The Best Bread Pudding, So Much Love for Tartine

bread pudding

I never expected to receive a return phone call. I had been agonizing over how I was going to make my bread pudding … with fruit baked in it or without? Did Tartine really not add any fruit to the bread pudding while it baked? Their cookbook says without, but I thought I remembered bits of warm peaches dotting the pudding throughout. I needed affirmation before proceeding, and so I placed a call to Tartine itself. 

I called about 10 times before leaving a message. I explained that I had read the preface to the brioche bread pudding recipe in the cookbook, which explains that Tartine serves their bread pudding with seasonal fruit lightly sautéed in butter and then heated in a caramel sauce. Was this accurate, I asked? Or did Tartine sometimes bake the fruit right in with the custard and brioche? I left my number, hung up the phone, accepting I would likely have to make the decision on my own.

Not so. Later that day, I turned on my phone to find a message from Suzanne, a lovely Tartine employee. She confirmed exactly what the cookbook says, that Tartine indeed bakes the bread pudding without any fruit in it. They do also warm a seasonal fruit of choice — peaches, berries, apples, pears — in a caramel sauce, the recipe for which I have included below though have yet to test. Moreover, when the busy bees in the bakery remove the pans of bread pudding from the oven, they poke holes in it to let steam out and to create space, and then they pour the warm fruit in caramel sauce over top. Brilliant! Thank you, Suzanne.

I have been meaning to post this for months now, and I am afraid peach season is long over. So, while my picture below is a little dated, I write this with even more confidence in this recipe. You see, I have just returned from a  most wonderful wedding of two most wonderful people in San Francisco, where I was able to sneak in a visit to Tartine with five friends. Together we ate two bowls of bread pudding, one slice of quiche, one croque monsieur, one croissant and one chocolate croissant. As anticipated, the bread pudding triumphed as the table’s favorite. With my new knowledge, too, I was able to discern a caramel flavor permeating the pudding. I must note, too, that the Tartine caramel sauce is as light as a caramel sauce can be. It adds a subtle yet critical flavor, and I most definitely will make it the next time I prepare this bread pudding.

Hooray for apple season! I imagine apples warmed in caramel sauce will make a lovely topping for this most delicious bread pudding.

Just some quick notes here about the recipe:

• I decided to make the brioche from scratch, which was well worth the effort, but also a two-day affair. If you have a good source for brioche, by all means, buy it! The recipe for the bread pudding itself is quite simple and so long as the brioche you purchase is baked in a standard loaf pan and you can slice it into one-inch pieces, you should be able to add an accurate amount of bread to your pudding. 

• Really follow the instructions about the ratio of bread to custard. I was shocked by how much more custard there was in my pan than bread, but I trusted the recipe and went with it. That is the key! The bread soaks up all the custard. The key to producing a moist bread pudding is to not crowd the pan with bread. This is by far the best bread pudding I have ever made and I attribute that mostly to sticking to the proportions prescribed in the cookbook.

• The cookbook suggests using a 9X5-inch glass loaf pan. When I made this, I hadn’t yet purchased this size pan but had success with an 8X8-inch pyrex pan I happened to have on hand. I am looking forward to using the real deal next time around.

bread pudding with sautéed peaches

Tartine's brioche

bread pudding in pan

Below are some invaluable notes from the Tartine cookbook. I took their suggestion for what to do with remaining custard. Delectable!

• Never crowd the bread slices in the mold — when a bread pudding is dry, crowding is usually the cause.

• If you use a shallower mold (than a loaf pan), reduce the baking time.

• If you end up with more custard than you need, transform it into a simple dessert: pour it into ramekins, place them in a hot-water bath, and bake in a 350ºF oven until set, about 40 minutes.

• If you have left over bread pudding, chill it, slice it, and fry it as you would French toast.

• This recipe works equally well with croissants, chocolate-filled croissants, challah or panettone

Brioche Bread Pudding

Yield = one 9×5-inch pudding, 6 to 8 servings
Source: Tartine

6 brioche slices*, cut 1-inch thick, see recipe below
8 large eggs
3/4 cup + 2 T. sugar
4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

* I did in fact make the brioche for this recipe, and it is a great recipe. Just a warning, it is quite a process … it takes literally about 2 days to make. If you have a source for good brioche, by all means, use it — buy the brioche … your bread-pudding-making experience will be all the more enjoyable. 

