I went to a pre-Thanksgiving potluck supper way back in November, and I was assigned bread and butter. I wasn't sure how many people would be attending, so I carried in two types of bread - regular French bread and brown oat bread, kind of like they have at the Cheesecake Factory. Even after sharing bread with people taking plates home, I had a lot of extra bread. Darren and I ate some of it, but there was no way we would finish it all before it got stale or molded. Bread pudding to the rescue!
I have had bread pudding made with all sorts of bread, and my mom raves to this day about the bread pudding her grandmother used to make with whatever baked goods were leftover at the end of the week (rolls, biscuits, cake with frosting...). I used to eat at this little place in Sarasota, Florida, on Siesta Key, called the Wildflower that would make bread pudding out of their day-old muffins. It was amazing. I even made a small bread pudding out of the leftover brown sugar pound cake cupcakes from a few weeks ago, and I once made a bread pudding from a mixture of bread and pound cake. Anyway, the thing about bread pudding is that you can make it with whatever kind of bread or bread-like stuff you have laying around.
It is a fairly simple undertaking, and could often be thrown together with ingredients that are probably all ready in the pantry and refrigerator. In this bread pudding, I used cream, but I have also used milk when that was all I had on hand. I would shy away from skim milk, but just about any other milk should work. Bread puddings can be sweet or savory, and can be plain or have lots of mix-ins.
I think the key to a good bread pudding is mixing up the wet ingredients and then letting the bread soak up the eggy-creamy goodness before baking. This bread pudding has nuts, raisins, and dried cranberries. I also served it with a whiskey sauce, but I wasn't particularly fond of the sauce, so I'm not including it here. Anyway, you can see in this picture (that I didn't remember to take until we had started eating it), the edges are firm and golden, and the center still has a bit of jiggle to it.