Fall is here. The mornings are chilly with a scent of woodsmoke. The beech trees gently shower their yellow leaves on the still-green grass. We haven't had a frost yet, but it is simply a matter of days - this morning the temperature was 33 degrees.
The brisk temperatures send me into the kitchen to stir up something warm and comforting. A half a loaf of my favorite supermarket bread, viera saloio ( Portuguese bread), reminds me how long it's been since I made my bread pudding. A few hours later, it sits on the counter, warm, cheerful, fragrant with vanilla.
You can use any leftover bread, really. I prefer a slightly chewy bread for the bread pudding, like the 12 hour bread I made a while ago. I tear it into small pieces rather than cutting it into cubes.
Simple Bread Pudding with vanilla bean
Makes about 4 servings
1 3/4 cup milk
2 T. heavy cream
2 T. unsalted butter
half a vanilla bean, broken in pieces ( or 1 t. vanilla, but it won't be as good)
about 3 pieces handcut, 1 inch width bread, torn into small pieces
pinch of cinnamon
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 T. sugar, plus more for sprinkling
Butter 2 small ovenproof dishes, or one larger dish.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Heat the milk, cream, vanilla bean, cinnamon and butter in a saucepan. Do not boil - just heat until it's hot.
Place the bread in a bowl.
Remove hot milk mixture from heat.
Pour a little hot milk into the eggs, stirring, then a little more.
Tip the yolk mixture into the warm milk, whisking all the while ( so it won't curdle.)
Remove the vanilla beans ( you can scrape some of the delicious seeds into the milk)
Pour the milk/egg mixture over the bread and let sit ten minutes.
Arrange the bread and milk/egg mixture in dishes.
Sprinkle a little sugar on top of the bread.
Transfer dishes or dish to a baking pan that has been filled with an inch of hot water.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until bread is golden and custard is set.