From America's Test Kitchen
Contemporary versions of this humble dish vary in texture, from mushy, sweetened porridge to chewy, desiccated cousins of overcooked holiday stuffing. We wanted a dessert cart–worthy dish as refined as any French soufflé: a moist, creamy (but not eggy) interior and a crisp top crust.
After extensive testing of different types of bread, we chose challah for its rich flavor. We cut the bread into cubes, toasted them until lightly browned, and soaked the cubes with a batch of basic custard. Once the cubes were saturated, we transferred them to a baking dish and slid our pudding into a low-temperature oven to prevent curdling. The custard turned out creamy and smooth, but not as set as we’d have liked. Adding another egg or two would help, but tasters were already complaining that the pudding tasted somewhat eggy. It turns out that eggy flavor comes from the sulfur compounds in egg whites. We got rid of the whites and just used the yolks. We now had a luscious, silky custard with no trace of egginess.
To create a crackly crust, we dotted the top of the pudding with additional toasted bread cubes before baking it. After brushing the surface with melted butter and sprinkling the dish with a flavorful mixture of white and brown sugar, we transferred it to the oven. The crunchy, buttery, sugary crust was the perfect partner to the satiny-smooth custard that lay below.
Serves 8 to 10
Challah is an egg-enriched bread that can be found in most bakeries and supermarkets. If you cannot find challah, a firm high-quality sandwich bread such as Arnold Country Classics White or Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White may be substituted. If desired, serve this pudding with softly whipped cream or with Bourbon-Brown Sugar Sauce (see related recipe, substituting rum for bourbon). Store leftovers tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. To retain a crisp top crust when reheating leftovers, cut the bread pudding into squares and heat, uncovered, in a 450-degree oven until warmed through, 6 to 8 minutes.