How to Turn Leftover Pastries into Bread Pudding

January 11, 2016

Holiday entertaining often means way too many leftovers, including abundant desserts and breakfast pastries.

Rather than feel guilty about the waste or eat more that you know you should, stash those tempting remains in the freezer and (when you are good and ready) turn them into something even more decadent than they were to begin with: Pastry Shop Bread Pudding!

Pssst: There are pastries in there! Photo by Mark Weinberg

My friend Mary Bergin is a cookbook author and the former Pastry Chef at Spago West Hollywood and Spago Las Vegas. She is currently the Culinary Director/Chef of Westlake Culinary Institute in California (where I teach from time to time).

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She's a genius at making use of every delicious thing: Her students keep a sharp eye out, lest Mary catch them tossing something out that could be become new and delicious.

Don't you wish you could dive in? Photo by Mark Weinberg

Mary’s Pastry Shop Bread Pudding—made by swapping bread for leftover pastries— was legendary at the Spago Café in Vegas and often requested by diners in the fine dining restaurant, where it was not even on the menu.

Even better than the pastries themselves? Photo by Mark Weinberg

Here’s your guide to making Mary Bergin’s Pastry Shop Bread Pudding using your favorite bread pudding recipe (or Not Recipe!) as a basic starting point.

What pastries to use:

  • Any with a bready or cakey texture that can absorb moisture.
  • Let them dry out, or put pieces in a warm oven to toast briefly before using them.
  • Best choices are leftover muffins, croissants, Danish, sticky buns, cinnamon buns, cake or cake scraps.
  • Mary’s been known to lace the pudding with thin slices of leftover brown butter tartlets (for which she is famous) and macadamia and pecan tarts, as well.
  • Keep flavors harmonious when assembling the pudding, especially if using assertive flavors like spice cake, gingerbread, or chocolate.

How much pastry to use:

Substitute up to half of the bread called for in the recipe with leftover stale or lightly toasted pastries, or replace 100% of the bread with leftover over croissants! (Yes, you can also use 50% croissants and 50% pastries, just not 100% non-croissant pastries.)


Cube cakey items (including bread); tear croissants.

Torn croissants and cubed raspberry-bran muffins. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Adjust sugar:

Reduce the amount of sugar in the custard depending on the amount and sweetness of the pastries you are using.

Assemble and baking:

Distribute bread and pastry pieces in the pan and pour the custard on top. Let stand for a few minutes and then add more custard to cover. Place a sheet of parchment over the top, cover with plastic wrap, and gently press down. Refrigerate overnight for maximum soakage. Bake as directed in your recipe.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

What's your favorite use for leftover pastries? Share with us in the comments!

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My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).