It's kind of a strange time of year in my area right now: it's not officially fall yet, but the temperatures are starting to cool down, especially in the mornings and evenings. Most trees are still green, but some are beginning to shed their leaves already. Cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes are still being harvested, but so are apples, and winter squash - and soon, pumpkins! It's been a record-breaking hot summer, so most people are eager to leave that season behind and head straight into fall.
It is only fitting, then, that my kitchen reflects this awkward transitional season. In my last post, I documented my cucumber sandwich recipe for posterity, and today, with the leftover bread from that recipe, I made a decidedly autumnal treat: apple bread pudding. If you are a fan of Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy on FB , you may remember that last week I was able to buy some seconds apples very inexpensively at a local produce mart. I put them to good use today in some applesauce, some fruit salad for dinner, and then the bread pudding.
I also had some almond milk in the fridge, which you may think is strange, because, despite my Certain Little Someone's allergies, he does not drink almond milk. Not yet, anyway. We're staying away from tree nuts for a while! And trust me, both me and my DH prefer good old cow's milk to any other available substitute, so almond milk is definitely an odd item to find in our fridge! However, when I was nursing my Certain Little Someone and still working through all his allergies, I found that almond milk was my favorite substitute for the above-mentioned beloved cow's milk. Since then, I've noticed that it frequently goes on sale and there are frequently coupons available for certain brands. When I can get a box or carton of almond milk for cheaper than the cost of regular milk, I snap it up and use it in baking. It doesn't really add a lot of almond flavor, so the only reason I do this is to save money on regular milk. When I can use something else in my baking, it really lengthens the amount of time a gallon of cow's milk will spend in my fridge!
You may notice something else strange in the recipe - cornstarch. The reason behind that particular anomaly is that I haven't quite finished my grocery shopping for the week yet (wow had a crazy busy weekend!) and I have absolutely no eggs in the house. I did a little googling on making a bread pudding without eggs and found that corn starch makes an acceptable substitute.
If you don't have almond milk, but you do have eggs, don't worry, this recipe is totally customizable. I'll detail all the different ways you can change it up without sacrificing flavor and taste at the end of the recipe.
Autumnal Bread Pudding
5 cups bread cubes
2 medium apples, shredded
2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup honey
1 TBSP corn starch
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup melted butter (optional)
additional 1/4 cup raw sugar (also optional)
Place the bread cubes and shredded apple in a 1.5qt casserole dish. Mix remaining ingredients, except butter and additional sugar, and blend well until sugar and honey are dissolved into the milk. Pour over the bread and apples, and mix well until thoroughly coated. Allow to soak for about 15 minutes. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, covered. Remove from oven and remove cover. Mix melted butter and sugar together and drizzle over the pudding. Return to oven and continue to bake for another 5-10 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream.
Substitutions and Customizable Options
-Instead of almond milk, use the same amount of any other kind of milk. If you want to go for a more pronounced almond flavor, replace the vanilla extract with almond extract.
-This recipe makes a very moist pudding, which is the way I like it. If you like your bread pudding more dry, reduce the liquid by half a cup.
-Add raisins and walnuts for extra texture, crunch and flavor.
-Omit the sugar/butter topping, and serve plain or with maple syrup.
-Use 1 egg in place of the cornstarch, which will result in a more custard-like bread pudding.
-I personally do not like the texture of cooked apples (blech!) so when I do bake with them, I shred them so I can have the flavor without the nasty texture. But if you like that nasty texture, just chop the apples instead of shredding them.
-Use pears instead of apples. If you do this, consider adding some powdered ginger or candied ginger into the recipe. Pears and ginger go great together!
This is a very QUICK weeknight dessert idea, as it all comes together in less than an hour.
It's very EASY, too, nothing complicated or involved.
It's also CHEAP, thanks to the main ingredient being leftover bits of bread!
It's a very HEALTHY dessert, too, especially if you have a good whole-grain bread as the base. Combined with the fruit and spices, it makes for a very nutrient-rich dessert option that doesn't have a great deal of sugar or other sweeteners.