Bread pudding is a great dessert because it is fairly easy to make and is a great way to use up a half loaf of leftover bread that is just a touch past its prime. That said, it’s also delicious enough that I’ve been known to run out to the store to buy a fresh loaf just to make some.
Most bread puddings have a custardy base made of milk and/or cream and eggs, similar to the mixture that french toast is soaked in before cooking it. For this bread pudding, I wanted to try something a little different and added some cream cheese into the basic custard mixture, adding a little bit of that tangy cream cheese flavor to the dish. I was inspired to give this a try when, during a dinner out, one of my dining companions just couldn’t decide between a mini cheesecake and homemade bread pudding We ended up getting both for the table and splitting them, and it was apparent that the textures and flavors would be very complementary, as both are often creamy and mild desserts on their own.
The finished bread pudding tasted like a very mild cheesecake, with just a hint of cream cheese flavor mixed in with a strong vanilla flavor, and had a slightly firmer texture than some of the softer bread puddings I’ve tried. The cream cheese blended in very well into the rest of the milk-egg mixture and had no problems being absorbed by the bread cubes that make up the base of this dessert. I would opt for white bread, or a bread like challah or brioche for this pudding, as a whole grain bread will add enough of its own flavor that the dessert will loose some of its cheesecake essence (although it will still be rich and tasty).
Since this is a fairly plain bread pudding, I would serve it with a few spoonfuls of cream anglaise or other custard sauce, or pair it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you opt for the ice cream route, serve the bread pudding warm. Otherwise, it is good both warmed and at room temperature.
Cream Cheese Bread Pudding
8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
10-11 cups white bread, cubed
Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, mixing at medium speed until very smooth, then slowly blend in milk and vanilla extract. Dump all bread cubes into the bowl and press with a spatula to soak up the liquid. Pour into prepared pan and gently smooth into an even layer.
Bake for 30 minutes, until pudding springs back slightly when you touch the top and the edges begin to turn golden.
Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or custard sauce.
*Note: You should be able to halve this recipe without much problem, using an 8×8-inch baking pan.
1 1/4 cups cream
1/2 vanilla bean
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup white sugar
In a small saucepan, cook cream and vanilla bean over medium-low heat until cream almost comes to a simmer.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Whisking constantly, gradually drizzle hot cream into egg yolk mixture a little at a time, until about half of the cream has been added and mixture is hot. Add egg mixture to remaining cream and return the saucepan to the stove. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not overcook.
Pour through a strainer into a clean container.
Remove the vanilla bean from the strainer and scrape out the seeds. Stir into creme anglaise, then place a sheet of plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming.