What’s Your Favorite Dessert? A Meditation on Bread Pudding

I don’t have a favorite dessert, but my husband loooves┬áBread Pudding. Whenever we go to a new restaurant, before he orders anything else, he asks if they have bread pudding, and if they do, he orders it immediately, to be served later, to be sure they don’t run out before he gets his portion.

Bread pudding was originally a Depression Era treat. Cookbooks from those times say, if you have six slices of bread leftover, and if your chickens are laying, then all you need is some milk and some sugar or honey, and even less of that if you don’t have much, and you can have bread pudding.

That’s basic. We have developed certain criteria for good bread pudding. It should not be too dense, but it also should not be loose–that means, that it should hold a square shape and not sag into a lump, but it should give way under gentle pressure from a spoon. It should not be too sweet or too bland, but it should be tasty without resort to a sauce. The flavor should be more complex than plain sweetening–at the least, vanilla or cinnamon. If it has a sauce, that too should not be too sweet, but flavorsome. Brandy or bourbon sauce is good, if it’s not too sweet. The bread pudding should not lose the character of whatever it was made of–so it should still look like chunks of bread, croissant, cinnamon roll, whatever. A dense mass of unrecognizable stuff is not good. Additions like raisins, nuts, chocolate chips are all good, but not necessary.

The best bread pudding we ever tasted was made at a restaurant no longer in existence. Jeff and Susan Pedersen had a cafe within their Petroleum Museum in Seattle. A friend and I celebrated our 60th birthdays there, with a Depression Era menu: oysters, baked salmon, bean salad, bread pudding–all those items were Depression foods in Seattle, where oysters were free for the gathering and Indians went door to door selling salmon for twenty-five cents apiece. The bread pudding Susan served was made of chunks of pound cake, real cream, sugar, and chocolate chips.

The best bread pudding we have had recently we enjoyed just ten days ago, at BOKA KITCHEN & BAR, on First Avenue in downtown Seattle. The texture was just right, the taste was just right, the square of pudding rested on creme Chantilly (whipped cream) and was topped with ice cream–cardamom or cinnamon or something exotic. The whole was topped by a delicate, almost transparent praline made of sugar and nuts, standing on edge in the ice cream. What a great treat!

No, I don’t make bread pudding! How can I compete?

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2 Responses to What’s Your Favorite Dessert? A Meditation on Bread Pudding

  1. Diana Brement says:

    I can’t remember where I was, Tucson maybe, and I had a savory bread pudding that was delicious. I love bread pudding, too, but am wary of ordering it because there’s nothing more disappointing than bread pudding disappointment!

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