I am all in favour of maximally efficient food use (not that I am a champion in this – I know some who are – but I try my best). Which means that I aim at buying only those items that I need, that I like browsing the fridge for vegetables on the brink of wilting and then transform them into soup, that I save broccoli stalks and so on (also for soup), and that I always keep the leftovers of dinner. It also means that I freeze slices or chunks of bread that have gone stale. And at regular intervals, when having saved up enough of this leftover bread, which then starts to take up too much precious space in my freezer, I decide it’s time again to make bread pudding.
Converting stale bread into bread pudding is apparently apparently also a practice common outside of Belgium. But I haven’t seen any foreign recipes including vanilla pudding, as we usually do over here. Anyway, bread pudding is quite plainly stale bread, soaked in milk, which is baked again in a springform pan, with some vanilla pudding powder and gingerbread spices and raisins added (and traditionally also eggs, but I leave those out). I like having some chunks of apple in it too, as they add moisture to this dense pudding (which in the dialect I was brought up in is called poting), and I usually go for a decent splash of brown rum as well. Not just rum, really. It’s rum turned into vanilla essence, as I at all times keep some stalks of vanilla soaking (for months, for years) in a bottle of rum, turning this amber-coloured liquid into a vanilla spiked delicacy. The end result is a quite heavy cake, which cannot boast of any delicate qualities, but it’s a reminder of my childhood, and I like its moistness, its sturdiness and cinnamon taste. You can have it at tea time, just as a snack, or you might even eat it for breakfast.
The recipe below is the result of some eyeballing. It’s quite hard fixing this recipe in exact measurements, as the amount of bread one works with varies from time to time, and the type of bread used likewise influences the amount of liquid needed.
Belgian bread pudding
- Ca. 750 g stale bread (could be somewhat less or somewhat more, but I usually take an amount which fills my largest baking bowl to the brim.)
- Ca. 1 l plant milk (again, this is variable. It’s important to use enough milk to soak every tiny bit of bread, but don’t overdo it, otherwise the bread pudding won’t solidify enough during the baking process).
- 1 package of vanilla pudding powder (the ones I use weigh 50 g a package); if you want a more vanilla-y taste, you perhaps could use two, but you’d need a bit more soy milk in that case, I guess.
- 1 TB rum + 1 tsp vanilla essence (or you could just use vanilla-infused rum, like I do)
- 1 heaped tsp gingerbread spices (or if you don’t have that at hand, just mix in some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and/or cardamom)
- 1,5 tsp baking powder
- 100 sugar (if you really have a sweet tooth, add some more – I like moderate sweetness)
- a handful each of raisins, chopped apple and nuts
- a dash of salt
- Take a large bowl for the bread and soak the bread for at least a couple of hours, or more easily, overnight.
- Preheat the oven (180 degrees C)
- Mix the bread so that you end up with a sticky, even mixture that shows no more traces of bread lumps
- Add in all the remaining ingredients, mix well, and ladle into a springform pan.
- Bake for an hour, until the outide is crispy, and the inside has set.
- Let cool (more or less) completely before cutting.