Before I moved from my house with a small, but usable kitchen to an apartment with a teeny-weeny, difficult kitchen, I cooked or baked nearly every day, mostly for other people. Lately, as the weather has grown colder with the not-so-distant approach of winter, I’ve been in a cooking/baking mood again. It started with the chocolate zucchini bread made with zucchini from a wonderful friend’s garden, shredded and frozen for the someday I’d bake again. Then came the Italian style meatloaf, made the way Mom used to—enough for an army. Day before yesterday, I made split pea soup, and yesterday evening, I baked one of my favorite desserts, rum raisin custard bread pudding. Keep in mind that I consume neither gluten nor dairy products, and you’ll understand why my neighbors are worried about gaining weight!
There is something comforting to me about feeding other people I care about. For the few months before I moved away from my house, I’d been cooking for my neighbor, who had been very ill, and needed desperately to gain weight. She asked for comfort food—shepherd’s pie, pasta, Quiche, soups, stews, and especially desserts. I experimented with all sorts of microwave cakes in a mug, creating luscious, fruity or chocolatey concoctions. Cobblers are so easy and quick to make—blueberry, rhubarb, or peach. For a change of pace, I’d throw in a caramel apple pie once in a while. And every other week, I’d experiment with some variation of bread pudding. I enjoyed every minute of my cooking adventures right up until the week I moved away.
So, while bread pudding was originally a way to use up stale bread, it’s no longer reserved for the days when you must use your bread or lose it to mold. When I first started making bread pudding years ago, I used whatever I had on hand. One rainy day , I decided to make some, but as I searched the refrigerator and freezer, I found only a frozen cinnamon raisin loaf I’d bought on sale a while back. The rest is history. The first pans were a bit too dry, so I subsequently added a few more eggs and a couple more cups of half & half (instead of milk) as an experiment. The extra eggs and half & half made a very tasty, moist, rich, custardy pudding. It was good! But it wasn’t as delicious as I knew it would be if, in addition to the almond and vanilla extracts, I threw in some rum. The next batch, I added a quarter cup of rum, and it was out of this world!
Herewith, my recipe.
Rum Raisin Custard Bread Pudding
1 loaf stale (or not) raisin bread (14-16 slices)
1 cup raisins (golden or regular)
3/4 cup of sugar
5 cups half & half
1/4 cup rum
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Directions (Preheat oven to 350°)
1. Cut bread slices into 16 cubes each and place in large bowl.
2. Add raisins and cinnamon to bread and mix to distribute.
3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and half & half.
4. Add rum, vanilla and almond and stir until thoroughly mixed.
5. Pour over bread cubes and mix throughly to make sure all the cubes will absorb the wet mixture. Let sit for half an hour, stirring from the bottom occasionally.
6. Use baking spray to coat 2 large loaf pans, or three smaller foil pans, and then pour mixture into each pan. Try to make them even.
7. Place pans in a larger baking pan filled an inch high with water.
8. Bake 1 1/2 hours at 350° or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
9. Allow to cool on rack before enjoying, or cover with foil, refrigerate and save for later.
Whipped cream or rum sauce adds another dimension to this [carb, dairy and gluten-laden] once-in-a-while treat.