A Taste of NOLA: Bread Pudding
There’s no question that one of the things that sets New Orleans apart from other cities is its incredible food. From jambalaya and gumbo to fresh seafood dishes with Cajun and Creole flair, you’ll always find something to please your palate. And when you’ve finished the main course, it’s time for dessert! New Orleans is known for all sorts of sweet treats, like beignets, Doberge cake, pralines, and the ultimate down-home favorite, bread pudding.
Here’s a closer look at this tempting, comforting southern favorite.
The Beginnings of Bread Pudding
Nowadays, you’ll have no problem finding bread pudding on pretty much every New Orleans dessert menu, from downhome diners to upscale, fine-dining venues. This smooth, sweet treat can make you feel all warm and toasty inside, perhaps thanks to the rum or whisky sauce. But when and where exactly did this mouthwatering, irresistible dessert get its start?
This dessert has roots that go as far back as the 11th century, when it was mainly a way for cooks to use up stale bits of bread instead of letting them go to waste. In 13th-century England, the dish was known as “poor man’s pudding,” and over the centuries, it popped up throughout Europe in countless variations, sometimes including bits of fruit or other add-ins.
In the 1700s, French and Spanish immigrants made their way to Louisiana, bringing many culinary traditions. As early as 1885, a simple recipe for bread pudding popped up in a Creole cookbook, La Cuisine Creole. It stated to layer thinly sliced bread in a dish with currants and citron, then pour a mixture of sugar, eggs, and milk over the top and bake. From that point forward, several other cookbooks featured different bread pudding recipes, including unique versions like chocolate bread pudding.
By the 1970s, bread pudding showed up in many restaurants throughout New Orleans, pulling inspiration from another famous New Orleans dessert, bananas foster, by including a brown-liquor-based sauce in most recipes. Different chefs throughout NOLA’s many incredible eateries have put their own spin on bread pudding over the years, and the dish has become a decidedly New Orleans dessert tradition.
How Do You Make Bread Pudding?
Ready to try your hand at whipping up some of your own bread pudding at home? Try this yummy recipe adapted from Louisiana Kitchen & Culture.
Ingredients for Bread Pudding
6 cups of cubed French bread (about one loaf)
2½ cups of whole milk
4 large eggs
1¼ cups of white sugar
1½ teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of an add-in of your choice (optional). Popular add-ins are nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, or bits of fruit.
Ingredients for Sauce
3 tablespoons of butter
3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
½ cup of sugar
¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
1 tablespoon of flour
1 cup of heavy cream
1-ounce of dark rum
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the cubed bread into a large bowl and pour the milk over the bread. Let it soak into the bread thoroughly. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, spices, and any add-ins if you are using them. Pour this mixture over the milk-soaked bread and squish it together with your hands. Melt the butter, letting it cool slightly, then add it to the mix. Place the contents into a buttered, 2-quart baking dish and bake for one hour. After an hour, check for doneness by inserting a knife to see if it comes out clean.
When your pudding has about 10 to 15 minutes to go in the oven, start on the sauce. Combine the butter, sugar, and nutmeg in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter melts, then blend in the flour and cook until thoroughly mixed together. Then, slowly whisk in the cream, vanilla, and rum. Continue to cook until the sauce almost boils, without rising in the pan.
When the pudding is ready, let it cool slightly (but not too much), then serve with some sauce over the top.
Where to Find the Best Bread Pudding in New Orleans
If you’re looking for some of the best bread pudding in town, then look no further than the incomparable Commander’s Palace on Washington Avenue or Mother’s Restaurant on Poydras. You can also find some incredible examples of this popular dessert at Muriel’s Jackson Square, the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter, and Oceana Grill on Conti Street.
If you want to enjoy some delicious bread pudding while you relax in style, then order some to-go and take with you to your elegant accommodations at the St. James Hotel. It’s sure to make your New Orleans stay all the sweeter.