Cook’s Illustrated rum raisin bread pudding

Bread pudding, with all its creamy custardy goodness, screams comfort food. I was having dear friends J&J over and decided Cook’s Illustrated Rum Raisin Bread Pudding recipe deserved a place in the Sunday supper line-up. What may have once been a humble dish meant to use up the remains of dried-up, days-old bread has now morphed into a sinfully rich finale for any meal.

Rum raisin bread pudding

The recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I probably threw in a pinch more)
  • 1 (14 oz) loaf challah bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 10 cups)
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 5 teaspoons dark rum (added a couple more swigs, making it ~8 teaspoons)
  • 9 large egg yolks
  • 4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

bread pudding, step 1 bread pudding, step 2 bread pudding, step 3

In an oven preheated to 325 degrees F, I baked the bread cubes—tossing them occasionally—on a couple of baking sheets for about 15 minutes; I also switched the sheets halfway through for even baking. Once done, I took the cubes off the hot sheets to cool for about 15 minutes, and set aside about 2 cups.

Meanwhile, I combined the brown sugar with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar along with the cinnamon, then set that aside. I then poured some raisins and dark rum into a small bowl, which I popped into the microwave for about 45 seconds or so—basically to get the rum hot and the raisins plump. Moving right along, I started in on whisking the egg yolks with the rest of the white sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl.

bread pudding, step 4 bread pudding, step 5 bread pudding, step 6

Onward ho: I briskly whisked cream and milk into the egg yolk mixture. Eight cups of bread cubes promptly got a thorough dunking. I then transferred all of it into a 13×9 baking dish and let it stand for about 30 minutes. Every so often, I’d go back and press on the bread cubes to make sure all of ‘em were getting a thorough soak.

Once the 1/2 hour was up, I spread the 2 cups of cubes that I’d held back across the top and pressed down lightly on the custard. The finishing touches: dabbing melted butter over the unsoaked bread cubes (a pastry brush comes in handy here), then sprinkling the brown sugar-cinnamon mix across the top.

bread pudding, step 7

After 45-50 minutes (give or take a few minutes) in the oven, out came this wonderfully crisped-on-the-outside, moist-and-luscious-on-the-inside bread pudding. I knew it was ready when I pushed down on the center of the pudding and no more liquid oozed out. (Best to bake this dish on a rimmed baking sheet just in case the thing bubbles up and over the sides.)

One final thing: I cooled the custard for at least 45 minutes, if not longer, before we all dug in. This makes for great leftovers, and a good brunch or breakfast treat too.

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