This simple bread pudding recipe is soft on the inside, toasty on the outside, and topped with toasted pecans and a drizzle of sweet vanilla sauce. Add a touch of bourbon or pecan to the vanilla custard sauce for a boozy breakfast treat!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Old-fashioned bread pudding - This traditional bread pudding base gets soaked in a warm spiced brown sugar custard, topped with pecans for extra flavor and crunch, and baked to a crispy exterior and soft interior.
Luscious vanilla sauce - the bread pudding gets topped with a vanilla custard sauce, or creme anglaise, and is the perfect easy bread pudding sauce. Add in a bit of booze to kick it up a notch.
Easy make-ahead breakfast - this pecan bread pudding can be assembled and soaked overnight, then baked off first thing in the morning for a hot and fresh breakfast option. This is the perfect addition to a holiday breakfast or for any house guests.
- Bread loaf. French or Italian loaves will work for this recipe. You could also use challah or brioche. One large loaf, about 1 pound, should be enough, but it just needs to be enough to fill a 13x9 pan.
- Eggs. Whole large eggs for the custard and bread pudding, yolks for the bourbon sauce.
- Dairy. Heavy whipping cream and whole milk - are needed for both the bread pudding custard and the bourbon cream sauce.
- Ground spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Pecans. Toasted and roughly chopped.
- Vanilla. You definitely need it for this recipe. I love vanilla bean paste but you can also use extract.
- Alcohol. This is optional but can add an extra layer of flavor to the vanilla sauce. I like to use either bourbon or rum.
Substitutions and Variations
- Add 2oz of bourbon or rum to the vanilla sauce for a boozy option.
- Sprinkle ½ cup of raisins throughout the bread pieces for a cinnamon raisin bread pudding option.
- Substitute the heavy whipping cream for eggnog during the holiday season.
Types of Bread to Use for Bread Pudding
A variety of bread can be used for bread pudding - be sure to use a loaf of bread from the bakery section of the grocery store - not pre-sliced bagged bread. For any of the following options, it's best to use very stale bread or bake the pieces lightly to dry them out. This helps with better absorption of the custard.
How to Make This Recipe
One: Trim the crusts off the bread loaf and cut into 1-inch cubes. Add to a baking sheet and bake slightly to dry out the bread.
Two: Transfer the bread to a casserole dish, then whisk together all of the custard ingredients and pour on top of the bread cubes. Sprinkle on the pecans, then allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
Timing tip! While the bread cubes are baking, chop and lightly toast the pecans in a frying pan, then transfer to a plate to cool.
How to Make Vanilla Sauce for Bread Pudding
Three: Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy, then stream in hot milk and cream while whisking.
Four: Transfer the entire mixture to a large bowl sitting on top double boiler and place over medium-high heat. Cook and whisk until it reaches 185℉/87℃.
Five: Transfer the entire bowl to a ice water bath so it sits on top. Take care not to allow any water to spill into the vanilla sauce.
Six: Add in the vanilla and bourbon and mix. Stir the mixture occasionally until it reaches is warm, or reaches room temperature. Pour over scooped portions of the pecan bread pudding.
Hot tip! Be patient, this process can take a bit of time to get to the temperature. It's important to go relatively slowly so the eggs don't scramble and turn the vanilla sauce chunky.
- Only toast the bread enough for it to dry out slightly. The bread cubes should not be completely crunchy and hard.
- Gently push down all over on the bread pudding after adding the custard. This allows it to really soak in the milk and custard mixture.
- Don't add the vanilla paste/extract or alcohol until the mixture has cooled a bit. This prevents any of it from dissipating.
- Serve the bread pudding hot with warm or room-temperature vanilla sauce.
You can make the vanilla sauce up to three days in advance, and the bread pudding the night before. Make the bread pudding the whole way up through the soaking period. Wrap the casserole dish in both plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate overnight to soak.
