I created this recipe for a literary event I was asked to organize for a local preschool. We read the Tale of Peter Rabbit, then made this dish with the blackberries, bread and milk from the story. Click here for my post about the experience, and see the Notes section below for more recipe details.
1 Tablespoon butter
About 1/2 pound challah or other dense bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
2 cups milk (preferably whole)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Butter an 8-inch x 8-inch baking dish, and add the cubed bread to it.
2. Put the blackberries in a large bowl and use a fork or the tines of a whisk to gently crush them and break them up a little. Don't puree them - there should still be some discernable pieces of fruit when you're done.
3. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl, then pour them over the blackberries.
4. Add milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, almond extract (if using) and salt to the bowl with the eggs and blackberries. Whisk to combine.
5. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Press down on the bread to ensure it's all evenly moistened. Allow the bread to soak for up to an hour, or bake right away.
6. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Then, cover loosely with foil and bake for another 35-45 minutes, until the pudding is significantly puffed up and does not appear wet in the middle. Check doneness with a knife inserted in the middle of the bread. If it is wet, bake for another 5 minutes (slightly moist is fine). The puff will reduce as it cools. Serve hot or at room temperature.
I used fresh blackberries to create this recipe, because I wanted the preschoolers to have the experience with the same kind of blackberries that were in the story. But you could absolutely substitute frozen blackberries if the fresh ones are out of season. Don't even question it - just do it!
Bread pudding is always a great use for stale bread. If you've got a loaf of challah or some other dense bread that you didn't get through, bread pudding is the answer! In fact, just to be clear, there's no such thing as bread that's too stale for bread pudding (as long as it isn't moldy). The more stale and dry the bread, the more of the eggy liquid it will soak up, and the more the flavors will be infused throughout the final bread pudding. If you want to get this effect but you're bread isn't very stale, you can spread the cubes onto a rimmed baking sheet and dry them in a very low oven (~180-ish F) for 30 minutes or so. Just don't let them brown.
Also, the drier the bread you're using, the longer you're going to want to soak it in the liquid before baking. You can soak it overnight or even up to 24 hours, and you'll notice that all of the liquid gets completely absorbed into the bread.
Bread pudding is the perfect thing to make ahead and serve for an easy breakfast on Christmas morning, or some other morning when you want something nice but ready to go. I refrigerate the soaking bread overnight in my ceramic baking dish, then in the morning set it on the counter while the oven preheats, then slide it directly in. I would think Pyrex would also work great. I've never had a problem with this, but if it makes you nervous, you could refrigerate the bread pudding in a bowl, then transfer it to the baking dish just before baking.