What to do when you have food that needs to be used in short order? In this case, the obvious solution was to whip up a bread pudding with a few extra lemons, ricotta, blueberries I’d planned on feeding the kids but then forgot about and a loaf of bread with a forgotten purpose.
(I loved this recipe so much, I ended up including it in my cookbook, Desserts in Jars. Cookbook photo pictured above.)
It all started when I agreed to make broccoli cheese soup for Kiera. She’d asked for it repeatedly, and I’d finally picked up all the necessary ingredients, including a load of bread. But then a few days passed as work piled up and deadlines needed to be met, and the bread got…less than fresh. Along with the bread, I had some ricotta that I had used to fill zucchini muffins, and I’d taken some blueberries out to feed the kids and then forgotten about them on the counter, and there was no way they were going to make it through another freezing cycle.
In a very large bowl, crack 4 eggs.
Give the eggs a good beating.
Add a cup sugar.
Then the leftover ricotta. It turns out I had one cup left.
Mix it together until all the ricotta chunks are teeny tiny or nonexistent.
Zest one lemon over the bowl and include a tiny bit of juice, but not much. I added a teaspoon’s worth just to make sure I could taste the lemon, but I didn’t want it to be overpowering.
Next comes whole milk. I suppose you could use 2% or something with a lower fat content, but I don’t see why you’d want to.
Add in a bit of vanilla.
And a sprinkle and a dash of cardamom.
Mix together thoroughly.
Then melt about 3 tablespoons of butter. Butter makes everything better.
Stir in the butter. Isn’t it pretty? I told you it made everything better.
And then toss in the bread chunks. (Please excuse the fact that I thought it’d be a good idea to take the pictures as I was tossing them in. Same goes for the blueberries.)
Stir them until all the bread is evenly coated, and then you’ll want to let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. This will make sure the milk and eggs and the bread become one unit and will bake together as one unit, rather than two separate entities where you have egg and milk cooked together and crusty bread right alongside it.
Add in the blueberries, be them frozen from last summer or frozen from the store. If you’re in the habit of freezing them from the farmer’s market or in the fresh form, try freezing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet first for 20 minutes and then moving them into your storage container. This helps keep them intact and prevents you from getting a massive clump of frozen blueberries.
Mix the blueberries in as much as possible, gently folding the bread over.
Pour the bread into a greased casserole dish.
I had to push some of the blueberries down into the bread so that they weren’t all up on top. We’re ready for the oven: 350° F for 40 minutes.
Remove from the oven when the top is nicely browned and the bread pudding seems to have a bit of bounce when pressed in the center. It can still be a bit jiggly in the very center, but not much. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes before doing anything to it. This will help it set up, and it will also prevent you from burning the top of your mouth.
And then dish it up. You could eat it as is. There are no toppings needed.
Or you might try a bit of cream poured over the top. You know, if you feel like it. And why wouldn’t you feel like it?
Of note: This is definitely a dessert. You could eat it as a breakfast, but I’d suggest cutting back the sugar significantly, somewhere around 1/4 cup would work better for a breakfast. Not that you couldn’t eat it this way for breakfast, but the responsible side of me says portion sizes and everything considered, this is dessert. And what a dessert it is. It’s a bit lighter and fluffier than a traditional bread pudding, and the lemon and blueberries are fantastic bursts of freshness.
1 cup sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 2-1/2 quart casserole. In a large bowl beat the eggs. Mix in sugar and ricotta cheese. Add the lemon zest and juice, milk, vanilla, cardamom and beat until evenly combined. Stir in the melted butter.
Cut the bread into 1-1/2 inch cubes. Add the bread cubes to the milk and egg mixture and stir until all pieces of bread are completely covered. Let sit for 20 minutes. Stir in blueberries and pour into casserole pan.
Bake at 350° F for 40-45 minutes until top is evenly browned. Remove from oven and let rest 15-20 minutes before serving. Top with cream t serve if desired.
Makes 12 servings.