Bread Pudding from the Big Easy

Dessert, Mardi Gras, Recipes
on March 15, 2008
Adam Barnes

New Orleans is famous for a lot of dishes—red beans and rice, jambalaya, and po boy sandwiches just to name a few. But there’s only one dessert that matters in this food-centric city: bread pudding.

“In New Orleans, bread pudding is right up there with red beans and rice,” says Dickie Brennan, owner of Dickie Brennan’s Palace Café, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse and Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. “It’s been around for many generations, and it’s a staple. And everyone has their own ways to make it their own, special dessert.”

This Creole dish evolved from chefs and home cooks trying to find ways to use leftover French bread. To the bread, people would add milk or cream, eggs and a little sugar. Then, over time, people began to get more creative and add other ingredients. Some people add brown sugar and raisins, others add whiskey or rum, and still others add cinnamon or fresh fruit. Usually, bread pudding is accompanied with a crème anglais or bourbon sauce on the side. Brennan himself will add white chocolate, bananas and other delicacies to dress it up. Others use semisweet chocolate, as in the recipe below. But whether bananas are added or the recipe is more traditional, the main thing is to make sure that the bread is stale and hard so that it will soak up the custard when cooking.

—By Jeanette Hurt