Remove the bread pudding from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap, then place the foil back on. Bake at 350℉/177℃ for around one hour since it's being baked from cold. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of baking. The center of the bread pudding should be hot when done.
The bread should either be baked to dry out, or stale bread should be used. Bread without moisture allows the bread to best soak up the custard while still maintaining its structure. Fresh, soft bread will turn to mush!
This could be because the liquid ingredients were incorrectly measured and there was too much liquid, or because the bread pudding wasn't baked long enough to fully absorb the liquid.
Bread pudding should be served warm or at room temperature. The vanilla sauce can be served at any temperature you prefer.
Store the baked bread pudding in the fridge, covered, for 3 days. To reheat, lightly cover with foil at 350℉/177℃ for about 20-30 minutes or until the center is warmed through.
To freeze, bake the bread pudding for 30 minutes, then allow it to cool fully. Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze for two months. Thaw in the fridge for 24 hours, then bake at 350℉/177℃ for about 20-30 minutes or until the center is warmed through.
Storing the Vanilla Creme Anglaise
The creme anglaise can be made up to three days in advance and stored in a sealed container in the fridge. To reheat, add the sauce to the bowl of a double boiler and whisk occasionally until lightly warmed.
More Breakfast Recipes You'll Love
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Pecan Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce
Pecan Bread Pudding
- 1 loaf Italian or French bread crust removed & cubed/torn into 1-inches* (~1lb)
- 2 cups whole milk 480ml
- 1 cup light brown sugar 200g
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream 480ml
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
- 1 cup pecans roughly chopped (115g)
- 4 large egg yolks
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar 67g
- 1½ cups whole milk 360ml
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream 120ml
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 2 oz bourbon or rum optional
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃ and grab two large cookie sheets.
- Slice the crust off of the bread, then cut or tear into 1-inch cubes. Spread evenly between the two cookies sheets in one layer.1 loaf Italian or French bread
- Bake for 10 minutes, turning over the bread at half, until slightly dried out.
- While the bread is baking, toast the pecans in a frying pan and transfer to a plate to cool.1 cup pecans
Bread Pudding Custard
- To prepare the custard, add the milk and sugar to a saucepan over medium low heat and whisk together until the sugar is dissolved, then remove from the heat.2 cups whole milk, 1 cup light brown sugar
- In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, eggs, spices and vanilla, then stream in the warm milk while whisking continuously.2 cups heavy whipping cream, 4 large eggs, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
- Grease a 13x9 inch casserole dish and transfer half of the bread to the dish, sprinkle over half of the pecans. Drizzle over half of the custard and gently press down all over.
- Add the rest of the bread, remaining pecans, and drizzle over the remaining custard.
- Cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap and gently push down all over. Allow it to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes for the bread to absorb the custard. Remove the plastic wrap and re-cover with a piece of foil.
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃ and bake with the foil on for 30 minutes, then remove and bake uncovered for 15-25 more minutes until slightly puffy and golden and completely hot the whole way through.
- While the bread pudding bakes, set up a double boiler by placing one to two inches of water in a saucepan and place a glass bowl on top. Be sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. It should sit snugly on the rim of the saucepan.
- Set up another large bowl with cold water and ice cubes, this needs to be bigger than the double boiler bowl.
- In third bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add the sugar and whisk rapidly until pale and slightly fluffier.4 large egg yolks, ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- Add the milk and cream to a saucepan and heat over medium heat until it reaches 180℉/82℃ on a digital thermometer.1½ cups whole milk, ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- Once the milk reaches temperature, slowly stream it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly until combined. Then, pour the mixture into the bowl on the double boiler bowl and heat until it reaches 185℉/87℃. Whisk constantly.
- Add the bowl into the ice water, then whisk in the vanilla and alcohol. Stir the mixture occasionally until it becomes warm or even room temperature.1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract, 2 oz bourbon or rum
- Serve scoops or slices of the bread pudding onto plates or bowls, then drizzle on the vanilla sauce.