My baka (maternal grandmother) Mara had eight children. As one of her youngest 14 grandchildren I seldom had the benefit of getting her full attention in the way my older brother and cousins did. It was evident that she wasn’t pampered in her life. I remember her as an aged, tired widow always busy with the house chores and garden. Her house was only a few blocks away from us and we visited her frequently. Grandma Mara had the most comfortable bed in the whole wide world covered with goose down pillows and comforter and with a mattress so high off the ground that I needed help climbing in. The wood burning cast iron stove in her kitchen permanently housed a pot of simmering water for quick coffee or tea. Baka Mara was able to, within minutes, prepare such a divine supper that I believed only grandmothers were privileged to know the recipe. No one ever cooked as well as my baka. I swear, even her fried eggs tasted better than my mom’s. Looking back I realize now that those divine meals were actually really simple, inexpensive treats. She used basic ingredients always stored in her pantry in creative ways, stretching the meal and never wasting anything.
To our family bread is sacred and never thrown away. I reflected on that in the story Our Daily Bread and I shared our recipe of savory Bread Soufflé. This sweet version is similar to the bread pudding that so many favor. The best part is that you can add ingredients to this recipe and make it your own. It can quickly go from a simple breakfast dish to a fabulous dessert.
Leftover Bread, such as artisan or French (about 10-12 slices)
¼ cup Sugar
1 package Vanilla Sugar (substitute with 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract)
1 cup Milk
1 cup Heavy Cream or Half and Half
2 tablespoons Spiced Rum, such as Captain Morgan Rum
3 tablespoons all-purpose Flour
¼ cup Raisins
¼ cup Candied Mixed Fruit (or just candied orange peel)
Start with soaking raisins in rum. Cut the bread in thick slices or chunks. Bread for toast will yield mushy cake so it is best to use good quality dense bread or rolls. Mix milk with vanilla sugar or extract and pour over the bread. Let it soak until all milk is absorbed. In another bowl, mix eggs and sugar. Add flour and heavy cream and mix until combined. Grease and flour a 9 inch round pan. Place the bread mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle with candied fruit and raisins adding the rum as well. Pour the egg mixture over the bread making sure the mixture gets between the bread slices. Use a fork if necessary.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 -45 minutes, until set. The soufflé is done when the edges start getting a bit brown and pull away from the edge of the pan. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar and blueberry or maple syrup.
Pecans and cinnamon can be added as well as bourbon sauce and whatever else tickles you fancy.
Jas is a cheesecake addict and the author of Balkan Comfort Food cookbook available on Amazon. You can download a free excerpt of the book when you subscribe to All that's Jas newsletter updates or purchase the full version below. To learn more about Jas visit her About page.
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