Mixed Breads Topped with Coconut Crumble Makes a Rich Pudding


The trouble with an awful lot of modern bread is all the preservatives in it that keep it from going stale. Maybe this doesn’t look like a problem to you, but if you love bread pudding, you have to go out of your way to assemble the needful for a fine pan full. Not, of course, if you make your own bread, or consistently acquire artisanal loaves.

Sometimes I put the heels of loaves in a bag in the freezer for pudding but more frequently the pan-fried version of bread pudding known as French toast interrupts the process. So if I have a hankering for bread pudding, I have to scrounge, or make it from not-stale bread, a perfectly acceptable practice.

This week, when bread pud mania hit, I had the happy accident of having a motley assemblage of different breads: one last slice of pumpkin bread, about a third of a can of brown bread, and two heels of oatmeal bread. As you can see, most of the bread was sweet and fairly moist stuff, so I figured I’d have to cut back on the sugar in the recipe, and thought perhaps I’d also have to watch the amount of liquid. Aside from that, I decided I could use a plain pudding recipe, one with raisins, milk, and eggs, brown sugar.

Not long ago, I ran into a recipe which lodged itself in my memory calling for a coffee cake topping made with coconut, brown sugar, and butter. I remember thinking how delicious it sounded, how crunchy and buttery it would be. Since my pudding was destined to be shared with friends, I thought a little dress-up for company was in order, and made the topping for the bread pudding. That worked!

If you decide to use up stray banana bread or pumpkin bread, or stale muffins even, just be attentive to the sweetness factor. If you have a powerful sweet tooth, go ahead and use all the sugar in the recipe below, otherwise go lightly. In the soaking phase of the recipe, observe to see how much of the milk and egg mixture is absorbed; if most is taken up, you may need to add a little more, say half a cup. I seasoned mine with cinnamon, because only the pumpkin bread had any spice in it. If your stale bread supply has spices in it, adjust the added spice to taste.

You might just want to save the buttery coconut topping recipe separately from the pudding because it would work on top of a pound cake, brownies, coffee cake, even an open-faced pie. Obtain unsweetened coconut so that you can add exactly as much sweetness as you want. Can’t find unsweetened coconut? Just rinse the sweet stuff, and spread it on a paper towel to dry.

The moral of the story? Since bread pudding was traditionally a way to use up bread that might otherwise go to waste, clearly you can make bread pudding out of almost anything that resembles bread, as long as it is dense enough to hold its shape when you cut it into cubes and soak it in milk and eggs. And further, even though bread pudding is a homely, comfort food for families, you can gussy it up in fine fashion for a company situation.

Mixed Bread Pudding with Coconut Crumble Topping
Serves: 4-6
  • For the Pudding
  • 5 slices or about 5 cups of cubed bread
  • ½ cup golden or regular raisins
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups milk
  • ¼ to ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • For the Topping
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup or a half stick of room temperature butter
  • 1 cup coconut
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Butter a baking dish.
  3. Empty the bread cubes into a large bowl, add the raisins, and sprinkle in the cinnamon.
  4. Beat together the milk, sugar, and eggs and pour over the bread.
  5. Let stand for about 15 to 20 minutes then put into the baking dish.
  6. Make the topping by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and blend together well with the back of a spoon. (It will resemble crumble topping for a fruit crisp.)
  7. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the pudding ingredients.
  8. Bake for thirty-five minutes or until the pudding tests done when a knife inserted comes out clean, and the top is bubbly and golden.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.