Slow cooker bread pudding is easy-prep and budget friendly

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Portia Little

Budget Kitchen by Portia Little

Bread pudding has many charms.

It can be sweet or savory and served at any time of the day, from breakfast to snack time to dessert. It’s also budget-friendly.

Recipes for bread pudding first emerged sometime during the 11th or 12th century as a way to use up stale or leftover bread. Stale bread still remains a vital part of the dish, but bread pudding has gone from humble to gourmet.

Make bread pudding in your slow cooker for an easy-prep, set-it-and-forget-it dish. If you don’t have the size slow cooker that’s called for in the recipe, just adapt your timing or change the amount of ingredients. For example, you can cut a 4-quart recipe in half to fit into a 2-quart slow cooker. Or add some cooking time when making a recipe in the 4-quart cooker that calls for an oval 6-quart cooker.

The denseness of the pudding is determined by the proportion of bread to liquid. For a more custardy-like dish, use less bread or increase the amount of liquid. Also, different types of bread absorb varying amounts of liquid, so you may need to adjust the liquid amounts, depending on the bread type.

When making bread pudding, you can have fun playing with different types of bread. Instead of using the usual white bread, trying mixing in some whole wheat or whole grain bread, donuts, English muffins, sourdough bread or bagels. The slow cooker breakfast bread pudding is a delicious way to use up that leftover French bread from dinner; and it cooks while you sleep.

Slow Cooker Breakfast Bread Pudding

Day-old French bread, cubed (about 5 cups)

3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ cup brown sugar, packed

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups milk

2 large eggs

¼ cup pure maple syrup

12 ounces sausage, cooked and crumbled

Coat a four-quart slow cooker with butter or cooking spray. Press half of bread cubes into bottom of cooker. Combine apples, cinnamon, allspice, brown sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Add milk, eggs and maple syrup to bowl and mix well. Pour half of apple mixture over bread in cooker. Gently press down on apples to ensure liquid is absorbed by bread. Spread half of sausage over apple mixture, followed by remaining bread. Top bread with remaining sausage followed by remaining apple mixture. Gently press on apples; cover; cook on low for six hours.

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding

8 cups cubed day-old French or Italian bread

½ cup raisins, if desired

2 cups milk

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

¼ cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon vanilla

1/4teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

Whipped cream, if desired

Coat five-quart* oval slow cooker with cooking spray. Place bread and raisins in slow cooker.

In medium bowl, beat milk, eggs, sugar, melted butter, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and salt with whisk; pour over bread and raisins. Toss to evenly coat. Let stand 10 minutes. Toss again to make sure custard is evenly distributed. Cover and cook on low for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream or topping. *This recipe also comes out well in a four-quart round slow cooker. Add 45 minutes to an hour of cooking time.

Slow Cooker Apple Bread Pudding

8 slices white or wheat (or a combo) bread, cubed (about 4 cups)

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar

4 cups peeled and chopped apples

In large bowl, combine bread cubes, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and brown sugar; mix well. In four-quart slow cooker, starting with bread mixture, alternate layers with chopped apples. Cover and cook on high for 1 ½ hours, or on low for 3 to 4 hours, or until apples are tender. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream. Note: Add about ½ cup raisins and some chopped nuts for extra flavor and texture.

Orange Marmalade Bread Pudding in Slow Cooker

Butter or cooking spray

5 to 6 cups day-old bread, cubed

1 ¼ cups orange marmalade*

1 cup whole milk

1 cup half & half

1/3 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (may omit)

Coat bottom and sides of slow cooker with butter or cooking spray. Place bread cubes in cooker. Stir in orange marmalade (or jam of choice). In separate bowl, whisk together milk, half & half, sugar, eggs, vanilla and Grand Marnier. Pour mixture over bread. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until puffed up and fully cooked in center. Serve warm topped with whipped cream or topping. Serves 8. *Note: Other thick, textured jams such as peach or strawberry also work well in this pudding.

Portia Little is the author of six cookbooks. You can contact her at panntree@msn.com.

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