Hebert family

Family recipes and the saga of the lost bread pudding

Years ago, when I was a little girl, my granny used to make bread pudding in the kitchen of her south Louisiana home. All these years later, I can remember that kitchen like I was in it yesterday. The corner hutch held her collection of salt and paper shakers. The refrigerator was a brown side-by-side model. The table was round and had little crystal bottles of oil and vinegar. What I can’t remember is how she made that dang bread pudding.

That’s the thing about family favorites. We don’t miss them until the person who whipped them up is gone.

Truth be told, it was my grandfather on the other side of the family who really loved that bread pudding. He and my grandmother lived 30 minutes away from my widowed granny. We always slept at my grandparents’ house in Houma, typically arriving on a Friday night from Baton Rouge. After biscuits the next morning, my mom would drive us down the two-lane road along the bayou to Gibson, where granny lived. Before we left, Granddaddy would sometimes pull me aside and ask me to sweet talk granny into making bread pudding. Granddaddy always had a sweet tooth. I never confessed who was making the request. I would just politely ask if I could take a plate to Houma. I was a good child.

After Granny died, I started getting nostalgic for her bread pudding even though I couldn’t even describe it to you. I’ve ordered bread pudding at numerous restaurants over the years hoping that a bite will spark a memory. That moment came at Commander’s Palace. One taste and the angels sang. Then confusion set in.

Commander’s Palace ‘s recipe is widely available on the internet. It calls for heavy cream and NINE egg whites. I cannot imagine Granny, who lived on a limited budget, buying heavy cream just to make bread pudding or using parts of nearly a dozen eggs. I do think it was like a souffle but how did she accomplish that as a frugal gourmet?

I asked Nanny – Granny’s oldest daughter – a few years ago for help. She pulled out a cookbook, flipped to the index and turned to the bread pudding recipe. I looked at the recipe, but it didn’t look right. I don’t think it occurred to her that recipes for the same dish vary. Or maybe that was the recipe granny used. I don’t know – and now I can’t remember what cookbook that was.

It’s so important to write down recipes. They’re part of our family history. If you like a dish that shows up at Thanksgiving every year, ask for the recipe. And if you have Granny’s bread pudding recipe, let me know.

5 thoughts on “Family recipes and the saga of the lost bread pudding”

  1. Oh, no! What a loss! I’m wondering if the cookbook was Betty Crocker’s or Better Homes and Gardens, since those were the go-to recipe books in the old days, if I’m not mistaken. My mother used them constantly. I found an “old-fashioned” Betty Crocker recipe online at https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/old-fashioned-bread-pudding/790f3338-59c6-4312-a3c1-3e4d0cf6b101
    and a Better Homes and Gardens recipe at:
    https://www.bhg.com/recipe/pudding/bread-pudding/
    Could either of these have been it?

    1. That’s a good thought! I don’t remember Granny ever cooking from a cookbook. But, of course, it could be that she’d memorized those recipes from a cookbook by the time I came along so she didn’t need to refer to them. I’m going to take a look at these.

  2. It is so sad when these recipes are lost. As for the eggs. Perhaps your grandmother just used half the amount of eggs and put the yolks in and whipped the whites. I think that is what my mother would have done, it would still lighten things nicely. And where she might not use heavy cream in a bread pudding recipe, she probably used milk. Bread pudding was a scrap dish, something to make as a treat using old bread, so people didn’t splurge on cream in it. So I think, if it were me, I’d try the recipe you liked using milk rather than cream and half the eggs, separated and whipping the whites. You might be surprised!

    1. I think I found her recipe with my cousin’s help. We each remembered different things. You are right that this was a scrap dish, which is what stumped me about the fancy restaurant version. And you hit the nail on the head about the process for my grandmother’s recipe!

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