Bread pudding or stratas, as they are sometimes called, are perfect for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Since they must be made ahead before baking, these really are a cooks best friend. Served in souffle dishes, in individual ramekins, or in shallow baking dishes, bread puddings are difficult to resist because of their old-fashioned quality.
The holidays are usually so packed with various activities that a dish like this is one secret to being a relaxed host. The colors of this bread pudding, with mahogany-red crisp bacon, red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes contrasting with the bright green spinach leaves, make it the perfect choice for a festive brunch.
Dont forget to start this a day ahead to dry out the bread cubes. Try to find olive-studded ciabatta bread for extra flavor. If your kids are picky eaters, you can leave out the peppers and tomatoes with an equally delicious result, a kind of special bacon and cheese sandwich. I like to serve this with a winter fruit salad platter.
Keep these tips in mind when making any bread pudding:
• Use good-quality bread like challah or brioche.
• Make sure to dry it out so that the bread can absorb the custard. You can do this by putting it out on the counter overnight or in a 250 F oven for half an hour.
• Allow time for the custard to absorb into the bread before it goes into the oven. Allow it to sit until you can feel that a cube is soaked through to the center.
The clever cook could:
• Substitute smoked Gouda for 1 cup of cheddar cheese.
• Substitute sausage for the bacon.
• Substitute challah, egg bread or French bread for the ciabatta.
• Add sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions instead of the peppers or sun-dried tomatoes.
• Serve this at room temperature.
Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 20 cookbooks and a James Beard award-winning radio show host. Contact her at seriouslysimple.com
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