from the baking dish but keep the baking dish in the oven until the water is cool to avoid burns from splashing water. Once cool, remove the baking dish and discard the water.
Serve pudding warm or cool completely, refrigerate and served chilled.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
- For a baking dish to make a bain marie (hot water bath), consider a roasting pan, broiler pan or a casserole large enough to fit the loaf pan.
- To cut the bread pudding easily, cool in the pan about 10 minutes, then run a paring knife around the edges of the loaf pan to loosen the sides. Put a cutting board over the loaf pan, then holding the loaf pan with pot holders, flip the pan over so the bread pudding falls onto the cutting board (this underside will not be pretty). Then put another cutting board on top of the bread pudding and flip again, so the pretty baked top is facing up. Cut into slices or squares.
- Serve bread pudding with sweetened whipped cream and a handful of berries, if desired.
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