Every year, when the holidays are approaching, I take Mike to the grocery store.  We get to the dairy case, and he spots the eggnog.  I look at the quantity of eggnog he’s holding, and I say, “Are you really going to drink that much eggnog?”.

And every year, two weeks after Christmas, I clean out the fridge, and in the back corner I find an entirely unopened bottle of eggnog.

I had 2 days before it expired, so I started looking around for recipes.  It’s easy to find recipes to make your own eggnog, but not quite so easy to find recipes to use up the eggnog you already have.

I found two that looked good.  This is the first one – it’s just a simple bread pudding, with eggnog as the custard.  I happened to have half a loaf of bread on the counter, and I can’t turn down a recipe that uses up two leftover ingredients.

Eggnog Bread Pudding

It starts with dried cranberries reconstituted in liquid.  The recipe calls for brandy or bourbon, but a very good quality apple cider works just as well if you want a non-alcoholic version.  I didn’t have cranberries, so I used raisins.

Then the bread gets cubed and put in a big bowl.  2 cups of eggnog gets mixed with a few more eggs, some milk,  a bit of sugar, some vanilla and some nutmeg.

Once the liquid comes together, pour it over the bread, add the fruit, mix well, and pour into a 9×9 pan. 

Bake for almost an hour.  This will make the entire house smell like eggnog.

I missed the instructions to sprinkle sugar over the top before baking, so I added some when it came out of the oven.  It really didn’t need it

Eggnog Bread Pudding

All in all, a very good bread pudding.  The eggnog wasn’t over whelming, but it was noticeable. I doubled the nutmeg from the original recipe, and it still could have used a bit more, so I updated it to call for a full teaspoon, and that should bring out the eggnog a bit more.

The other recipe I found?  Dump one quart eggnog and some nutmeg (to taste) in your ice cream maker, then freeze.  That only leaves me with two more cups to use up!

( see the recipe )

Leek Bread Pudding

I don’t think of bread pudding as savory – or at least I didn’t.  Then I found this Leek Bread Pudding recipe.

The recipe sounds just like bread pudding: toasted bread (I used challah), eggs, milk, and nutmeg.  But instead of sugar and raisins, it’s got leeks and cheese.

What you end up with, though, is closer to dressing.  In fact, it’s going on my list of Christmas side dishes for this year, to replace the bread stuffing that never seems to turn out.

I used about half a loaf of the challah I had leftover.  The leeks got sliced and caramelized while I cubed and toasted the bread.  Then everything got tossed together – the bread, some fresh thyme (I doubled the thyme, and I’d probably throw in some sage as well next time I make it), the caramelized leeks, and the fresh chives. 

The NYT recipe called for a 13×9 pan, but I tried Smitten Kitchen’s idea and put it in a large loaf pan.  I don’t have any clue how she managed to get it back out of the loaf pan in one piece, because despite using a non-stick loaf pan and butter, the cheese still stuck firmly to the bottom of the pan.

Whatever pan you use, layer in the cheese and the bread mixture, pour in the milk and egg mixture, let it sit for 15 minutes so the bread absorbs the milk, then put it in the oven.  The entire house will smell amazing for the hour it takes to bake.

Leek Bread Pudding

Since mine refused to let go of the pan to be neatly sliced, I just spooned it into a bowl.

I served it with a beer-can chicken:

Leek Bread Pudding

It’s definitely replacing all my existing stuffing recipes.  You could modify the spices to make it fit with pretty much any meal – the thyme and sage would go fine with poultry, but I don’t see why you couldn’t add other traditional stuffing ingredients, like oysters, apples, or sausage.

But I might not tell my Christmas guests that it’s bread pudding.  At least not until after it’s all been eaten.

( see the recipe )

Banana Bread Pudding

We had invitations for a spring brunch on Sunday, and I’d offered to bring dessert, and I just wasn’t feeling inspired. Chocolate didn’t seem like a brunch thing, it’s too early for really great fruit yet, and I’ve made way too many citrus-based desserts lately.

The internet wasn’t helping much – it’s great for finding a recipe, but not so good at answering “What do I want to make?”. I found lots of coffeecakes (and I might go back and make some later), but coffeecake seemed too much like breakfast and not enough like brunch.

So I curled up on the couch with a pile of cookbooks, and finally decided on the Banana Bread Pudding from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. It was fruity, it didn’t have any lemon in it, and I could do 95% of it the night before. And, no, it is not made with banana bread.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly as printed. I thought a caramel sauce would be better then the hot fudge. Also, Brioche is hard to find in grocery stores around here, and challah seemed to be a reasonable substitute. Egg-rich breads always seem to work particularly well for egg-based recipes, like bread pudding or French toast.

I sliced the bread, brushed it with butter, tossed it in the cinnamon and sugar, and toasted it. I should have been more generous with the butter – the sugar didn’t stick to the bread as well as I’d hoped, but I’d already made a mess before I realized what was wrong.

While the bread cooled, I made the custard, tossed in the bread (and dumped in the cinnamon and sugar that had fallen off), and poured it all into my 13×9, where it sat in the fridge overnight.

I also made a caramel sauce the night before, which was a bit of a mistake – the cooling and reheating process allowed the sugar to crystallize, making it very slightly gritty. Next time, I’ll make it and just keep it warm.

The next morning, I baked the bread pudding, and packed it up with the caramel, the toasted nuts, and the other 3 bananas that I’d bought but not put in the custard. The bread pudding reheated wonderfully, the caramel sauce a bit less so, but it was still good. I sliced up the bananas, and let people assemble their own plates so they could vary the toppings as they wanted.

It was very good. I’d certainly make it again – I’m always looking for dessert recipes that travel well, and this had just the right mix of familiar and different.

( see the recipe )