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Bread's 17th Life


A cat may have nine lives, but a loaf of bread has many more. Cooks and bakers have known this for years. Bread can enhance many homey recipes. Think of all it can become: toasted bread crumbs, a richly flavored stuffing, a puffy slice of French toast. It's also wonderful just toasted with butter.

Here, bread becomes a great pudding.

This recipe comes from the Coach House, a famous New York restaurant that closed years ago. It was conceived and operated for many years by a man named Leon Lianides. James Beard, a regular customer, felt that the Coach House was one of a kind and that Lianides was a kitchen genius. Make this recipe and you will agree that it is pretty tasty.

Cunningham's newest book is "Learning to Cook With Marion Cunningham (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999).

Coach House Bread and Butter Pudding

Active Work Time: 35 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Brioche is a yeast bread made with butter and eggs, often available at bakeries. You can substitute challah or a French bread for the brioche, but not a sourdough.

12 slices brioche

5 tablespoons butter, softened

5 eggs

4 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 cups milk

1 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

* Trim crusts from bread slices. Butter 1 side of each slice of bread. Line 3-quart oven-safe glass bowl or large souffle dish with bread slices, buttered-side up. Set aside.

* Whisk together eggs and egg yolks in mixing bowl until well blended. Add sugar and salt, and stir briskly to mix well.

* Heat milk and cream in saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles form around outer edge of saucepan or until milk and cream are very hot but not boiling. Remove from heat.

* Put mixing bowl containing egg mixture on towel so it won't move around. Slowly add hot milk mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly with large spoon or whisk, until custard is smooth and blended. Stir in vanilla. Pour custard over bread slices.

* Place pudding bowl in roasting pan and add enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of bowl. Carefully carry to oven and bake at 375 degrees until thin wooden skewer inserted in center of pudding comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

12 servings. Each serving: 296 calories; 187 mg sodium; 231 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 23 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 0 fiber.

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