Hello, my fellow sous vide enthusiasts, and welcome back to a Christmas edition of Will It Sous Vide?, the weekly column where I make whatever you want me to with my immersion circulator.
Photos by Claire Lower.
There are actually quite a few sous-vide bread pudding recipes out there but, I'll be honest, I've never had any trouble making bread pudding in the oven. Besides a moist cooking environment and the use of twee-arse jars, I wasn't totally sure what the advantage of sous-vide bread pudding would be.
Then it hit me: Customisation. Since these things are going to be cooked in single-serving jars anyway, there's no reason we shouldn't capitalise on the individualistic nature of the presentation.
Carl had already proven that bread pudding was a perfect blank canvas on which to paint your comforting and carb-y masterpiece, so it was just a matter of working out the assembly.
My mix-ins Instead of coming up with an exact recipe for one type of sous-vide pudding, I wanted to come up with a loose, choose-your-own-adventure kind of buffet where people could choose everything from their bread to their toppings to their extras (like vanilla or IDK BOOZE?). People could then put all of their favourites in a jar, and everyone's special snowflake creations could sous vide in harmony. This would obviously be perfect for breakfast showers, brunch parties, or perhaps a little thing known as "Christmas freaking morning."
To assemble your very own bread pudding breakfast buffet, you will need:
- Bread: Duh. I grabbed a baguette and a loaf of challah, but croissants, sourdough, plain sandwich bread, or even day-old pastries are all good options. (Also pizza. Remember the pizza bread pudding times?) Rip it into bite-size pieces and toast it (if you want firmer bread chunks, you don't have to though).
- Custard: An all-purpose custard base of 1 cup whole milk + 1 cup cream + 1 whole egg + 2 yolks is a good starting point, but I added a quarter cup of maple syrup to up the indulgence factor. (Maple goes well with sweet or savoury mix-ins, in my very humble opinion.)
- Savoury Bits: Breakfast sausage, crumbled bacon, lobster meat, crab, cheeses of all kinds, sauteed leeks, sauteed mushrooms, pancetta, prosciutto, roasted broccolini, diced and fried potatoes, ham, roasted butternut squash, etc.
- Sweet Things: Dried fruits such as cranberries or apricots, toasted nuts, chocolate chips, mini candy bars, caramel, brown sugar, even more maple syrup, vanilla, candied ginger
- Spices and Seasonings: Cinnamon, graham masala, all spice, ground cloves, powdered ginger, sumac, chai spices, mustards, hot sauces, just raid your spice cabinet and the condiment section of your fridge and put it all out.
- Alcohol: Rum, bourbon, rye, SWEET LIQUEURS such as Kahlua, Bailey's, Frangelico, fruity schnapps, etc. This is, however, the one case where I wouldn't recommend gin. (The only one.)
- Jars: With tight-fitting lids.
These are by no means complete lists, and I'm sure you can think of some very creative mix-ins. My point is that you are limited only by your imagination, or perhaps food allergies. Once you have a nice spread, it's time to assemble. Given the fact that few people are prone to measuring everything exactly — especially before coffee — I eyeballed the entire process, using a variety of jars, mixtures of breads, and varying amounts of custard.
Leeks, pecans, and shredded cheddar with baguette First, I layered in all of my dry ingredients, alternating bread with all sorts of toppings. Next, I added the custard, pouring it in until it came one quarter to halfway up the jar. I finally added any other spices or seasonings — use a healthy pinch for powders like cinnamon and a quarter teaspoon of liquids like vanilla — sealed the jar, and shook it up to get everything mixed and a'mingled.
As mentioned above, there is pretty much an infinite number of combinations you can execute here, but I went with the following:
- Breakfast sausage + sauteed leeks + blue cheese
- Rum (10mL) + vanilla (1/4 teaspoon) + pecans
- Pecans + breakfast sausage + blue cheese
- Sauteed leeks + cheddar
The joyful little jars were then chucked into a swirling, whirling water bath set at 80 degress Celsius, where they remained for two full hours.
They will not sink entirely. This is totally ok. Once their time in the hot tub was up, I removed the lids and torched the tops of a few of them. I was not thrilled with the result.
No, thank you. The remaining jars went into the oven, under the broiler, to see if we could get a less charred top.
I was much happier with the broiled babies.
Then it was truth time. Time to take a bite, and then answer our most favourite question of all the questions.
Will bread pudding sous vide?
The answer: Um. Yes. Very, very much so. In fact, I take back what I said about "not really seeing a big advantage to this cooking method in this case," because this was some super dope bread pudding. It was moist, custardy, and each bite was infused with the flavour of all the other ingredients.
It was also a very forgiving cooking method, with each jar being delicious, even though I never precisely measured anything (save for the booze and vanilla). Sure, the jars I put less liquid in were a little drier, but some people like that, and prepping and serving them this way lets everyone customise their bread pudding experience, allowing them to achieve the exact consistency and flavour adventure they desire.
I've found my Christmas morning breakfast solution, is what I'm saying.