Well of course croissant bread pudding isn't particularly good for you, but sometimes you need comfort food. You meaning Jeff and me. (Go down to the end of this post for a message from Jeff.) I've got a fun-sounding medical test coming up next week called a colposcopy, which is something you can look up on the internet. It's stressed me out to the point where I've made a playlist called CalmTheHellDown and crowdsourced a handful of my favorite women on Facebook for their advice. They have lovingly talked me down from the ledge, but still. Comfort food is definitely the order of the day (or rather, it's defiantly the order of the day, to use a common Facebook misspelling of "definitely" that never fails to bring a sneer to my face when I see it).
So you'll forgive me if I want to make a dessert that is loaded with ingredients many people try to avoid: dairy, sugar, eggs, croissants. But it's so heartbreakingly beautiful and easy. I hadn't made it in years, but last week our refrigerator contained all of the necessary ingredients, including some big frozen croissants that had been in there for months, probably, and egg yolks leftover from some mini-pavlovas I had made.
The recipe is by big bad Ina Garten, from her first Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and as is usually the case with her, it could easily feed a dozen people. But I only had four croissants, not six, so I scaled the amounts back to what you see here. I also used a smaller, 2-quart casserole instead of the usual 9"x13" baking dish. If you want to make that Ina-sized version, I've put those amounts at the bottom of the post. To make an even smaller version than mine, I'm guessing you could cut Ina's giant recipe in half and put it in an 8"x8" baking dish.
Ina's recipe includes a sprinkling of raisins throughout the center of the bread pudding, but I don't like baked raisins. I'm sure you could think of other things you could do to jazz up this recipe such as adding chocolate or cinnamon, but try it the simple way first. The bread pudding is incredibly comforting to eat while it's warm, but it's just as good if not better when served cold and kind of reminds me of vanilla ice cream.
Please know that you're going to need to put your baking dish inside of another, bigger dish or roasting pan, and you'll need to add water to the outer pan and make a big foil tent over the entire operation. Then you will need to be able to transfer that to the oven without tipping and sloshing. You will hate me, and I'm sorry. But can a single woman (who has always been secretly scared of the oven) handle this by herself? Yes. You can do it. Be brave.
Few things are as gorgeous and impressive as this is coming out of the oven. It's big and puffy--the puffiness will deflate as it cools--and if you want to take a photo of it at it's biggest, you'll need to do so immediately. (Sorry about the blurriness and cropping of this picture: I wanted to capture the bread pudding the second it came out of the oven, and I didn't have time to get fussy.)
- 2 whole eggs
- 5 egg yolks
- 3 1/3 cups half & half
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 big croissants, preferably stale (or enough smaller croissants to crowd into your 2 quart dish with significant overlap)
- 2/3 cup raisins <--optional; I say they're gross
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You may want to adjust your racks--you'll need about 8 inches of clearance for this dish. I set mine in the lower third of my oven.
In a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, yolks, half & half, sugar, and vanilla. Set the custard mixture aside.
Slice the croissants in half, horizontally. In your 2-quart baking dish (oval or otherwise), distribute the bottoms of the sliced croissants. I put in as many intact bottoms as I could, and then I tore the remaining bottoms into smaller pieces that I placed in the gaps.
Sprinkle the raisins (or anything else you'd like to experiment with) over the croissant bottoms. Then arrange the tops of the croissants (brown side up) on top of this. Feel free to overlap them a little. The baking process will meld them together. If you're using raisins, make sure that none are peeking out between the croissant tops or they will burn while baking.
Give the custard another quick whisk and pour it over the croissants and allow to soak for 10 minutes, pressing down gently. At first it will seem like you have way too much custard for the dish, and the croissants will try float like islands. But as you press down gently, you will notice that the croissants will absorb the liquid like delicious sponges, and after ten minutes of just letting the croissants sit and do their thing, you'll find that the flood has been reduced significantly. During the 10 minute soaking period, you can get going on the foil tent.
Place the pan in a larger one filled with an inch of hot water. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn't touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Tip: fold two big pieces of foil together along their long sides. Then drape that over the pudding and wrap it around the edges of your big pan. Tent the foil on top and poke your holes.
Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40-45 minutes more or until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set. Remove from the oven/water bath and cool slightly.
Top with a dusting of powdered sugar, fresh berries, etc., and enjoy!
INGREDIENTS FOR BIG 9"x13" VERSION
- 3 whole eggs
- 8 egg yolks
- 5 cups half & half
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 6 croissants, preferably stale
- 1 cup raisins
Above: Bun defends her territory from a fierce neighborhood kitty. Oh the yowling!
Thank you for all of the great comments you've made on my Paris posts, especially those of you who crawled out of the woodwork and commented for the first time! I just asked Jeff if he ever plans to write his follow-up post about how he planned the trip, but he got all pouty and shruggy and has this idea that nobody cares. If you do indeed care and would like to know how he did it, please leave a comment for him here. Otherwise he'll think--he'll know!--that nobody wants to hear from him. And come on people, you know you do. Look at how cute he is!