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Do you need stale bread to make bread pudding?

Eggnog Bread Pudding

Many bread pudding recipes call for stale bread, or ask you to leave your bread out on the counter to dry it out a bit before using it in a recipe. This stems from the fact that bread pudding was originally intended to be a way to give new life to bread that was a little stale, soaking it in a flavorful custard and baking it until it was moist and tender. French toast is the same idea, actually.  But do you need to use stale bread for a bread pudding? No, you can simply start with a fresh loaf of bread if you have one, even if the recipe tells you to use stale bread or to leave your bread out to “stale” on the counter for a few hours.

When bread becomes stale, the moisture inside of the bread is lost, causing the bread to become somewhat stiff and dry. In theory, this bread should be able to absorb more liquid than fresh bread – and this is often cited as the reason to try to “stale” your bread before using it. But when it comes down to it, only a very small amount of moisture is leaving your bread (you don’t want to use something so stale that it feels like an old sponge, after all!) and that isn’t enough to make a significant difference in a bread pudding recipe. Fresh bread will perform just as well as stale bread, no matter what the recipe calls for. It may even give you a better result, as fresher bread often as a fresher flavor that will carry into the bread pudding.

The bread pudding pictured above is Eggnog Bread Pudding with Bourbon Cranberries, and it’s a great recipe to try with some leftover holiday ‘nog!

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  • pattyann
    January 6, 2011

    I love bread pudding, and this one sounds delicious. Anything that reminds me of eggnog definitely becomes something I want to try.

  • Belinda @zomppa
    January 6, 2011

    Great tips!! This looks so delicious…great to wow any party!

  • x3baking
    January 6, 2011

    I was wondering about this after reading your last bread pudding post. Thanks for the info. The first time I ate bread pudding was last, last year during Christmas and it was excellent served with ice cream.

  • Janie
    January 6, 2011

    Good information…
    My take on the ?history? of bread pudding, is that bread was made daily. The next day any bread left was used for bread pudding or other things. So it is not the “stale” bread we think of today…(which would be, what? Bread crumb stale?)
    I have made a brioche loaf (for the purpose of bread pudding) and then later in the day, after leaving it out, used it for bread pudding.

  • Niki
    January 7, 2011

    I never use stale bread. I am too impatient for one and two, it hurts me to stale delicious bread!

  • Melanie Flinn
    January 7, 2011

    Eggnog bread pudding sounds delicious. I’ve only made one in my life with chocolate. Yum!

  • Sarah
    January 7, 2011

    This post leads me to believe you didn’t really test this? Because when I have been too impatient to let bread get stale (I’ll chop it up and leave it on top of the fridge over night) and used fresh bread the consistency of the bread pudding is totally off. For excellent bread pudding you have to wait!

  • ingrid
    January 8, 2011

    I make bread pudding often and have found that while you can use fresh bread, bread that is stale holds up better. The fresh gets soggy and falls apart after soaking up the yummy custard. Of it doesn’t effect the taste.

    We adore eggnog and will try your recipe. Yeah, even though eggnog season has passed.

  • DJ
    November 4, 2012

    I started out using stale bread and now I never use stale bread, and my pudding always the same consistency. Does it really matter? Doubtful… to be honest.

  • Megan
    December 16, 2012

    I’ve made this recipe twice, using fresh bread both times. It’s a hit, especially around the holidays. However, this time it fell, collapsed upon cooling. Any idea what happened?

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