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Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

At-Home Chef: Stale Mate

Cooking’s biggest enemies: motivation and patience.

The idea of making something from scratch is always nice—but the execution? Before you’ve finished your mental list of the ingredients you need to grab from the store, you’ve probably found yourself sitting at a restaurant instead.

This is why bread pudding is magic. You can use ingredients you already have on hand, it requires very little effort, and—unless one of your ingredients is a handful of hair—is consistently delicious. It’s a perfect make-ahead dish for holiday gatherings, whether you want to serve it as a dessert or make a breakfast for the next day. I’m starting you off with the sweet and savory ideas below, and you can make your own versions by adding what you like to the core ingredients: two and a half cups half and half, six eggs, and a loaf of stale bread cut into one-inch cubes. Enjoy!

Sweet Buckeye Bread Pudding

Servings: 12

Ingredients

1 loaf of stale challah or other sweet bread, chopped into 1-inch cubes, ap

proximately 10 cups (Stock & Barrel writer/chef Will Johnston recommends the

challah at Omega Artisan)

2 ½ cups half and half

6 eggs

¾ cup melted peanut butter

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon  vanilla

2 cups chopped chocolate, with 1/3 cup of that set aside for sprinkling on top or creating a finishing sauce (I used a combination of semi-sweet and white chocolate)

Optional: three-quarter cup heavy cream and half-teaspoon vanilla for a chocolate finishing sauce

Tools

9-by-13 baking dish

Measuring cups

Medium bowl

Stand/hand mixer, or whisk

Wooden spoon

The plan

1. Butter the baking dish, then add the cubes of bread.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the half and half, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and peanut butter together until well-combined. The more melty the peanut butter the better. This will mix fastest in a stand mixer, but mixing by hand with a whisk works fine too as long as you’re patient.

3. Pour the mixture into the baking dish with the bread cubes. Add all but 1/3 cup of the chopped chocolate to the mixture, making sure it is distributed throughout.

4. Either sprinkle the remaining chocolate on top of the pudding, or save it to create a finishing sauce.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Let the bread pudding sit for at least 15 minutes.

6. Cook uncovered for 45 minutes  or until the top is lightly brown and firm
but springs back from touch. The middle should not have any liquid.

7.  If creating a finishing sauce, heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until steaming, then pour into a bowl with the chocolate and vanilla, then stir until melted. When the bread pudding is cooling, either pour the sauce over the entire dish, or save to top each individual serving.

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Savory: Sausage, Leek, and Cheese Bread Pudding

Servings: 12

Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 loaf of stale challah bread or other sweet bread chopped into 1-inch cubes,

approximately 10 cups

2 ½ cups half and half

6 eggs

10 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded cheddar cheese, with one-third cup of that set aside  for sprinkling on top (I used Kerrigold Dubliner cheddar—there’s a slight sweetness and edge to it that I love)

12 oz. of sausage (I used a package of Jimmy Dean sausage)

¾ cup of chopped leeks

1 tablespoon each salt and pepper, adjust to taste

Optional: 2 tablespoons of finely chopped sage, rosemary, or thyme to help flavor the

sausage

Tools

9-by-13 baking dish

Measuring cups

Medium bowl

Whisk

Wooden spoon

Small skillet

Chopping board

The plan

1. Butter the baking dish, then add the cubes of bread.

2. In a small skillet, brown the sausage with the chopped leeks and herbs (if using).

3. In the medium bowl, mix the eggs, half and half, salt, pepper, and all but one-third  cup of the cheese until combined.

4. Add the egg and sausage mixtures to the baking dish with the bread, then mix the ingredients together until well-combined. Top with the remaining cheese.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Let the bread pudding sit for at least 15 minutes.

6. Cook uncovered for 45 minutes, or until the top is lightly brown and firm but springs back from touch. The middle should not have any liquid.

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