As easy and good as bread pudding gets. Don’t underestimate the short ingredient list—it knows what it’s doing. The challah is torn and toasted, the half-and-half is rich but not too rich, the dark brown sugar brings all the malty-toffee vibes, and a combination of whole eggs and yolks means a fluffy, custardy texture with no eggy flavor. Oh, and that brown sugar and half-and-half—plus a big pinch of salt and knob of butter—turn into what I like to think of as Cheater’s Caramel. You’ll want to spoon it onto just about everything. —Emma Laperruque
(1-pound) challah loaf
dark brown sugar
pure vanilla extract
large egg yolks
unsalted butter, more or less for greasing the pan
Toast the bread: Cut the challah into 1-inch slices. Tear these slices into big pieces with your hands. (They don’t have to be even!) Add to a rimmed sheet pan. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the bread is lightly browned and dried out. Let cool completely.
Psst: Leave that oven on, we’re using it again soon. While the toasted bread is cooling, make the custard. In the largest bowl you have, combine the half-and-half, brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt, eggs, and egg yolks. Whisk until completely smooth.
Add the toasted, cooled bread to the custard mixture. Use two big spoons (or your hands) to toss until all the bread is coated. Butter a 13x9-inch baking dish. Add the bread-custard mixture to the pan. (There will be some custard that hasn’t absorbed into the bread yet. Just pour it evenly over the top.) Use one of the spoons to gently push down the bread. Let the bread absorb the custard for 30 minutes, using the spoon to push down the bread every so often to encourage it to soak up as much custard as possible.
Bake the bread pudding uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and the center is no longer liquidy (you can use your finger or a small knife to check this). Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Make the brown sugar sauce. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Mix, stirring slowly but constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted. That’s it! (If you want a thicker sauce, you can bring it to a simmer and cook it until thicker. But I like it just like this—especially since it thicken more as it cools.)
Serve big scoops of bread pudding with an extra-big drizzle of brown sugar sauce on top.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.