Tartine Baking Project: Recipe #18 Savory Bread Pudding

Literally, the last thing I did when I was in San Francisco about six months ago was squeeze in a brunch at Outerlands.  I mentioned this already, but I posted a picture before I left for this recent trip, because I’d hoped to head back there again.  It wasn’t until a few months ago when I saw this beautiful short documentary video on the Tartine Bread cookbook that I found out these guys are friends.  It makes sense.  

I love bread too.  Like, a lot.  I feel sad for those out there who have cut such things out of their diet, and turn to eating crazy amounts of fried bologna and piles of summer sausage in the place of bread and other carby things.  Eh, more for me!  The last night of this trip I asked some friends to head over to Outerlands for dinner.  Everyone kept telling me, “You haven’t had dinner there?  Oh, it’s even better than brunch.”  Few things in the world are better than brunch, but I went knowing I was going to have a great meal.  Dave, the owner who I met at Four Barrel when I introduced myself to Chad, was so very nice.  On our way out of his restaurant that night he gave me a loaf of bread!  Add this to the list of the nicest things you can ever do for me.  So far: 1.) Use the word ‘fancy’ in a compliment and 2.) Give me really good bread as a gift. 

I carried around this bread when we went out that night, cradled it through the airport the next day, and rejoiced when I had two empty seats on the flight home so the bread and my feet could have their own seats.  I spent a lot of time thinking about what special thing I was going to do with this bread.  Once home, and after getting some good cuddling in with Dan and Jack, I picked up the cookbook and zeroed in on this savory bread pudding that calls for a country loaf of bread, preferably day-old.  Ugh!  Could that be more perfect for this little jet-setting loaf of bread?

Cutting into a good loaf of bread, even when its a little over a day old, unleashes the most amazing aroma into the world.  You’re welcome, world. 

I love how beautiful Swiss chard is.  If I was asked, “What vegetable would you be?” and radish was already taken, I’d be Swiss chard.

Confession: I’ve never made or consumed bread pudding of any sort.  This is strange, I know, because it seems like a perfect fit for my taste.  It’s like Tina Fey saying she’s never seen The Office.  Hard to believe, right?  I love how versatile this dish is; being able to throw in whatever you have around is always a plus in the waste-not department.  This version: smoked ham, gruyère, Swiss chard, onion, eggs, milk, heavy cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and really good bread!  Many things in this cookbook can be changed, omitted, substituted for things that are in season, etc.  I’m trying not to make things more than once throughout the year, as to make sure I get to everything within my time frame, but I think that’s going to be impossible.  I would love to make this again with leeks and bacon! 

I got pretty excited when I read that you could make this in a 10” cast iron skillet.  But, I got to the point where you add a lot of heavy cream and milk, and knew that (above, on the left) was not going to fit into that (above, on the right).  Most people would then just stick with the plan laid out in the recipe, but for some crazy reason I thought this was some visual trick, and it would, in fact, fit into the skillet.  Um, it didn’t.  Maybe my skillet isn’t 10” after all?  I was just going to go with it, but then I’d have some left over, which is not exactly what I want to have pre-Thanksgiving.  I thought about freezing it, but I wasn’t sure if that would freeze well.  I’m abnormally apprehensive about putting food in the freezer.  I might need to get over this.   

Before/after (in the 9 x 13 ceramic baking dish, not the skillet)

When it comes down to it, I lack confidence when checking the doneness of anything that goes into my oven.  It’s especially complicated when I’ve never made something before and really don’t know what to look for.  The top looked done enough, but it was crazy jiggly when I went to pull it from the oven.  I baked it a bit longer, and let it cool in the hopes it would set up a bit.  I have a habit of thinking meat is done and then trying to serve it to people, so when I came out of the kitchen saying, “I’m not sure if it’s done,” I think everyone just assumed I was about to serve them raw eggs in warm milk.  Our final result was this state between solid and liquid, with a crispy crust, that tasted so very good.  If that’s what bread pudding is supposed to be, then, Yes! Success! 

People happily asking for seconds is always a good sign.