Classic Bread Pudding

My husband requested bread pudding for his celebratory Father’s Day dessert this year. This classic dessert is second only to cheesecake in his heart. ❤

This isn’t technically another strawberry dessert… but the fresh strawberry topping definitely brought this fabulously creamy bread pudding to the next level.

The recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart.com. I omitted the raisins, modified the presentation, and added the fresh strawberry garnish. Delicious.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened, for baking dish
  • 12 ounces brioche or challah, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raisins, optional (I omitted them)
  • 1 cup boiling water, optional (if using raisins), plus more for pan
  • fresh strawberry slices, for garnish, optional

Italian Easter Bread Wreath

Happy Easter! I made this sweet and tender orange-scented bread to serve for breakfast with our hard-boiled Easter eggs. The texture was similar to panettone without the dried fruit.

As an aside, I have to share a photo of my Easter cat with his catnip carrot. ❤ We are all very festive in my house!

Because I live in fear of overbaking my sweets, I was disappointed that this loaf was slightly overdone after I had already significantly reduced the baking time in the original recipe. :/ Don’t worry! We still gobbled it up, but, I modified the recipe below. The sweet orange glaze made it a crowd-pleaser.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I weighed all of the dry ingredients and used vanilla and orange extract instead of Fiori di Sicilia. I also reduced the baking time and tented the loaf during baking. Pretty.

Yield: One 10-inch round loaf

For the Starter:

  • 120 g (1 cup) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) cool water
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

For the Dough:

  • 269 g (2 1/4 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 67 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract + 1/4 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed, optional (I omitted it)
  • grated peel of 1 large orange

For the Glaze:

  • 113 g (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • sprinkles or nonpareils, for decorating
  1. To make the bread: Mix together the starter ingredients, cover the bowl, and let rest at room temperature overnight, or for up to 15 hours.
  2. Next day, combine the bubbly starter with all the remaining dough ingredients. Mix and knead, using a mixer or bread machine, until the dough is elastic and satiny. We don’t recommend preparing this dough by hand, as it’s quite sticky and challenging to bring together. (I used the beater until the dough came together and the dough hook for about 7 minutes on medium speed to knead the dough.)
  3. Grease a large bowl and let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I used a proofing oven.)
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface, divide it into three pieces, and shape each piece into an 18″-long rope. Braid the ropes together, and connect the two ends to form a wreath.
  5. Cover the wreath and allow it to rise until puffy, about 1 to 2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  6. Bake the wreath for 10-15 minutes, then tent the loaf with aluminum foil and reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 8-15 minutes. The finished loaf will be golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register at least 190°F. (I baked it at 375°F for 15 minutes, and 350°F for 10 minutes and the internal temperature of the loaf was 205°F.)
  7. Remove the wreath from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool.
  8. To make the glaze: Stir together the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the milk or orange juice. Add more liquid 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is thin and pourable.
  9. Drizzle the glaze onto the cooled braid, then decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Easter Challah

Happy Belated Easter!

I was so proud of myself because I learned how to make a four-strand braid to make this special loaf. 🙂 The challenge in the original recipe was to learn how to make a six-strand braid, but a four-strand seemed like enough of a challenge at the time. 😉 I loved how it looked too.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I modified the braid and used a proofing oven. I learned the four-strand braiding technique from Tori Avey.com. This link actually has very useful steps for several challah braiding techniques.

Challah is best eaten the day it is made. Because I made the challah the day before Easter, we ate it toasted with butter and jam. I thought it was a perfect holiday breakfast along with our colored Easter eggs. Lovely!

For the Dough:

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 6 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 17 ounces (4 cups) unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T instant yeast
  • cooking oil spray, for coating the bowl

For the Egg Wash:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 T water

To Prepare the Dough:

  1. Weigh out 17 ounces of flour; or measure 4 cups of flour by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. The more accurately you measure your flour, the better your bread will be; too much flour will yield a dry, heavy loaf.
  2. Combine all of the dough ingredients, except the cooking oil spray, and mix to make a rough dough.
  3. Knead the dough — by hand, using a stand mixer, or in a bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough. It’ll still have a slightly rough surface; that’s fine. (I kneaded the dough in a stand mixer using a dough hook for about 5 minutes.)
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  5. Allow the dough to rise for about 2 hours. (I placed the bowl in a proofing oven.) It won’t necessarily double in bulk, but should become noticeably (if not dramatically) puffy.
  6. Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.
  7. You may braid the challah the traditional way, into a three-strand braid. I chose a four-strand braid. (Instructions for these and a six-strand are in the link above.)
  8. Divide the dough into four pieces, or into equal pieces for desired braiding techniques. A scale is a big help in dividing the dough evenly.
  9. Shape each piece into a rough log.
  10. Cover the logs with plastic wrap, and let them rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  11. Roll each piece into a long rope. Your goal is ropes about 20″ long; if the dough starts to shrink back as you roll, cover it and let it rest again for about 10 minutes, then resume rolling. The short rest gives the gluten a chance to relax.

