Make-Ahead Holiday Brunch Bread Pudding:
A Seriously Simple Holiday Tradition
Bread pudding or stratas, as they are sometimes called, are perfect for holiday breakfast, brunch or lunch. Since they must be made a day ahead before baking, these really are a cooks’ best friend. The holidays are usually so packed with various activities that a dish like is the secret to being a relaxed host.
This dish is a holiday tradition around our house. Friends and family stop by for a big square of this savory luscious pudding on Christmas day. Strata, which means layers in Italian, is a layered bread pudding that can be adapted to whatever you like. Feel free to put your own signature on it with the addition of cooked bacon or sausage, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes or other cooked vegetables.
I prefer to use egg bread like challah for its rich flavor that is accentuated by the egg cheese custard. I usually purchase this 2 days ahead so there is plenty of time for the bread to dry out. Make sure to dry it out so that the bread can absorb the custard. You can do this by putting it out on the counter overnight or in a 250 degree F oven for half an hour.
A fresh fruit salad is a lovely accompaniment. Cooked breakfast meats also make a nice addition for the meat lovers at your table. Start with sparkling wine laced with blood orange juice and a touch of pomegranate juice and let the fun begin. Happy Holidays!
Holiday Brunch Bread Pudding
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, light green and white part only, cleaned and finely chopped
3/4 pounds cremini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 (14-ounce) egg bread, crusts removed, cut into cubes, dried out for at least a day
2 cups torn spinach leaves
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 large eggs
3 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons country style Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a large skillet heat the oil on medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes or until softened and lightly browned. Add the mushrooms and cook about 5 more minutes, turning to evenly cook. Add salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Place one half of the bread mixture in a greased 9 x 13 – inch-baking dish. Spoon over the mushroom leek mixture and torn spinach leaves evenly. Sprinkle on 1 cup of the cheddar cheese. Place the remaining bread on top.
3.In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk, parsley, mustard, the remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese and salt and pepper. Whisk to blend well. Carefully pour the custard over the bread evenly. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight.
4. When ready to bake: Remove the pudding from the refrigerator an hour before. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until slightly puffed, set and browned on the top. Let rest for a few minutes and then cut into pieces and serve. This can be served slightly warmed or even at room temperature.