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Breadwinner: A Sweet and Carbohydrate-Laden Bread Pudding Challenge

Bread Pudding Faceoff
Bread Pudding. At one time, it was a poor-man's dessert, borne of necessity--a clever use of day-old bread which proved that leftovers didn't have to taste like dull sacrifice.
Bread Pudding ExperimentHowever, these days it's come into vogue, and makes frequent appearances on fancy restaurant menus, dressed to the nines with sauces, seasonings and fancy non-leftover breads made for the sole purpose of the pudding...yes, it appears that bread pudding seems to have all but forgotten its humble beginnings.

Admittedly, we've always loved bread pudding the old fashioned way--but when we saw this recipe for sticky bun bread pudding that the lightbulb really went off--oh, the possibilities! If bread pudding is gonna be a fancy dessert, why not make it super sweet? And so recently we took it upon ourselves to test out a variety of day-old carbohydrates to see which might make a delicious (and perhaps tooth-numbing) sweet treat.

Here are the details:

Bread PuddingsWhat were the flavors? We made six types of pudding, swapping out bread for the following: birthday cake (with frosting), cornbread, frosted doughnuts (raised), lemon bundt cake, sugar cookies, and baklava. As a control, we made one batch of regular bread pudding to make sure everything tasted OK. It did.
What recipe did we use? We used this recipe, found online, making only a few changes--we omitted the cinnamon and nutmeg because we were using baked goods which had different sorts of sweetness that we weren't sure would work with those spices; also, we reduced the sugar from 2/3 cup to 1/2 cup, because the items we were adding were far sweeter than bread. It didn't seem to mess up the consistency for us.
Why did we choose these flavors? Some items happened to be around the house; for the rest, we just went to the food store and picked out what struck our fancy.

How did we make them? We prepared each filling in an individual cupcake cup--then we divided the custard-y batter part of the recipe and poured it in equal parts into the cups (heart-shaped, naturally).


As for the results?
Cake TimeBirthday Cake Bread Pudding
Birthday Cake Bread Pudding: We used a bit of the leftover cake from our recent love letter to cake in the morning for this one, breaking up one of the leftover mini slices so that it included frosting and sprinkles. We had high hopes for this one, but unfortunately we learned the hard way that birthday cake frosting smothered and baked in a pool of custard comes out...well, a little bit strange. The texture was ever so slightly gritty, and alas, in our opinion, a bit strange and un-delicious.
CornbreadCorn-Bread Pudding

Corn-bread Pudding: This one was surprisingly good, if leaning a bit more toward sweet-and-savory (largely due to the fact that it was not a sweet cornbread we used; combined with the reduced sugar in our pudding mixture, this yielded an end result that was only slightly sweet). When consuming it for breakfast the next morning, a dash of cayenne pepper made for a lively and rich treat, in which the sweetness was more of an aftertaste.
Just DonutDoughnut Bread Pudding
Doughnut Bread Pudding: We chose a raised doughnut, figuring the lighter dough would soak up the pudding ingredients better than a cake doughnut. The result was something like a challah bread pudding, if you've ever tried it, but slightly awesomer because of the chocolate icing, which melted into sweet ribbons within the pudding. A solid bread pudding indeed. 
Nothin Bundt CakeBundt Cake Bread Pudding
Lemon Bundt Cake Bread Pudding: The icing glaze gave that slightly gritty effect again, but in this case it wasn't as strange as in the birthday cake version (perhaps because it wasn't a butter-based frosting?). The result was very rich, but the lemon flavor, which did shine through (especially the next morning) added a nice lightness to the flavor while at the same time adding a layer of depth and complexity to the overall taste. Not the biggest standout, but worth a try.
Sugar CookiesSugar Cookie Bread Pudding
Sugar Cookie Bread Pudding: This one was good, but alas, not great. While this version had a nice texture--ever so slightly chewy without being tough--but was sort of bland because we had left out some of the spices in the recipe. However, perhaps it would have worked better with snickerdoodles or spice cookies.
Baklava, baby!Baklava Bread Pudding
Baklava Bread Pudding: By far and away, Baklava bread pudding was our favorite. It seemed an unlikely candidate, since the phyllo dough layers are already rather soaked with honey, but the added texture and slight crunch proved quite appealing; the combination of the nuts, honey and rich custard were rich as all get-out, but insanely addictive. 


Bread PuddingsBread Vs Bread Pudding
As for our thoughts? It's hard to top a classic, that's for sure. But then again, bread pudding has always been a recipe open to many variations, since it's generally up to the baker to decide what type of bread should go into their version. While several of our sweet versions might benefit from some tweaking, they certainly had potential--and what with bread pudding's renaissance as a fancy treat, we wouldn't be surprised to see more variations showing up on menus in elaborate, sweet, and delicious ways--already delicious versions using babka, piecrust, brownies and pancakes are dancing in our heads. But as for the big question...would we make any of these again? Oh, heck yes! 



