Christmas bread pudding

Dec 1, 2009 at 2:36 p.m. ET

Custardy-rich bread pudding is a classic dessert that has many variations. It can contain nuts, fruit or liquor and is often served with a caramel or rum sauce. When served for dessert after a Christmas meal, bread pudding is a sweet ending that really warms the holiday spirit.

Christmas Pudding

Bread Pudding Basics

Day old bread

One of the staples of bread pudding is the bread, which is typically "day old" or slightly stale. Though hardened to start, it will become a succulent custard instead of the mushy mess a fresh soft bread will make. Good options are thickly cut Italian or French bread. Even thick raisin bread or Challah works well. Using a sweeter bread will only add to the delicious flavors of the pudding.


The custard mixture that the bread is soaked in prior to baking will moisten the bread as well as contain the main flavor components. For example, you can use flavored extracts, fruit juices, and/or liquor, such as brandy, bourbon or whiskey. Adding dried or fresh fruit and nuts also adds texture and flavor.


A sauce is not necessary for bread pudding, but it does add an extra dimension of moistness. Match complementary flavors in the sauce to the custard flavors. For example, if there are apples and cinnamon in the bread pudding, use calvados and cinnamon in the sauce. The bread pudding sauce is fairly rich and somewhat thin in order for it to soak into the warm baked bread. When topped with a dollop of whipped cream, you have the perfect Christmas dessert.

Christmas bread recipes

Classic Bread Pudding

Makes 8 to 10 servings

3 cups granulated sugar, divided
6 lightly beaten eggs, divided
2 cups whole milk
4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
3 cups cubed Italian or French bread, hardened overnight
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup whiskey

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a square baking dish.

2. Combine 2 cups sugar with 5 eggs, milk, and 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat well. Place bread in a bowl and pour egg mixture over bread and let soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine brown sugar with softened butter and walnuts, using your fingers to crumble together.

4. Spoon bread mixture into pan and top with brown sugar mixture. Bake pudding for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

5. When ready to serve, combine 1 cup sugar with melted butter, egg, and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Mix in whiskey and cook for another minute.

6. Spoon warm sauce over warm pudding to serve.

Orange & Cranberry Crock Pot Bread Pudding

Makes 6 to 8 servings

6 cups brioche bread cubes, hardened overnight
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups half-and-half
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar

1. Combine bread, cranberries, orange juice and zest in a crock pot. Whisk vanilla with butter, half-and-half, and sugar and pour over bread.

2. Cover crock pot with lid and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours. Remove pudding and top with whipped cream.

Individual Chocolate Bread Puddings

Makes 6 servings

3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup coffee flavored liqueur
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon plus 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated
5 cups Challah bread, cubed, hardened overnight
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons butter
Pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. and grease 6 small ramekins.

2. In a bowl, whisk milk with cream and liqueur. In a separate bowl, whisk both sugars and cocoa powder. Beat 1 cup sugar mixture into cream mixture until sugar dissolves.

3. Stir 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vanilla, and cinnamon into eggs then whisk egg mixture with cream mixture then stir in grated chocolate.

4. Pour chocolate mixture over bread and let soak 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon bread mixture into prepared ramekins and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and set.

5. To make sauce, combine 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, boiling water, butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla and salt in a bowl. Mix well and serve over pudding.

More bread pudding recipes