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Bread Pudding


So the days have gotten really short, and the night has gotten so much longer, and I for one am standing in the need of a little comfort. When Chef Jerry Pellegrino told me he wanted to talk about bread pudding, I was all ears. In my book, bread pudding is pure comfort.

Nobody knows for sure, but bread pudding as a dish is probably a very, very old idea.  The basic ingredients, stale bread, milk, sugar and eggs, aren't exactly recent developments.  Wikipedia tells us it goes back to the Middle Ages, but I suspect it goes back much farther than that.

Bread pudding is a flexible recipe.  It really doesn't matter what kind of bread you use; in Germany pumpernickel is used so you get a dark brown pudding.  Good old stale white bread is fine, potato bread even better.  Whatever you choose, you tear it up into pieces and soak it in a milk based liquid.

Some recipes say to soak it for a couple hours.  Jerry likes to soak it over night, or 8 hours during the day time. This ensures thoroughly moist bread.

Add-ons to the recipe are abundant.  Syrups, raisins, nuts, sweet cream, or rum all can find their way into the dish. But

Here are a few ideas Jerry came up with.

Basic Bread Pudding

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, more for greasing pan

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

⅓ cup sugar

Pinch salt

½ loaf sweet egg bread like challah or brioche, cut into 2-inch cubes (about 5 to 6 cups)

6 eggs, beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm milk, butter, vanilla, sugar and salt. Continue cooking just until butter melts; cool. Meanwhile, butter a 4-to-6-cup baking dish and fill it with cubed bread.

Add eggs to cooled milk mixture and whisk; pour mixture over bread. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until custard is set but still a little wobbly and edges of bread have browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

S'mores Bread Pudding

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 (1-pound) loaf potato bread torn into pieces
1  cup coarsely broken graham crackers
2  tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups mini marshmallows

1 cup high-quality dark chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 9 x 12-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon softened butter. Place the bread on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Place toasted bread in baking dish. Place broken graham crackers on sheet pan and drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Bake graham crackers for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk, and vanilla. Place the marshmallows and the chocolate chips over the bread so that they are evenly distributed. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and lightly press down to make sure all the bread is coated. Let bread sit for 5 minutes.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the egg mixture is cooked and set. The center should be slightly springy but not firm. Remove from oven and place toasted graham crackers on top, lightly pressing edges into the top. Serve warm.

And keep in mind, that Thanksgiving staple, bread stuffing, is nothing more than a savory version of bread pudding.  Here's Jerry's take on it.

Maryland Oyster Dressing

Chefs Amy von Lange & Jerry Pellegrino

(It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of this traditional Thanksgiving side dish. There’s no mention of it in “Maryland’s Way’ the seminal book on traditional Maryland cooking and it is sometimes referred to as ‘Skipjack Oyster Dressing’ paying homage to the Chesapeake Bay boat famous for dredging oysters throughout the Bay’s inlets and tributaries that feed it. The recipe is certainly cited in the Junior League of Annapolis’ cookbook ‘Of Tide & Thyme’ in 1995 but the tradition is much older than that. Here’s our version of the recipe:)


1 small white onion, cut into ¼ inch dice

3 ribs of celery cut into ¼ inch dice

4 oz. smoked bacon cut into ¼ inch dice

4 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 loaf of Martin’s Potato Bread cut into 1-inch squares

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 cup of chicken or turkey stock

4 large eggs

24 freshly shucked Maryland oysters with their liquor

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

In a large sauté pan set over medium low heat, render the fat from the bacon until it starts to brown on the edges. Turn the heat up to medium, add the butter and allow it to melt and start to foam. Add the onion and celery and cook until translucent. Add the lemon juice and zest and the stock. Cook for 2 minutes and remove from the heat. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and add the potato bread, oysters and parsley. Pour in the onion mixture, season with salt, pepper and some hot sauce and gently mix until well combined. The stuffing should be moist. If it is too dry add some water until it is sticky. Place the stuffing in an even layer in a buttered oven proof baking dish. Place in the center of a 350°F oven and bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges about 35 to 45 minutes. Serve hot.

-Al Spoler 

Audio coming soon. 

Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.
Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.