Life on the Hill doesn’t exactly allow ample opportunity for experimentation with cooking, leading to a routine diet at the dining halls. Over the course of the quarter, columnist Andrew Warner sets out to break the culinary monotony of dorm life, armed with a rice cooker and a few pantry staples.
Bread pudding isn’t the first item that pops into my head when people ask me what my favorite dessert is.
And rightfully so. It’s not that bread pudding is bad, but when it comes to desserts, it’s painfully average.
It doesn’t help that the name bread pudding conjures up images of sticky, liquefied bread served in compact Jell-O cups. When it comes down to it, bread pudding isn’t really a pudding – it’s more like a disheveled French toast casserole.
With the recent opening of The Study at Hedrick, I decided to try their apple, cinnamon and golden raisin bread pudding. It wasn’t the worst dessert I’ve ever eaten, but it certainly wasn’t good either. The pudding was too eggy for my taste and the apples were too soggy, ultimately rendering the whole pudding too off-putting for me to finish.
So, I decided to do what any dorm chef would do and figured out how to make my own cinnamon and raisin bread pudding in my trusty rice cooker.
Bread pudding was actually one of the first things that I cooked at my first cooking lesson at the tender age of 9 years old. I remember hearing the name and being disgusted – the thought of putting bread in pudding seemed utterly repulsive.
Yet for something with such a ridiculous name, bread pudding is actually pretty tasty. Unmemorable, sure, but tasty nonetheless.
First things first – to make a good bread pudding, stale bread is an absolute must. My one regret is not buying my bread early enough in the week. I ended up using day-old bread for mine but three or four days is best, as the dry bread will soak up a lot more of the custard, making the pudding even richer.
One trick I learned on my second go around is that throwing the bread in the fridge overnight will help it get stale much faster.
My main problem with the bread pudding at The Study was that it was too eggy. With each bite, I could taste the subtle and unsettling aftertaste of scrambled egg. In my custard, I kept the cream-to-egg ratio fairly high because I didn’t want to risk mine tasting more like an English breakfast than a dessert.
In general, though, cooking with eggs in a dorm room isn’t exactly ideal. While I’m not too familiar with them, vegan egg substitutes are probably better for a dorm-cooking setting because they don’t have the same possibility of contaminating the workspace with salmonella that actual eggs do. Call me a germophobe, but I do not like the thought of bacteria crawling all over a desk meant for studying.
The great part about making bread pudding is that it can come in so many different forms – even at The Study, students can opt for either a savory sausage and gruyere bread pudding or a sweet one like mine.
After whisking together the cream, eggs, sugar and cinnamon, I allowed my semi-stale bread to soak up the custard mixture before stirring in the raisins. Raisins are pretty traditional fare as far as bread puddings go and while I’m personally not a fan of raisins on their own, they add a nice fruity tinge to an overall boring dessert. Other fruits such as apples or blueberries would also pair well with the sweet cinnamon custard.
Much like my cheesecake, the bread pudding required a bit more attention than my other recipes. Cooking with eggs makes me paranoid, so I wanted to be 100 percent sure that my bread pudding was cooked through all the way. After the rice cooker switched from cook to warm, I left it on warm for a half an hour, and then put it through one more cook cycle, to ensure that it was fully cooked, with a springy exterior and a soft and creamy interior.
I served mine with a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, which can easily be made by combining one part cinnamon to three parts sugar. The peanut butter ice cream with the cinnamon was definitely a bizarre, though not unenjoyable, combination. In retrospect, a traditional vanilla bean ice cream would probably work best.
The bread pudding itself was just as rich and tasty as any of its oven-baked counterparts.
While The Study’s bread pudding falls short of being the simple yet palatable dessert I’m used to, rice cooker bread pudding is a satisfying substitute when I’m craving a warm wintry dessert.
Read more Dorm Dining:
Mixed berry crumble, unsightly but undeniably delicious
Rice cooker mac and cheese, simple yet savory
Whipping up a vanilla cheesecake using an unlikely oven
Despite overflow setback, rice cooker curry successful