Smooth and delicate bread pudding, coated with a delicious caramel sauce, is a simple and stunning dessert at the same time. Made with bread, eggs, milk and sugar, the pudding can either be steamed or baked in a bain-marie.
Note (Feb 1st, 2017): This blog post was originally published in May 2013, which I have now updated with new pictures and a new recipe card. This is THE most searched for recipe on this blog, with several happy testimonials from readers like you. Hope you enjoy!
If you ask me what is my favorite dessert, it wouldn’t be cake, pie or cookies. It wouldn’t even be kheer, though it would be a close second. It is this one – a simple caramel bread pudding. A delicate and smooth bread pudding, which is self-saucing too, this is a deceptively simple recipe. But let its simplicity not fool you, this pudding is worthy of any special event too.
This is an excellent recipe for when you crave something sweet and also to use up slightly stale leftover bread. As always, this recipe is my mom’s. She makes the most amazing bread pudding and I was always sort of intimidated to try this on my own. But I think I have got the hang of it now!
I have been eating this Indian bread pudding for as long as I can remember. This is probably one of my earliest foods according to my mother. My mom would make variations of this simple steamed bread pudding to feed her picky eater of a child (that’s me!). A simple but delicious way to get some nutrition into me – bread, eggs and milk.
The pudding is self-saucing with this incredible amber-hued caramel sauce. You can make it with white bread or brown bread, add crusts or not, but the best thing would be to use slightly stale bread. It’s a great way to use up all those leftover ends and bits from bread loaves.
Indian kitchens rarely relied on ovens till just a few years ago. And so, this bread pudding, believe it or not, is steamed in a pressure cooker. The heat from the pressurized steam helps make this pudding very moist and soft. A pressure cooker is probably one of the best kitchen implements ever. There is absolutely nothing that cannot be done in a pressure cooker. Just search for it on the internet and you’ll see. But now, I have also perfected this recipe in the oven. I use a bain-marie (hot water bath) in the oven to best mimic the hot, steamy environment in a pressure cooker. I have given both methods in my recipe here.
You will begin by making a simple caramel sauce to coat the base of your bowl or ramekins. Nothing fancy or difficult, just sugar moistened with some water and boiled till deep golden or amber in color. A simple custard base is prepared and poured on this caramel base. The bowl is then lightly covered and either steamed in the cooker or placed in a bain-marie and baked in the oven. You will cook till just done, with a slight jiggle to the pudding. And once you invert the pudding onto the serving plate, you will end up with the gooey caramel sauce on top, dripping down the sides and creating this incredible dessert.
This Indian style bread pudding closely resembles flan or a caramel custard. I love it warm, at room temperature or chilled; it is good any which way.
The pudding can easily be made ahead a couple of days ahead if you are planning to serve this at a party. I have made large batches of this pudding to take to our church potlucks and events – just one bite, and everyone is hooked!
Make sure you read the recipe entirely before you begin. I have given the methods for cooking bread pudding in pressure cooker or baking in an oven. The recipe can also be scaled up easily to make a larger batch.
Make sure you have these items on hand before beginning.
Steaming in pressure cooker:
You will need a pressure cooker, trivet, a bowl for steaming (around 4-cups capacity, stainless steel or thick glass), foil or a loose-fitting stainless steel lid.
Steaming in steamer vessel:
This is similar to the pressure-cooker method. You can use a large steamer vessel that will hold a 4-cup bowl.
Baking in oven:
You will need 3-4 ramekins or ovenproof bowls, a large pan with raised edges, boiling hot water for the bain-marie (hot water bath) and foil.
- Sugar - 3 tbsp
- Water - 3 tsp
- Whole Milk – 1½ cups
- Sugar – ¼ cup (or more as per taste)
- Bread – 4-6 slices (white or brown)
- Eggs – 2, large
- Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
- Salt – a pinch
- Melted butter or ghee – to brush inside the bowl
- Cashew nuts - 1tbsp, chopped (optional)
- Raisins - 8-10 (optional)
- Caramel sauce: In a small saucepan, melt the sugar and water for caramel sauce. Cook on medium heat till sugar dissolves, then starts to boil. After a couple of minutes, the sugar will bubble up and begin to darken. When it is a deep golden or amber color, the sauce is ready. Do not burn it, you may have to start over.
- Remove from heat promptly and pour into a wide-mouthed 4-cup steamer bowl (if using pressure cooker) or 4 small ramekins (if using oven). Swirl the bowl to coat the caramel sauce evenly at the bottom. Brush the sides of the bowl with melted butter or ghee. Set aside.
- Bread pudding: Heat milk and sugar in a saucepan. Just make sure it is very hot, no need to boil it.
- Remove from heat and add chopped up pieces of bread into the milk. You can use or discard the crust as per your preference. Also, the number of slices needed will depend on how thin or thick your slices are. I usually go for 4 slices of sandwich bread or up to 6 slices of thin-sliced bread. Stir well and allow to rest for 5-7 minutes till the bread is soaked well and almost dissolves into the milk.
- Whisk eggs in a bowl and add to the milk-bread mixture. Whisk to combine thoroughly and break up any slices of bread to make a fairly smooth custard.
- Stir in vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Stir in nuts and raisins, if using.
- Pour the custard mixture carefully into the prepared bowl (or ramekins). Make sure it is filled only ⅔rd of the way.
- Steaming in pressure cooker: Fill a pressure cooker with 3 cups of water. Place a trivet in the bottom. Place the steamer bowl over this, lightly covered with foil (make a couple of steam vents with a knife) or a loose-fitting stainless steel lid. Cover the pressure cooker, place the weight and cook on medium-high heat for one whistle. Immediately lower the heat to a simmer and cook further for 20-25 minutes. Allow the pressure to be released naturally before opening the pressure cooker's lid.
- Take the bowl out and cool slightly. Run a knife along the edges of the pudding and invert onto a serving plate. Slice and serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled.
- Baking in oven: Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg.F.
- Arrange the filled ramekins in a cake pan or baking pan with raised sides. Pour boiling hot water into the pan till the water comes to midway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Cover loosely with a large piece of foil. Bake for 30 minutes and check for doneness with a toothpick. If it is not done, bake uncovered for 5-10 more minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve as is in ramekins or unmold onto plates before serving.
- Caramel bread pudding can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled.
- Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator. The flavors only get better!
Enjoy some delicious and comforting bread pudding!
Make them on a weeknight or weekend, just like that or for a special occasion, and treat your loved ones to something special!
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Do you love bread pudding? How do you make it?
Have you tried making bread pudding with oven? Do try this Indian style bread pudding with a silky caramel sauce.
Let me know if you try it!
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