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9×5-inch glass loaf dish. Arrange the brioche slices on a baking sheet. Place in the oven until lightly toasted, 4 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

2. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk until blended. Add the sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the milk, vanilla and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve.

3. Place the toasted bread slices in the prepared loaf pan, cutting the slices to fit as needed. Pour the custard evenly over the bread, filling the dish to the top. You may not be able to add all of the custard at this point. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, so that the bread can absorb the custard.

4. Just before baking, top off the dish with more of the custard if the previous addition has been completely absorbed. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, place in the oven, and bake the pudding for about 1 hour. To test for doneness, uncover the dish, slip a knife into the center, and push the bread aside. If the custard is still very liquid, re-cover the dish and return the pudding to the oven for another 10 minutes. If only a little liquid remains, the pudding is ready to come out of the oven. The custard will continue to cook after it is removed from the oven and it will set up as it cools.

5. Let the pudding cool for about 10 minutes before serving. You can serve the bread pudding by slicing it and removing each slice with an offset spatula, or by scooping it out with a serving spoon.

Serve with fresh or sautéed fruit.

Brioche

Yield = Three 1¼-pound loaves
Source: Tartine

Preferment
¾ cup nonfat milk
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 ¾ cups bread flour = 8 ¾ oz.

Dough
2 T. + 1 tsp. active dry yeast
5 large eggs
1 ¼ cups whole milk
3 ½ cups bread flour
¼ cup sugar
1 T. salt
1 cup + 2 T. unsalted butter, chilled but pliable

Egg Wash
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

1. To make the preferment, in a small saucepan, warm the milk only enough to take the chill off. The milk should not be warm or cold to the touch but in between the two (80º to 90ºF). Pour the milk into a mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the milk, stir to dissolve the yeast with a wooden spoon, and then add the flour, mixing with the spoon until a smooth batter forms. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth and place in a cool, draft-free area for 1 hour and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 3 hours to cool down. The mixture will rise until doubled in volume and not yet collapsing.

2. Meanwhile, measure all the ingredients for the dough. Once you measure the butter, cut into cubes and return the eggs, milk and butter to the refrigerator to chill.

3. To make the dough, transfer the preferment and then the yeast to the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until the yeast is incorporated into the preferment batter, which will take a minute or two. Stop the mixer as needed and use a spatula to clean the bottom and sides of the bowl, folding the loosened portion into the mixture to incorporate all the elements fully. When the mixture has come together into an even, well-mixed mass, begin to add the eggs one by one, increasing the mixer speed to medium or medium-high to incorporate the eggs and stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4. Once all the eggs are incorporated, reduce the mixer speed to low and begin slowly to add 1 cup of the milk. When the milk is fully incorporated, stop the mixer and add the flour, sugar and salt. Engage the mixer again on low speed and mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until you see a dough forming and it starts to come away cleanly from the sides of the bowl, 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Turn off the mixer and let dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes. While the dough is resting, place the chilled butter cubes into a separate mixer bowl. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix the butter on medium speed until the cubes are pliable but not soft and are still chilled.

6. Remove the bowl holding the butter from the mixer and replace it with the bowl holding the now-rested first-stage dough. Refit the mixer with the dough hook and begin mixing on medium speed. When the dough again starts to come away cleanly from the sides of the bowl, increase the speed to medium-high. At this stage the dough will appear very silky and elastic. With the mixing speed still on medium-high, add small amounts of the butter, squeezing the cubes through your fingers so that they become ribbons as they drop into the bowl. Stop the mixer to clean the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed with the spatula. Make sure that you don’t add too much butter too quickly and also make sure that you don’t mix the butter too long after each addition or you will heat up the dough. When all the butter has been added, allow the mixer to run for another 2 minutes to make sure the butter is fully incorporated. The dough should still be coming away cleanly from the sides of the bowl at this point.

