My husband loves bread pudding so much that he orders it at restaurants. With bread that is starting to go stale, sweet or savory bread pudding is a great solution. Bread pudding is basically an egg and milk custard that wraps around cubes of bread and other ingredients, whether vegetables (leeks and asparagus were an option this week) or fruit (such as seasonal rhubarb). The bread can be present, as in this version, or can be rendered mushy to combine with the milk and eggs and create a batter.
One of my favorite pairings with rhubarb is orange, zest for sure and juice when it makes sense. To get the most from zest, I crush it with sugar – using a mini-food processor or a mortar and pestle – which releases the aromatic oils in the peel. I also like a little whiff of cinnamon with rhubarb so I added a pinch of that too. Believe it or not, cinnamon complements the mixture and provides an alluring “back flavor.” Although I made this up on the fly, it turned out to be one of the most delicious bread puddings I’ve ever done. Who knew?
Rhubarb Bread Pudding
2 stalks rhubarb
½ c white granulated sugar (or raw cane sugar)
Zest of 1 orange (2-3 tsp)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Dab of butter
4 c cubed stale bread (3/4-inch pieces, without crust)
Optional: ¼ c chopped pecans
1½ c milk (nonfat is fine)
Optional: sugar crystals such as raw cane sugar to sprinkle on top
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Clean the rhubarb and cut it into ½-inch pieces. Whiz the sugar and orange zest in a mini-processor or combine them using a mortar and pestle. Add the cinnamon and stir the mixture into the rhubarb. Set it aside for 5 minutes of so and stir to dissolve the sugar. (Do not let it exude a lot of juice since that will dilute the custard.) Butter a 2-quart ovenproof baking dish and add the rhubarb, the cubed bread, and nuts, if using. Lightly beat the eggs and add the milk. Pour over the bread and fruit mixture, pressing down lightly to make sure the top bread cubes are moistened. Bake the pudding for 45-50 minutes, or until the custard is set. Halfway through, sprinkle on the sugar crystals, if using. Serve warm.