Croissant Bread Pudding

It is not hard to get your hands on day-old pastries. What’s hard, sometimes, ARE the pastries.

But here’s your chance to make them ol’ croissants shine like new! Croissant bread pudding!
There’s really not much to it. Which is good, what with how busy I’ve been this week. Fortunately, there’s always room (er, I mean TIME) for pudding!
Croissant Bread Pudding
serves 8-12, depending on portion size
3-6 day-old croissants
4 eggs
1 c sugar or evaporated cane juice
2-3 c milk (any kind is fine, I tend to use whole or 2%)
1 tsp vanilla extract (use almond extract if topping with almonds, if’n you wanna)
2 Tbsp butter, softened but not melted
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c crushed or slivered nuts (I prefer walnuts or pecans, but almonds are tasty too)
Grease a casserole or large cake pan with butter or oil – I like to use my Pyrex casserole dishes (one is 8″x14″ and the other is about 10″ square), as they are easy to clean.

If you don’t have slightly-crusty old croissants, you can certainly use them fresh. Do, though, leave them out for a while and let them get a bit stale (this helps them become absorbent). If you skip this step, the pudding will still taste great, but can get a little over-moist and slimy.
Leaving the croissants out overnight should do the trick, or even a few hours (tear them up first to increase the surface area for faster drying) if that’s all the time you have.
Tear the croissants into bite-sized pieces, layering the pieces in the pan. Make sure that you have enough to really fill it, as the custard mix will cause everything to deflate a bit. It’s a good idea to press down on the mass of torn croissant: when it will not flatten further than 2/3 of the height of the pan, it’s good. Yes, this will look like too much to fit in the pan, but I swear it’s OK. Pile it on!

Mix the eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla together into a cold custard mix. It is not necessary to scald the milk or temper the eggs. Pour this mixture over the torn croissant pieces, making sure that every bite of pastry is soaked in the custard. Toss if necessary to get an even coating.

Let this sit in a cool place for about 10 minutes to let the bread rehydrate.
Meanwhile, mix the brown sugar, nuts, and softened butter into a crumble, and sprinkle it evenly on the top of the bread pudding mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes, or until a knife stuck into the center of the pan comes out clean (no raw egg custard slime). This means the custard has set and your bread pudding is done!
There will be several stages in the cooking process. At first, it will stay the same shape for a while, but the topping will start getting crisp and there will be bubbles on the sides of the pan. Later, the pudding will start puffing up along the edges of the pan. This is a good thing. Finally, the whole pan of bread pudding will rise and puff out of the top of the pan, the crust becoming golden brown. THIS is when you want to start checking for done-ness.

Allow the bread pudding to cool slightly before serving, but it is lovely served hot (maybe with some huckleberry sauce?), and is just as good served cold for breakfast or as an addition to a brunch menu (with some maple whipped cream, maybe).
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