Best of Bread Puddings


IRELAND HOPPING / By Margaret M. Johnson

Instead of traveling around Ireland this week, I’m park-hopping at Walt Disney World in Florida and delightfully surprised to see how popular the Irish classic dessert bread pudding is here. The ones I’ve tasted all start with the basics — bread and custard — but some of the add-ons are pretty special. Currants or golden raisins are always welcome in the traditional Irish version (sometimes plumped up first with a few hours’ soaking in whiskey, sherry, or brandy) and sweetened challah bread, brioche, croissants, and fruit-filled panettone are delicious stand-ins for traditional white bread. At Disney World, the chefs take it a few steps beyond — after all, everything there is “magic.”

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SERVES 8 to 10

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, one of the first on-site hotels to open in Disney World (1971), has a South Seas theme in its rooms, public areas, even its food. Its main restaurant, Ohana, serves this delicious bread pudding with a tropical topping.

For the pudding

10 cups challah or egg-style bread, cut into bite-size cubes

5 large eggs

3 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup raisins

For the sauce

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup spiced or dark rum

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 bananas, sliced

Vanilla ice cream, for topping

  1. Make pudding. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spread cubes out on a cookie sheet and bake, turning once or twice, for about 15 minutes, or until lightly toasted; set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325° F.

  2. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk, salt, sugar and nutmeg; stir in bread cubes, pineapple, coconut, and raisins until coated. Transfer mixture to a greased 13-x-9-inch pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven; transfer to wire rack.

  3. Make sauce. In a large saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and 1/2 cup of cream. Bring to a boil and slowly add remaining cream, keeping mixture at a steady boil; add rum and vanilla. With along-stemmed lighter or igniter, flambé (sauce will brown slightly) and let boil until flame goes out. Reduce to simmer and stir; add bananas.

  4. To serve, cut pudding into squares, pour sauce over, and top with a scoop of ice cream.




Another tropical version of bread pudding features Hawaiian bread, such as King’s brand, with a caramel bottom rather than top! This recipe is from “Delicious Disney,” a desserts cookbook published by Disney chefs.

5 cups Hawaiian bread, cut into bite-size cubes

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/3 cup water

6 large eggs

3 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Make pudding. Preheat oven to 250° F. Spread cubes out on a cookie sheet and bake, turning once or twice, for about 15 minutes, or until lightly toasted; set aside.

  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup sugar and water, stirring until sugar dissolves. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, without stirring, until liquid caramelizes and turns brown. Pour into a 9-inch square pan, tilting dish slightly in all directions to spread caramel to cover the surface; set aside. Increase oven temperature to 350° F.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and remaining 1/2 cup sugar; whisk in milk, vanilla, and salt.

  4. Fill prepared dish with toasted bread; pour 3/4 of custard mixture over and press down with back of a large spoon. Pour over remaining custard and press down again to ensure bread absorbs all of the liquid; sprinkle cinnamon on top.

  5. Wrap pan in aluminum foil and place dish inside a larger baking pan. Fill larger pan with water until it reaches halfway up sides of baking dish. Bake on center rack for 60 to 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean.

  6. Uncover dish and set aside to cool in water for 20 minutes; run a paring knife along sides of pudding to loosen. Carefully invert onto serving platter, cut into slices, and serve immediately.




Shutters Restaurant at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort serves American dishes with a Caribbean twist and this bread pudding has influences from both cultures. Sweet, egg-rich medianoche bread is a Cuban specialty, but challah or brioche may be easier to find and will work just as well. White chocolate chips and cinnamon whisky sauce give it an extra hint of sweet. This recipe appears also appears in “Delicious Disney.”

For the pudding

8 cups medianoche, challah, or brioche, cut into bite-size pieces

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2/3 cup white chocolate chips

For the sauce

6 tablespoons whisky

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 cup dark corn syrup

2 drops red food coloring

  1. Make pudding. Place cubed bread in a large bowl.

  2. Whisk together cream and milk and then fold into bread; let soak, covered and refrigerated, for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, yolk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fold in 1/3 cup of chips and then fold into bread mixture.

  4. Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease six 8-ounce ramekins with nonstick spray. Divide bread mixture among ramekins and place in a large baking pan. Add water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through cooking. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup chips.

  5. Make sauce. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine whisky, cinnamon, corn syrup, and food coloring. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until sauce is reduced by about one quarter. Spoon sauce over ramekins and serve immediately.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her cookbooks, visit