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Reader Comments (26)

Peabody has a croissant bread pudding as well that's freaking awesome.


July 24 | Unregistered Commenternoisy penguin

Wow - another impressive experiment.

I have a savoury version using brioche, brie, and caramelized onions that I have to try one of these days because it looks so amazing.

It's amazing how versatile some things can be, isn't it?

Noisy Penguin: I think when Thanksgiving comes around what I really need to be thankful for is PEABODY!!!! Oh the brilliance that comes from that kitchen!!!

Wandering Coyote: Wow, that sounds amazing. Actually while we were making these it prompted me to realize how quiche-y bread pudding can be (while looking through different recipes). What do you think? Well, either way that brioche and carmelized onion and brie one sounds like I would love it!

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Quiche-y, eh? Hm. I'd never thought of that, but it makes sense!

I always thought Spanakopita was a version of quiche, too.

Glad that I could be inspiring. You definitely got creative. I have made a doughnut version before but now I have my eye on Lemon Bundt Cake Bread Pudding. Oh my!

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterPeabody

thank you again for your steadfast commitment to science and art!! i REALLY HEART bread pudding.

July 24 | Unregistered Commentermoonrat

I've been looking forward to reading this after you mentioned to me you had done another experiement. I love bread & butter pudding and would gladly try all of these!

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterJules

I freaking love your experiments! They are always inspiring and beautifully done.

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterGigi

What a fun experiment! I want some of that doughnut and baklava!!! I used to do tons of bread pudding with the scraps of cakes used in the bakery I was. Whenever I see bread pudding I allways remenber those days.

CakeSpy: I love the bread pudding and the illustrations! You are superb!

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterPancake Queen

i don't have much experience with bread pudding...but these all look phenomenal!

July 25 | Unregistered Commentermeghan

This just made my morning. I just imagine all of these little sweet treats whispering in your ear, "we're not one-dimensional! We can be lots of things! WE HAVE POTENTIAL!"

You must try the brioche bread pudding with truffle honey that's tucked away in my recipe index. It's to die for.

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

I LOVE your experiments. Are you gonna start airmailing bread pudding? :) I can't believe the birthday cake was undelicious! Unfathomable!

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterEB

Growing up in Ontario in the 1970s, there was this awesome game show for kids called Just Like Mom. It was exactly how it sounds--three moms and three kids competed for a chance to spin the prize wheel and win a trip to Disneyland. The moms answered questions and then the kids had to guess what their moms said, then vice versa. The final challenge was the Bake-Off where the kids had 60 seconds to throw things into a bowl, then it was baked, and the moms had to eat iall three and guess which one their child made. This was always revolting (cola and frosted cereal were always major ingredients). In a more delicious way, your bread pudding challenge reminds me of the Bake-Off!

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I've always liked bread pudding and the best one was in Bahamas served with rum sauce and a sauce like a cold custard. The local advice was to share one between two as so few people could manage the whole portion...guess who ate a whole one and, thinking she'd only been given half, called for the rest of it?

I love bread pudding, but it has to made so it doesn't taste very eggy. Your cornbread variant really is interesting, as I often crumble cornbread and pour milk and honey on top!

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterChristina
July 25 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

baklava bread pudding? are you frickin' kidding me? of all the great ideas floating around out there, that's the greatest. period.
pardon me..i'm a wee bit excited about this. :)

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

What a great bakeoff. I've thought of a lot of variations on bread pudding, but never baklava. Pure genius!

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

I love you, Cakespy! :D All my favorite treats rolled into bread puddings!


July 25 | Unregistered CommenterOwl Chick

What a great experiment! I found the doughnut one particulary appealing though the baklava seems amazing too!
thanks for sharing :)

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterIsa

How fun! The doughnut seems especially inviting :)

But no panettone? Every Christmas I inevitably end up with the stuff, and I've been turning it into the most amazing puds.

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterDee

I can't wait to try the donut bread pudding.. my husband's bday is coming... he doesn't like cake. i know... but i make up for what he doesn't like! :]

July 26 | Unregistered Commentersmileandbake

No kidding the baklava was your favorite. It stopped me in my tracks. And did I miss something or did you not do the cinnamon roll bread pudding? Hard to come by left over cinnamon rolls, huh? ;D

July 27 | Unregistered Commenterkellypea

I love your experiments! How I would love to be the tester!

July 28 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah
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