7. Now, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup milk in increments of 1 tablespoon and increase the mixer speed to high. Mix until the dough is very smooth and silky and continues to pull cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. This should take another 2 minutes.

8. Lightly oil a large baking sheet. Spread the dough evenly on the prepared pan. Dust the top lightly with flour and cover with cheesecloth. Put the pan in the freezer for at least 3 hours and then transfer to the refrigerator overnight.

9. Brush three 9X5 loaf pans with melted butter. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface in a cool kitchen. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Press each portion into a rectangle the length of a loaf pan and slightly wider than the pan. Starting from a narrow end, roll up the rectangle tightly, pinch the ends and seam to seal, and place seam side down in a prepared pan. The pan should be no more than one-third full. The dough increases substantially during rising, and if you fill the pan any fuller, the brioche will bake up too large for the pan. When the pans are filled, place them in a draft-free area with relatively high humidity. Let rise for 2 to 3 hours. During this final rising, the brioche should at least double in size and look noticeably puffy but still be resilient to the touch.

10. Preheat the oven to 425ºF for at least 20 minutes before you want to begin baking. About 10 minutes before you want to begin baking, make the egg wash: whisk together the yolks, cream and salt until you have a pale yellow mixture. Using a pastry brush, brush the wash on tops of the loaves. Let the wash dry for about 10 minutes before baking.

11. Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350ºF and bake until the loaves are a uniformly dark golden brown on the bottom, sides and top, about 45 minutes longer. Remove the pans from the oven, immediately rap the bottoms on a tabletop to release the loaves, and then turn the loaves out onto wire racks to cool. The loaves can be eaten warm from the oven or allowed to cool and eaten within the day at room temperature or toasted. If you keep them longer than a day, wrap them in plastic wrap or parchment paper and freeze them indefinitely.

Caramel Sauce

Yield = 1 1/2 cups
Source: Tartine

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 of one vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 T. light corn syrup
3/4 tsp lemon juice
4 T. unsalted butter

Kitchen Notes:
• Use a good-sized pan when preparing this caramel. When the hot cream is added, the caramel will boil furiously at first, increasing dramatically in volume. Have ice water nearby in case of burns.

1. Pour the cream into a small, heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the pod halves into the cream. Place over medium-high heat and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low to keep the cream warm.

2. In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water, salt and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then cook, without stirring, until the mixture is amber colored, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. The mixture will continue to cook off the heat and become darker, so make sure to have your cream close by. Carefully and slowly add the cream to the sugar syrup. The mixture will boil vigorously at first. Let the mixture simmer down, and then whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice. Let cool for about 10 minutes.

4. Cut the butter into 1-inch chunks and add them to the caramel one at a time, whisking constantly after each addition. Then whisk the caramel periodically as it continues to cool.

The caramel will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

40 Comments

  1. Hey! Nice to see you again Ali :) Hmm… I’m not so much a fan of the bread pudding at Tartine- it was a little too eggy and not very sweet (maybe they were having an off day). But I was looking for a light(er, heh) dessert, so I appreciated that much of it was fruit. You have a pretty good re-creation here!

    Reply
  2. mmm, i do believe this qualifies as the most supreme bread pudding i’ve ever seen. the ultimate. numero uno. etc, etc. how cool that you got a call back–your love for tartine is understandable!

    Reply
  3. I love, no, I adore, no, I am infatuated with bread pudding. It is completely and utterly my favorite dessert. I made an amazing bread pudding about six years ago and misplaced the recipe–haven’t been able to locate it since. Any bread pudding pudding I’ve made sicne has been sub-standard.

    I will definitely give this a go–maybe even try the brioche myself. It looks amazing and rich … thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
  4. That is so great that the Tartine workers got back to you. When I visited the bakery last year, I saw the bread pudding and almost drooled in line. Your brioche looks fantastic and so buttery!

    Reply
  5. Hello,
    This is definitely going to be my next fave blog. Bread. I love nothing more than bread. And this is just the typical good looking bread that breaks my concentration.FANTASTIC!!!

