Nothing went to waste in my grandmother’s kitchen. My stepfather insisted on a big stack of white bread on the table at every meal, which usually led to a fair amount of slightly stale bread hanging around—but not for long. Besides breadcrumbs and dumplings, we also had some terrific puddings, like this one. It not only tasted good, it was a bargain—the apples were from a neighbor’s tree,
and reciprocated with a large bowlful as thanks. This one’s fairly rich, but you’re worth it, aren’t you? A loaf of good, unsliced white bread is best, but if you can’t get some, pre-sliced is fine. (serves 6)
1 small loaf white bread, 1 or 2 days old
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups half-and-half
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3 red apples, not too tart, such as Red Delicious, Winesap, or Macintosh
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Cut the bread into four 1-inch-thick slices and trim the crusts (or, if using pre-sliced, simply trim crusts). Tear the slices into about 1-inch chunks and scatter on the bottom of the dish; use enough bread to cover the bottom of the dish in a loose jumble about one inch deep.
In a large saucepan, combine the half-and-half, salt, and vanilla. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Turn off heat. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and granulated sugar together, add to the pan, whisk all the ingredients together, and set aside.
Peel, core, and finely chop the apples. Scatter evenly across the bread slices. Sprinkle with the cinnamon. Pour the milk-egg mixture over. (Some of the apples will float—just push them down with the back of a spoon to coat with the liquid.)
Bake for 1 hour, or until set. (It’s a good idea to place the dish on a cooking sheet, as it may overflow as the egg mix inflates—it will collapse as it cools.) Serve warm.
Variation, just a bit richer: Pre-soak ½ cup of raisins in warm water for an hour till plump, drain, and scatter over the apples before pouring over the liquid.