To Make a Four-Strand Braid:

  1. Pinch together the ends of the strands so that all six strands are joined at one end.
  2. Take the strand furthest to the right and weave it towards the left through the other strands using this pattern: over, under, over.
  3. Take the strand furthest to the right and repeat the weaving pattern again: over, under, over. Repeat this pattern, always starting with the strand furthest to the right, until the whole loaf is braided.
  4. Pinch the ends of the loose strands together and tuck them under on both ends of the challah loaf to create a nice shape.
  5. Gently pick up the braided loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

To Finish:

  1. Cover the braided loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s very puffy, 90 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature or in a proofing oven.
  2. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  3. Whisk together the large egg and 1 tablespoon water to create the egg wash. Brush this glaze over the risen loaf.
  4. Nest the challah on its baking sheet into another baking sheet, if you have one. This double layering of pans will help prevent the challah’s bottom crust from browning too quickly.
  5. Put the challah into the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes. If it’s a deep golden brown, tent it loosely with aluminum foil. If it’s not as brown as you like, check it again at 30 minutes.
  6. Once you’ve tented the challah, bake it for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf looks and feels set and its interior registers at least 190°F on a digital thermometer.
  7. Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.

Note: Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage. While challah does tend to dry out after a day or so, it’s always good toasted or made into grilled sandwiches or French toast.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Babka and Easter Paska

Three Years Ago: Easter Babka

Four Years Ago: Low-Fat Oat & Whole Wheat Buttermilk Waffles

Five Years Ago:

Easter Paska

Happy Belated Easter! We had unseasonably warm weather and bright sunshine on Easter Sunday in New York. 🙂 In the afternoon, we visited a local swan to admire her impressive nest.

I made this buttery and eggy Eastern European Paska to enjoy for breakfast over Easter weekend. My daughter braided the dough for the decorative cross. She did such a great job! 🙂 It was such a light and fluffy loaf- really delicious. We ate it topped with butter and jam. It was also recommended to eat with kielbasa or leftover Easter ham.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I used a bread machine to knead the dough and omitted the sugar topping. It could have been used as a beautiful centerpiece as well.

Yield: 1 large loaf

For the Bread:

  • 1 cup (8 oz) lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups (21.25 oz) all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the Topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • coarse sugar, like turbinado, optional (I omitted the sugar)
  1. To make the dough: Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough. (I used a bread machine.)
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I placed it in a warming drawer on the “proof” setting.)
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other. Take the larger piece, roll into a ball, and place it into a well-greased 9″ x 2″ round pan.
  4. Divide the other piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20″ strand; use the three strands to create one long braid. 
  5. Place the braid around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough. 
  6. Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. (I used a proofing oven.)
  7. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection, with a rack in the center.
  8. To make the topping: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the mixture gently over the top of the risen loaf, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.
  9. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it’s a rich golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool before cutting.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Easter Babka

My mother-in-law makes a traditional Ukrainian babka for Easter every year. I have always felt that I would like to do the same- but I felt intimidated. This year, I finally pulled out my Ukrainian cookbooks to search for the perfect recipe… and became even more intimidated!! :/ First, I looked through recipes for Traditional Easter Paska, beautiful round loaves topped with elaborate dough ornamentation; they seemed more of a end-point than a starting point for my first attempt to make a special Easter bread.

When I saw this recipe for “Country” Babka, I knew it was more fitting. Rich, simple, and still festive. I was happy that it included raisins in the dough. We ate it lightly toasted with butter and/or jam with our colorful hard-boiled eggs for breakfast on Easter morning. This recipe was adapted from Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechishin. Happy (Belated!) Easter!!

For the Sponge:

  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 cup scalded whole milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the Dough:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 2 3/4  to 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  1. Make the sponge: Dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm water, sprinkle the yeast over it, and let it stand until softened. Combine with the lukewarm milk and 1/2 cup flour. Beat well, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until light and bubbly. (I placed mine in a proofing drawer for about 15 minutes.)
  2. Make the dough while the sponge is rising: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs with the salt.
  3. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating until light.
  4. Beat in the butter and lemon rind.
  5. Combine the dough mixture with the sponge.
  6. Stir in the flour and knead in the bowl (with the dough attachment) for about 10 minutes. The dough should be thick. Add more flour if needed to make it less sticky.
  7. After the 10 minutes, knead in the raisins until evenly incorporated.
  8. Cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place (I used a proofing oven) until double in bulk. (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours)
  9. Punch down, knead a few times, and let it rise again until double in bulk. (In a proofing drawer- about 1 to 1 1/2 hours)
  10. Generously butter a tall, round baking pan with soft butter (or spray with cooking spray). (I used an angel food cake pan.) Place the dough in the pan (It should fill 1/3 of the pan.)
  11. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled or tripled in bulk (or until the dough reaches the brim of the pan- not the case in my angel food pan). (about 1 1/2 hours in a proofing oven)
  12. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then cover with foil to prevent over-browning. (I did 15 min but would do 10 next time…)
  13. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes.
  14. Lower the oven temperature again to 275 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer. (I omitted this step, as my loaf baked more rapidly in the angel food cake pan.)
  15. Let the dough stand in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes; remove to cool.

Note: Traditionally, Babka is sliced in rounds across the loaf. The sliced bottom crust serves as a protective cover, and it is put back to prevent the loaf from drying. (We deviated from this tradition, as I baked the loaf in an angel food pan, and, therefore cut more traditional slices.)

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