My first experience with bread pudding was in Raleigh, NC. There is this fantastic restaurant halfway between Durham and Raleigh called Foster’s that makes one of the best bread puddings I have ever had in my entire life. It’s heavenly, creamy, with pockets of sweetness that burst in your mouth unexpectedly. I fell immediately in love.
But I have to say, the only thing I don’t like about bread pudding is that cement brick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re finished eating. That doesn’t mean this recipe is any lighter. Oh hell no. It wouldn’t be bread pudding if you didn’t have a Buddha belly after consuming it. I’m not one to mess with tradition. Besides, breakfast is the most important meal of the day right? It needs to sustain you all
winter day, right?
I’ve made bread pudding a few times, usually always using the same recipe. But then I saw a variation of it on Pinterest (oh you eternal time suck and inspiration giver, you) called “French toast bread pudding” and while I will admit I pinned it, I didn’t read it, ‘cuz I am far too lazy for that. So I make shifted some bread pudding during that awesome couples retreat in Vermont and it was a smashing success. The BF liked it so much he immediately declared “Honey, you can make this for me anytime you want.” And so I took that to heart and made it again the next weekend.
I knew immediately when I made this that it would be a perfect vehicle for my all-time favorite winter beverage: eggnog. I think I may have mentioned my love affair with eggnog before. I honestly think that if I was given the opportunity, I might actually swim in the stuff and then lick my arms clean afterward. It’s an unholy and unhealthy addiction, I know. But if this is wrong, I don’t want to be rigtht.
Last weekend The BF and I made a trek out to central Pennsylvania. To be more precise we made a trek out to Penn State. Now, I’m generally not one to air my concerns or opinions in a super public forum, I feel that invites discord, but I have to say that what happened at Penn State was truly one of the saddest things I have heard in a very long time.
My family has a very long and extended history with Penn State. In fact, I am the first person in several generations going back through my father’s side of the family not to attend or work at Penn State. The horror. I was a raised a Penn Stater, wore the cheerleader costume until it didn’t fit, attended my fair share of games freezing my tuckus off in the nosebleed section, and have had my picture taken with The Shrine basically every year. And while I am not an alum of Old State I have always felt a pretty strong connection with it.
I have always felt that JoePa was infallible, and was more likely to croak on the field during a game than to retire, and I certainly didn’t see him leaving in such a sad and shameful dismissal. But the events have transpired as they have and more than enough media attention has been paid to every facet of the coaching and football program and administration at the University. So much so, that the true tragedy, in my humble opinion, has been completely overlooked: the children that suffered and the children that stand to suffer if The Second Mile is dismantled.
I was racking my brain with ways to help the children or any victim of rape or abuse when my dad sent me a link Proud to Be a Penn Stater. It’s a pledge drive organized by several Penn State alum to support RAINN, one of the largest anti-sexual violence organizations in the country. I thought I would share it with you, dear readers, in case you felt, like me, that you wanted to help, to draw the attention back to the true tragedy of the moment and make a difference isntead of waxing poetical on what could or should have happened at Penn State.
The day of the Nebraska game, I was certainly a little nervous and I know my mother was as well. What were the students, who seemed to so enjoy their rioting, going to do? How were the media going to portray the poor footballers who were really only collateral damage in this whole situation? And you know what, chitlins? Penn State pulled itself together, like it always does, and rallied. They changed the traditional White Out game to a Blue Out game and sold thousands of shirts to help support child abuse prevention causes. The team was welcomed to the stadium with a rousing and cheering crowd and the icing on the cake came just before the coin toss.
All the senior players had been introduced for their final home game of the season and given a round of applause. Nebraska had jogged onto the field. And as everyone is milling around the sidelines, Nebraska, led by their Captains, came out onto the field as one, joined with the Penn State team that wandered out to meet them and gathered together for what we all assumed to be a prayer. The players and coaches all knelt, and the two captains of the opposing teams stood to lead their players in a prayer/speech.
Honestly, it was more than I certainly ever expected and was one of the greatest class acts I have ever seen. In that moment I was proud to be an honorary Penn Stater. I was so grateful to the way Nebraska acted towards the team (shortly after they demolished us, but oh well) and I was beyond grateful that the students were on their best behavior as well. With a college crowd you are never quite certain what could happen and given the riots and other general outbursts that had been happening all week, it really was a crap shoot. And it was apparently one worth taking.
After the game, while we were tailgating into the evening another exciting thing happened. My father has an amazing parking spot, literally just outside the East side gate. It’s also next to where all the Paterno’s tailgate and some of the most “hardcore” Penn State fans in the area. It’s an exciting area regardless of how the games go. Just as the tailgating was winding down and the sun had set, a cop car pulls up and drops off an individual among the cars. A small crowd forms and it quickly becomes apparent that the new interim-head coach, Tom Bradley, had just shown up.
Suddenly everyone is walking over and clapping. My dad is one who goes up to shake his hand and congratulate him. He certainly does not have an easy position. JoePa was coach at Penn State for almost half of it’s entire football program (the program celebrates 125 years this year, JoePa coached for 62 of them, 45 as head coach) and following such a legacy, in any way, is certainly no walk in the park. Bradley gave a short speech, which sadly I couldn’t hear, and he stood around taking photographs with fans, without the media around, at least until we left the parking lot almost an hour later. Yet another class act.
This has nothing to do with the bread pudding I made, except that it’s a nice comforting food for a chilly morning that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, something that complimented the feeling at the university after the goodwill shown at the game.
*Just a note: It’s best to cube your bread and let it sit out overnight to get stale so that it can soak up the milk better.
Eggnog Bread Pudding
1 loaf of challah bread, roughly cut in 1 inch cubes, slightly stale
3 cups eggnog
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
pinch of allspice and cloves
(or substitute 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice and add 1 tsp cinnamon for the spice mix above)
Preheat oven to 400°F, butter a 9x13inch baking/casserole dish
In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, eggnog and milk until thoroughly combined. Add the spices and sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the bread cubes and toss until thoroughly coated. Pour into the baking dish. (This part can be done the night before if you want, covered with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator).
Cover the dish with tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes. Turn down the heat to 375°F, uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden and the dish has puffed up and is cooked all the way through (it shouldn’t jiggle a bunch when you remove it from the oven but should be fairly firm).
Serve hot with maple syrup or whipped cream.
Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for upto a week. Reheat before serving.