Savory Tomato Bread Pudding


Updated 5.30.21.

Here’s what I said about this recipe back in 2013:

You may have noticed a lot of my posts recently center on tomatoes. So you probably remember me lamenting over the overabundance of tomatoes in my garden. Even one of my neighbors commented on the overabundance of tomatoes in my garden, which led to a conversation about whatthehelltodo with all those tomatoes. She suggested freezing them, which I may resort to when the whether becomes cooler. But right now I’m still inspired to cook. So … Bread pudding anyone?

The bread pudding from my youth (made by my grandma when she had stale bread to use) is of the dessert variety and uses stale bread, apples, cinnamon and raisins. This recipe, adapted from one found at epicurious.com, uses stale bread, fresh tomatoes, and cheese.

When I went to pick tomatoes from my garden to make this dish, I came up a little short. As in, two pounds short of the three pounds needed for this recipe. Where did all my fresh tomatoes go?! Oh yeah, in my failed attempt at Garden Tomato Bread. (All I’m going to say about this bread is that when active yeast becomes inactive it yields two very dense loaves of bread after days of painstaking attempts to get the dough to rise.)

So I had two medium-sized loaves of inedible very dense bread to use up and (what I thought was) a bunch of fresh tomatoes from my garden. I was excited to try this savory bread pudding recipe in an effort to salvage all the tomatoes I used to make the bread as well as the too dense to eat but very flavorful bread.

Normally I can save almost any food failure. It’s what I’m known for amongst my friends – having some kind of food flop that turns into a masterpiece in the end. Like the time I reconstituted failed peanut butter whip cream (I added the peanut butter way too early and then the ingredients not only wouldn’t whip but didn’t even mix) by heating it to melt down all the ingredients, re-chilling it and then whipping it back into shape. I was sure that would again happen in this occasion.

So here’s what I learned about making savory bread pudding. Bad bread = bad bread pudding. Which is a shame because I think this dish has so much potential (if using bread that was, at one time, decent). It would be unfair for me to rate this recipe based on this particular experience. The smell that permeated my kitchen while baking leads me to believe that under different circumstances, I could have blogged about a  (4) or  (5) apple dish.

What a disappointment this recipe was eight years ago. I mean, you know it’s bad if I don’t even rate it. Back in the day, I wasn’t bashful about giving recipes low apples. Now I aim to provide delicious recipes that are at least a 4-apple rating. But as you can see from my explanation, the dish never really had a chance because I used bread that had flopped.

This time around, I used some high quality Seattle-made bread. I didn’t have quite enough from the ⅔ loaf of the Macrina Giuseppe I had leftover so I had to walk to Safeway and get a second, fresh, loaf. I couldn’t find anything close to the Macrina Giuseppe at Safeway so I bought a basic looking round loaf of sourdough. I ended up having to dry out some of the sourdough to get enough for 12 cups.

I built the dish differently than I did eight years ago. The original recipe called for you to put the cubed bread into the baking dish, pour the milk/egg mixture on top, add cheese and then press the tomatoes down into the bread. I had waaaaay too many tomatoes for that way of assembly to be a viable option. Instead I layered the dish like lasagna starting with tomato, then bread, then cheese and repeat.

This dish tastes like a cross between bread and lasagna. For me, it’s too much bread for a main dish. I think this would be the perfect side dish to accompany a nice chicken dish and a salad.

ingredients.

  • 3 lbs plum tomatoes such as Roma, halved lengthwise
  • 1 ½ tsp. dried herbs or 1 ½ T. fresh herbs
  • extra-virgin olive oil, divided (instead I used safflower oil because it has a high smoke point)
  • 1 whole head garlic
  • 12 c. cubed (1-inch) artisan-style bread, a few days old
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 8 large eggs
  • 4 T. tomato puree
  • 2 to 3 c. coarsely grated Italian Fontina cheese (sub mozzarella if you cannot find Fontina)
  • ½ c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter a 4.8-quart shallow glass baking dish.
  2. Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in a large heavy 4-sided sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs.
  3. Cut off and discard ¼ inch from top of garlic head to expose cloves, then drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Wrap garlic in heavy-duty foil and roast in the oven with tomatoes until tomatoes are browned but still juicy and garlic is soft, 50 to 60 minutes.
  4. Cool garlic to warm, then squeeze the softened cloves of garlic from their skins.
  5. If not using old bread, you’ll need to dry the bread out. While garlic cools, spread out bread cubes in a large 4-sided baking sheet and bake until dried out, mine took about 10 minutes. Cool in pan.
  6. While the bread is cooling, puree in your blender or food processor (or just mix with a whisk!) milk, cream, eggs, garlic, tomato paste, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 ½ teaspoon pepper.
  7. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
  8. Layer your ingredients in your baking dish. I put some tomatoes down, then bread, then Fontina cheese. Repeat. Pour egg mixture over bread. Press bread down to make sure that it gets the chance to soak up the liquid. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake until firm to the touch and golden brown in
  9. spots, 50 to 60 minutes.

Recipe rating: 

3 Comments

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