Lauren Groveman a recipe for delicious living

Crazy for Mushrooms.... Savory Bread Pudding

(February 21, 2008)
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Lori asked Lauren:

Dear Lauren,

The other night, I had "bread pudding" for dessert and it was wonderful. I've never made this at home and was wondering if it was difficult. It wasn't like a pudding at all but, instead, it was dense and bread-like (I guess that's the bread part...). Any help you could offer would be very much appreciated. I've been reading this informative column religiously for, what seems like, years now…keep up the good work!

Lauren says...

Bread pudding is, as you have observed, not at all like a traditional "creamy-type" pudding. It's actually bread that's either been cubed or sliced, buttered or not and either placed in a baking dish so a custard mixture can be poured over the top or, the cubes of bread are tossed with the custard and then put into a baking dish. The whole thing then gets baked until set (a tester would come out clean when inserted into the top center of the pudding). Like "pie" there are many different variations of bread pudding. One of the most important components of a good one is, to know surprise, the bread. For me, Challah makes the best bread pudding. It's soft yet toothsome texture and slightly sweet taste is a great place to begin to build a bread pudding that's destined to make even a stoic happy at the table. The custard begins as a sweet quiche mixture would (cream and/or milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla) but that doesn't mean one has to stop there. For example: You could heat the cream infused with crushed espresso beans, (eggs would be added after the flavored cream is strained and cooled). Then, after straining the cream, you could stir in some melted chocolate. Fruit puree's, sautéed fresh fruits and plumped dried fruits are all wonderful options to include in bread pudding and I always like to top mine with a sugar/spice and toasted nut concoction (like what would be used on the top of muffins or another quick bread). Here's a wonderful recipe for Bread Pudding with Bananas, Spiced Apples and Brandied Raisins from a back issue.

On the other hand, bread pudding need not be confined to a sweet dessert! By switching the type of bread and any added embellishments from sweet to savory, you can create an amazing side dish to serve alongside an entrée that features grilled or roast beef, poultry, fish or pork. Here, try this recipe that my family loves: Crazy for Mushrooms...Savory Bread Pudding. Enjoy!

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Crazy for Mushrooms.... Savory Bread Pudding

Yield: serves 8

Although my husband swears that this mixture is "the best stuffing," it's not a stuffing. It does resemble a baked stuffing, though, since the exterior is golden brown and wonderfully crisp on top. But, this savory bread pudding is lighter and creamier than stuffing. This recipe provides a great way to use yesterday's Italian loaf, since it's new, slightly drier texture, is now perfectly suited for an absorptive bread pudding. You know, that's part of the kitchen dance. Utilizing ingredients in ways that will help them shine perfectly, without ever having to apologize for their reincarnation.

    For the Bread Pudding:

  • 4 cups (packed) day-old coarse Breadcrumbs, preferably Italian bread with sesame seeds
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing the dish, plus 3 tablespoons for sautéing
  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups minced yellow onion
  • 2 generous teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 10 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
  • 1¾ pounds shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps wiped clean and chopped
  • 8 ounces portobello mushrooms (1 or 2 large), stem removed, caps wiped clean and chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1¾ cups heavy cream
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon white truffle oil (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1) To set up to assemble the dish: Lightly toast the bread crumbs on a shallow baking sheet in a 350° F oven, until dry and light golden, about 10 minutes. Keep the oven set at 350° F and transfer the crumbs to a mixing bowl. Brush the interior of a 2-quart, oven-to-table baking dish with olive oil.

2) To reconstitute the dried mushrooms:
Steep them in the boiling water, until supple, about 20 minutes. Use your hand to lift the mushrooms out of the water, squeezing them, gently, to release any excess liquid back into the bowl. Chop the reconstituted mushrooms and set them aside. Place a fine-mesh wire sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with a doubled layer of dampened cheese cloth. Strain the mushroom liquid through the cheesecloth, into the bowl. Measure ½ cup mushroom liquid and set this aside. Measure the rest, which should be a scant ¾ cup. (If necessary, add some water to reach ¾ cup.)

3) To sauté the vegetables: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 12-inch, heavy-bottomed deep-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter is hot and bubbling, stir in the minced onions and cook them, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add half the minced thyme and some salt and black pepper, to taste. Transfer the onions to the bowl of bread crumbs and, without wiping out the pan, put it back over medium-high heat with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, stir in all the chopped fresh mushrooms and, when wilted, stir in the minced garlic and let the mushrooms cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until golden and any released liquid has evaporated. Stir in the remaining thyme, the chopped reconstituted mushrooms and salt and pepper, to taste. When hot, transfer the mushrooms to the bowl of bread crumbs and onions.

Replace the pan over high heat and add ½ cup of the mushroom liquid. As the liquid bubbles, use the flat edge of a wooden spatula to release any clinging bits of mushrooms from the bottom of the pan and reduce the liquid to a generous ¼ cup. Pour this reduction into the bowl of bread crumbs and vegetables.

4) To assemble the bread pudding and bake: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Use a whisk to combine the cream with the eggs and ¾ cup mushroom liquid. Stir in the truffle oil, if using, and season the custard with salt and pepper. When ready to bake, pour the custard over the bread mixture and fold through to combine well. Transfer this to the prepared baking dish and dot the top with 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake the bread pudding, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top and continue to bake, until the top is golden, the pudding is swollen and the custard is set, about 25 minutes more. Serve piping hot.

Time Management Tips:

  • Lauren LogoIf using fresh bread, make the crumbs one day ahead. Or, make the crumbs weeks ahead and freeze them in doubled sealed heavy-duty plastic bags. No need to thaw before using.

  • All of the vegetables can be assembled one day ahead and kept refrigerated, in securely covered bowls.

  • For best texture, I suggest baking the bread pudding soon after assembling. However, you can put combine the bread with the sautéed vegetable mixture and mix your custard ingredients, up to two hours ahead, and keep them on your counter at a comfortable room temperature (separately).


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Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends" and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food for Family and Friends" are available through

For in depth information on Lauren Groveman as a writer, teacher, TV & radio host, as well as her recipes and cooking tips visit her website at

Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and blessed with three wonderful children.