Bread and butter pudding is a classic British dessert that's a perfect way to use up leftover bread. I've adapted it to make a more refreshing summer version, using the ripest cherries you can find.
This recipe uses leftover brioche, but it would be equally scrumptious with any white bread, croissants, challah, or whatever other plain or sweet stale bread you have lying around. The drier the bread, the better. As the pudding bakes, the bread and custard mixture becomes soft and gooey, with the juices from the cherries running through the layers.
For me, it’s best served warm with a dollop of cold clotted cream. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream work just as well. —HungryLarder
Test Kitchen Notes
This is a tasty crowd-pleaser. With its toasty, cinnamon-y top, it will remind you of French toast, but with juicy cherries inside. The top layer of bread is a beautiful golden brown and, because you butter it prior to the oven, it becomes super toasty and crusty -- a nice contrast to the soft filling. The texture of the bread pudding was pleasant: not soggy, but custardy. The zest of a whole lemon brought brightness to the dish. Feel free to increase the amount of spices in order to really bring out their flavors. —Annie "Smalls"
Leave the oven alone for now. It’s summer and you don’t need the extra heat just yet.
For generous portions: butter 6 individual metal containers large enough to hold 2 cups of liquid each. I used enamel mugs.
Squeeze half a lemon over the cherries, then add a tablespoon of sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg. Mix well.
Pour the milk and the cream into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and warm it over medium heat. When it’s just about to boil, remove it from the heat. Add the grated lemon zest.
Split the pod along its length and scrape the seed with a sharp knife. Drop the seeds into the milk, along with the empty pod. Let it infuse while you start beating the eggs.
On a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the 4 eggs and half cup of sugar for 4 to 5 minutes, until very light and pale.
Fish out the vanilla pod from the milk. With the mixer still on, gradually add the warmed up milk to the eggs until incorporated.
Pass the egg-milk mixture through a sieve.
Cut the brioche loaf into 1-inch slices. You should get 12 to 15 slices out of a large loaf.
Use one of the mugs as a cookie cutter and cut the slices into rounds that will fit the inside of each mug. Butter each slice of brioche on one side.
Place one slice at the bottom of the mug, buttered side up, and cover it with a generous handful of cherries.
Cover the cherries with one more slice of buttered brioche, then cherries again, and one final layer of brioche. You should end up with 3 layers of brioche and 2 layers of cherries between them. If you have any juice left over from the bowl where the cherries were kept, pour it over the bread.
Once you’ve filled all the mugs with the brioche slices, carefully pour the milk-and-egg mixture over each mug. You may need to let it sink in a bit, then do all mugs again until each mug is full. Don’t worry if the mugs fill all the way to the top. The brioche will continue to absorb the liquid and the level will go down.
Place all prepared mugs in the fridge. They need to rest for at least 30 minutes, but overnight is also a splendid idea, as the bread absorbs all the juices and flavours form the cherries.
Now turn on the oven to 350° F (180° C). By the time you cleaned the kitchen and the mess those cherries made all over the place, you’ll find your half hour is up and the oven has warmed up.
Cook the puddings in a bain-marie: place the mugs into a deep roasting dish. Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the mugs. Place the tin in the oven and cook it for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. The juices from the cherries will have made their way through the bread, which is exactly what they’re meant to do.
Remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Note: if, like me, you’re incapable of discarding leftovers, you can also use the scraps of bread from the rounds you cut up earlier to make an extra portion. They won’t look pretty, but will be equally delicious and you can save that mug for the cook.