Hiromi and I sometimes find it challenging to use up a full loaf of bread before it loses its charm. Since we tend to favor local Seattle artisan bakeries, that can become a bit expensive.
I usually like to use slightly old bread as croutons or French toast, but our other meal plans somehow distracted me from that kind of frugality. But as of last Saturday, I realized I had accumulated a fair stash of bread remnants. It turned out I had not one, but three potentially irreconcilable bits of dry bread around… one piece was the end of a baguette, one was from a walnut whole wheat loaf, and a third was a very nice rye bread from Essential Bakery, studded with pieces of onion.
Any other time I had some excessively crusty bread, I might make a bread pudding, but I thought the onion would be a bit of a dealbreaker. I can almost imagine making a dessert built on a caramelized onion jam, but working with onions trapped inside someone else’s loaf of bread would make for a bit of a stretch.
So I went the other direction, creating a savory bread pudding instead.
Savory bread pudding with soft chevre
After soaking the breads in a fair amount of milk until they were moist, I cut everything into bite-size chunks. In a separate bowl, I whisked together a couple of eggs, and folded them into the chunks of soaked bread, along with some extra walnuts, some soft chevre, and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. I added a nice pinch of salt to compensate for the addition of the eggs, but bread is usually fairly well-salted, so I didn’t need much.
I baked it at about 375F in small souffle ramekins until they looked set and slightly browned, probably about 25 minutes. If I were picky, considering it’s a custard, I might have stuck an instant read thermometor into one of the puddings and make sure it had reached at least 140F, but I decided that I trusted my eggs and neither Hiromi or I are pregnant or otherwise have immune problems right now. Besides, it looked done.
After cooling a bit, I carefully extracted the bread puddings from their forms and put them on a plate, slathering them with Irish butter and topping them with a reasonably indulgent helping of sour cream. It turned out better than I expected: rich, custardy, smooth, aromatic with the help of the nutmeg, and studded with capricious chunks of chevre and flavorful pieces of onion.
Asparagus season kicked off in earnest last week, so I also roasted about 12 spears of good Washington asparagus in the oven on a grill pan while waiting for the bread puddings to cool a bit.
In a small saucepan, I let some butter melt and sizzle with some miso, and, when the butter melted, added some milk. It thickened up without the aid of flour, and I spooned it over the roasted asparagus. Maybe 8 or 9 years ago I first encountered a really clever polenta dish at a restaurant on the Harbor Steps in Seattle, topped with a miso bechamel sauce… I’ve been hooked on the butter-miso combination ever since.
We had a nice brunch, and incredibly frugal, with the help of things that might have otherwise gone to waste combined with seasonally inexpensive local vegetables.
I didn’t realize it until after Hiromi and I had plowed through our bread pudding last weekend, but it turns out that An Obsession With Food is hosting an Is My Blog Burning event this weekend, Give Us This Day Yesterday’s Bread, also known as “Good Uses for Stale Bread.” So, I convienently have a relevant contribution for this month’s Is My Blog Burning 25 event. I’ve been completely distracted the last few months, so this is a first time I’ve been able to contribute for a long time. Hopefully circumstances will be so fortuitous next time…