    Reply
  6. oh wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. my first brioche-baking (and eating, now that I think of it) experience was on Easter, and boy did I feel like I’ve been missing out on something great for 25 years. yours looks light years better than mine – I’ll have to try this recipe… and then turn a loaf into that bread pudding! just lovely.

    cheers,

    *heather*

    Reply
  7. What a fantastic home made brioche pudding!! You did a lot of work though!! Congrats for that!!!

    MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM,…what more can I say????? 8))))

    Reply
  8. wow–homemade brioche, very impressive! it’s lovely.

    I love bread pudding & I work in a Jewish school, so often take Friday’s Shabbat-celebration leftover challah home on the weekend to make French toast or bread pudding.

    I, too, am mourning the lack of summer peaches but I think I might make this with a little chocolate ganache…

    Reply
  9. Congratulations on being the first featured Reader’s blog on Bitten! It brought me here, and I’m very happy to find you.
    Gorgeous food–I can’t wait to read more!

    Reply
  10. What a lovely blog! I nearly screamed when I saw that you’re from San Clemente!! Browsed some old posts– if you want good grass fed steaks, we order 1/2 buffalo every year from glaciergrown.com via our CSA (Be Wise Ranch). They’re doing a San Diego delivery in November, but the last day to order is Oct. 18. Not exactly local, but AMAZING and relatively cheap.

    Reply
  11. I am LOVIN those pictures! I’m not a huge fan of bread pudding but those pictures may convert me to a bread pudding fan! Making it with brioche would definitely be delicious!

    Reply
  12. Bread pudding was an invention of the Gods! I use brioche in mine too, but sweetened condensed milk is a big part of the recipe. Which makes it really sweet and gooey. This one looks lovely and not quite so sweet-perhaps more custardy too. Love your instructions!

    Reply
  13. I love my bread & butter pudding (bitter orange marmalade sandwiches and a cointreau custard) but I may have to give this version a go too. The idea of apples in caramel sauce in it is wonderful!

    Reply
  14. Hello,
    Beautiful post and your brioche looks wonderful. Very inspiring! I have been eating the brioche at a Patisserie up the street. If you ever need another something to do with your brioche dough they make little buns in muffins tins that are wrapped so there is still air inside and when they finish baking they pipe in freshly made conserves. It’s divine, but what isn’t with brioche?
    Cheers.

    Reply
  15. Congratulations on being showcased on Mark Bittman’s blog tonight!
    That is how I found you.
    What a great blog, beautiful photos and everything I like to eat and cook!
    I am adding you to my blog roll and will check back often!
    Stacey Snacks

    Reply
  16. Hi Alexandra,

    If you have the weight of the brioche from the recipe, can you please add that? That will guarantee success. I plan to try this recipe before the year is out.

    Reply
  17. I’m actually in the process of making Tartine’s brioche for the first time, and came online to see if there was a typo in their book when I saw your link.

    I’ve just made the preferment, and it’s not a batter by any means. I both weighed and measured the flour before adding it to the milk and yeast, and it’s more of a crumble.

    Did you have this experience?

    Reply
  18. Thank you so much for posting this! I had the same exact questions, and you totally answered them all. You’re one hellofa cook, it looks like. I feel unity with you in pursuit of excellence(within reason)

    Reply
  19. Thank you so MUCH for posting this recipe. I am planning to reproduce Tartine’s bread pudding at home for my own blog and your wonderful post with wonderful photos answered all my questions and concerns. Thank you so much!!

    Reply
  20. Hi Alexandra,
    It looks sooo good that i bought peaches just yesterday, cant wait to make them. the only thing is i couldnt find brioche and husband won’t eat croissants, so can i make it using plain italian bread?
    thanks,
    Sana

    Reply
    • Sana, definitely! The important thing is to just not over do it on the bread. It will seem like an absurd amount of custard for the amount of bread, but it all gets soaked up, and if there is too much bread, it just gets too dense. I wish I had a weight measurement for bread. If the plain Italian bread you are using is on the light side, I would just use the same amount. I think it will turn out great!

      Reply

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