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