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Bread (Pudding) Alone: Pontifications on the Ultimate Carbohydratey Treat

Bread Pudding, Bella Dolce
Just like any proper invasion, it started quietly, gaining momentum until suddenly, it was an unstoppable force. We're speaking of bread pudding of course--suddenly, it's everywhere.

OK, to qualify that statement, it's not as if bread pudding was ever off the radar. It's been around, on both the high and the low end, as long as we can remember. However, it seems that in the past year or so, its popularity has grown enormously--to the point that nearly every bakery, coffee shop and restaurant in Seattle (and even beyond) has a variation. So what gives?
Well, we have some ideas. Wanna hear?

Bread Pudding
Bread Pudding: Why?
First, before we talk about the present, let's consider bread pudding's past. According to this article,
Food historians trace the history of bread pudding to the early 11th and 12th centuries, as frugal cooks looked for ways to use stale, leftover bread instead of letting it go to waste. In 13th century England, bread pudding was known as “poor man’s pudding,” as it was a popular dish with the lower classes.
Yup--it was a budget-friendly dish then, and it is now. Sure, it's been gussied up--you'll see fancy versions with all sorts of toppings, and creative versions using everything from doughnuts to cinnamon rolls to brioche, but it really does boil down to the idea of giving new life to baked goods which would otherwise be thrown away. 
Even beyond the idea of making smart use of leftovers though, is the fact that bread pudding is also a vastly comforting dish. Warm, custardy and carbohydratey, it's the type of fare that can put you in a blissful carbohydratey coma, forgetting all manner of economic woes. Just look at all of the major food magazines lately--they've all got comfort food on the cover. 
To speak specifically to the proliferance of the sweet treat in Seattle of course, one need only consider the weather during the winter months: we don't know about you, but we couldn't think of a cozier sweet for a cold and rainy day.

Bread Pudding at La TarteGorgeous bread pudding, B&O Espresso
Bread Pudding: How?
Now that we've considered why bread pudding has been so popular lately, let's consider form. For it seems to us that there are two major players in the world of bread pudding, the first a more solid, cakey sort; the second being a more custard-y sort, consisting of the bread floating in a dish of cream. Which one is correct? Well, we wouldn't dare make the final call on that, so we turned to our dear readers to see which variation they preferred. 
While certainly some have a strong preference, it seems that the preference was for some sort of middle ground. Seems that a solid form is important, but it does need some sort of sauce or topping. As one reader said, a hybrid is best: "cakey (but not dry) bread pudding with sauce drizzled over"; and as another aptly echoed, "Nice and soft, but not soupy".

Bread Pudding: What Now?
So what's going to happen next? Well, as it is such an open-ended dish, we'd predict that you look out for more hybrids and creative innovation--often based on updating or taking a creative spin on old classic recipes--and in both sweet and savory variations. Want a peek? Here are just a few of the variations that have intrigued us on the sweet side of things: 
The NY Times' Jelly Doughnut Bread Pudding (Photo above, c/o NYT)
Su Good Sweets' Nutella Bread Pudding
...and of course, you may enjoy checking out the Bread Pudding experiment we ourselves did a few months back.

Bread Pudding(s) at Grand Central, Pioneer Square
Bread Pudding: Where?
Where do Cake Gumshoes get their bread pudding fix? In Seattle, we love the bread pudding at Boat Street Cafe (it's the one that everyone says is "the best"--and well, it's pretty freaking good, served in a rum-butter cream sauce) , B&O Espresso (floating in a dish of custard), Bella Dolce (more solid, served in a cupcake-cup), and Grand Central Baking (also served in a cupcake-cup, but with a delectable chocolate variation). How about in your hometown?


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Reader Comments (20)

I love an excellent bread pudding. Hate the dry stuff and I think that bread pudding should be able to be eaten alone without a sauce, it should be that good.

March 4 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

i have never been a fan of bread pudding, but i've only ever really tried the very wet kind. i am intrigued by the more cake-like variety and now feel the need to seek some out...immediately.

this sounds sooo fabulous. thank you for getting my baking-juices flowing in a very traditional, yet forgotten way!

I have a bag of too-old-to-eat crescent rolls that I'm eager to turn into a pudding. Thanks for the inspiration!

Julienne in San Marino/South Pasadena serves up a mouthgasmic dark chocolate bread pudding with vanilla bean sauce. Susina Bakery, Harold and Belle's, and the Saddle Peak Lodge also receive enthusiastic recommendations from me.

March 4 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

Do you know how I prefer my bread pudding? Made with cakes instead of bread. Too good!

We make a vegan version for Food Not Bombs since we get so many bread donations. YUM!

I used to make some outstanding variation for the bistro when I worked there, I think my favorite was a pumpkin spice latte bread pudding. Yum!

March 5 | Unregistered CommenterC.L.

Those pictures just make me weep with joy! And what a great way to deal with all the half-loaves of bread that are currently residing in my freezer? A little bourbon and some cream, and I'm set for the rest of the winter!

Oh, no. You said Rum Butter Cream Sauce. It's 7:30 in the morning and all I can think is that if I leave now I can make it up to Boat Street Cafe in time for a late breakfast. Of bread pudding!! Maybe instead I will do my own bread pudding experiment . . . oooohhh, and maybe there will be a savory pudding with bacon and cheddar . . . darn you and your drool-worthy posts!

Ah, my one true food love and the dessert of my last meal. Gosh I love bread pudding. I am needing to try the Boat Street Cafe one, I saw it featured.

March 5 | Unregistered CommenterPeabody

Yum! I agree with the hybrid being the best - my Mom's was crispy on top and gooey underneath, so yummy!

Thanks for giving me a reminder that I need to do something with the nasty loaf of bread in the fridge :)

oh boy i love bread pudding! Marjorie in seattle had the best bread pudding.

bread pudding is my FAVORITE. period. i have to admit i like it really custardy--then it's kind of like a pie, a cake, and a pudding all at once. but it's just the perfect thing. THE perfect thing.

oh, also, i love that in england it's "bread and butter" pudding. the butter gives it this savory edge. ummmmm num num.

March 5 | Unregistered Commentermoonrat

Bread & Butter pudding is one of the best puds when it's mosit and creamy mmmm..

I do like the look of the bread puid slice *drool*

Rosie x

March 6 | Unregistered Commenter♥Rosie♥

Oh, gosh. LOVE bread pudding. We just made some with leftover stollen from Christmas -- totally delish.

Something comforting about a bread custard...

March 6 | Unregistered CommenterLo

Oooh...bread pudding is one of my tricks - when I want a homemade dessert that's quick and easy. I wish I had some stale bread to use! (When I'm dying for it, I just buy a cheap loaf of white bread and toast it ever so lightly in the oven.)

And if I make that, I have to make a Jack Daniels sauce to go with it!

Did you see those little Cuppies here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/? You got to see this.

Oh my. Bread pudding seems to be one of those things you love or hate, and I am firmly in the camp of love. My husband, who never had it as a child, can take it or leave it, though. I adore a bread pudding that is a balance of custard and cakey texture, with enough sweetness to feel a little indulgent. I often do a breakfast version, full of fruit and only a scant bit of sugar. Delicious.

March 9 | Unregistered Commentertara

Bread pudding is my absolute favorite dessert. Boat Street Cafe makes THE best in Seattle. It has the perfect texture and the sauce is to die for!

March 10 | Unregistered CommenterKristin
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