The quotes in the title might need a bit of explaining. I have to put “recipe” in quotation marks because while I’ve included a recipe, it’s really more a method to make one of our favorite breakfasts. If I were to write my own cookbook, it probably wouldn’t include many recipes. It would be a compilation of methods for dishes that are easy to make, hard to screw up and with only a few ingredients. Most of those ingredients would be would be easy to substitute too, because unless you’re Rachael, Martha or Giada, you don’t have somebody whose full time job is to stock your pantry for you.
When we first got married and I was cooking meals for the two of us, I loved finding new recipes, trying them out, feeling all ‘master chef-like’ for putting together great meals from well known cooks. Well, then we had kids, and the days of dinnertime extravaganzas were over. It’s so much easier to put together a meal quickly if you have just a few simple methods that you’re completely comfortable with and can whip off easily.
Knowing how to make a roux, I can make sauces and gravies (creamy for pot pie, regular for meats, etc) to go with almost any meal.
Now that I’ve been making bread for a while, I know the basics, so I can adjust the recipe based on what we’ll be using it for: less oil for pizza crust, no oil for a crusty, chewy artisan bread, and a nice heavy drizzle plus a lower baking temperature for a soft-sided Italian.
(Before you’re that impressed by my cooking prowess, I guarantee you that there’s been LOTS of trial and error along the way. And a few tears.)
I’ll probably be posting about both of those later, but for now here’s my first make-it-your-way recipe. Even if you’re scared of making adjustments, there isn’t much you can do that will kill it. Better yet, it doesn’t matter if the ingredients are past their prime. Stale bread? Perfect! Apples that have gotten mealy with age? Dice them up and throw them in! Extra eggs lying around? Well, our ducks haven’t started laying yet, but I know that there are people with this problem, so this is perfect for it! Homesteading is ‘waste not, want not,’ and this “recipe” is precisely that.
Basic Bread Pudding
6 Cups cubed bread
2 Cups whole milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1) Combine all ingredients except bread in a bowl and beat until very well mixed (I like to use my immersion blender).
2) Spread bread in a 9×13 pan, and pour over the liquid.
3) Let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the mixture.
4) Bake at 350 for approx. 50-60 minutes, until it’s puffy in the center and light brown at the edges.
Here’s where it’s easy to swap out:
-This makes a little drier bread pudding, which is what we prefer. If you want it more custardy, decrease the bread to about 4 cups.
-If you don’t have whole milk, use anything other than skim. If you want it really rich, use mostly half & half, or use part milk/part cream!
-Add nuts or chopped fruit if you’d like, or do what my family loves and throw in about 3/4 cup chunky applesauce into the liquid mixture.
-Swap out the brown sugar for maple syrup or honey, increase or decrease the amount to your tastes.
-Try cinnamon bread, leftover bagels or croissants, or even pumpkin or banana bread.
-Use stale or fresh bread. You may want to decrease the liquid by about 1/2-3/4 cup if you’re using fresh, but even if you don’t it will most likely just require a slightly longer baking time to set up.
-If you don’t have 4 cups, or have more than 4 cups, the basic ratio is 2/3 egg and 1/3 cup milk per cup of bread. (But really, don’t divide up a single egg. Rounding up or down is fine.)