Blueberry bread pudding with seasonal summer peaches. Toasted pieces of brioche soak in a sweet cream then are topped with the fruit. This dessert casserole is baked in a water bath to create a delicious custard. Serve each slice warm with whipped cream or ice cream.
Bread pudding is a baked custard that uses day-old bread to soak up a sweet cream mixture. It’s a heavenly slice of comfort food. Since the warm weather brings a plethora of ripe berries and stone fruit to the market, this recipe incorporates pieces of caramelized peaches and plump fresh blueberries for added flavor.
Now there are a few key preparation steps to nail a silky custard texture. The bread cubes first need to be toasted to drive out excess moisture. The custard is then tempered to ensure that it doesn’t turn into a bowl of scrambled eggs. Finally, the soaked bread and fruit are baked in a water bath for even cooking.
Brioche or challah, both types of sweet egg bread are excellent choices for bread pudding. They have a dense crumb that creates more chew when bitten into. French bread, with a more open and light structure, can also be used. Croissants, sourdough, and even sponge cake to give you different flavors and textures.
Preparing the bread
Cut the bread into 1-inch pieces so that they don’t disintegrate when added into the custard. I always toast the bread so that I don’t have to wait for it to stale and dry which can take several days. A brief toast in the oven dries out the bread in less than 30 minutes.
When the bread becomes dry, more of the delicious custard can soak in and add flavor to the dessert. I use this toasting method when making baked french toast.
Tempering the custard
The base of any good bread pudding is a custard, a mixture of milk, cream eggs, and sugar. To ensure a velvety custard texture, the eggs need to be slightly heated with the cream. Properly tempering, or decorating a hot liquid with eggs, guarantees that a smooth consistency is achieved when heated, but not cooked so hot that it coagulates and becomes scrambled.
Soak the bread
The bread needs a good soak, just under an hour. If the bread does not absorb enough custard, after baking the centers will still be dry and not be as flavorful as it could be. The goal is to get the custard to set inside each cube to create puffy pillows of pudding.
Saute the peaches
Sliced peaches are sauteed with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a splash of rum. It’s cooked down to release some of its juices and get a nice glaze coating on the outside. Do not overcook the peaches, go for tender pieces instead of mushy ones. Uncooked peaches would make the pudding too watery.
Fresh blueberries can be added right on top, then pushed in slightly with your fingers right before baking. I like when the blueberries burst and become jammy after cooking. Frozen blueberries can be substituted, just make sure to completely defrost and dry the outside so they don’t bleed too much into the pudding.
Bake in a water bath
To create a tender custard consistency for the bread pudding, the entire casserole dish should be baked in a water bath. This technique is similarly used for cheesecake recipes to create a super smooth texture.
Just set the baking dish in a larger sized roasting pan, then add hot water halfway up the sides of the smaller pan. The water bath allows the eggs to set without curdling and the extra moisture in the oven prevents the bread pudding from drying out.
How to serve the bread pudding
If enjoying fresh from the oven, give the custard about an hour to set and firm up. It’s also delicious cold if eating the next day and much easier to slice if you’re looking for prettier portions. Bread pudding reheats very well too, just reheat a piece for about 1 to 2 minutes in the microwave.
To take up the dessert version a notch, I top each slice with vanilla bean ice cream or whipped cream. A drizzle of caramel sauce will send you to cloud nine!
What is a baked custard?
Bread pudding is a type of baked custard where bread cubes are suspended and cooked in a liquid egg custard base. The eggs in the recipe allow the pudding to set, giving it a cake and custard-like consistency. The simple mixture of whole eggs, yolks, sugar, milk and heavy cream adds richness and gives a soft velvety texture when baked.
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Blueberry Bread Pudding with Peaches
- 16 ounce brioche loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 4 large yolks
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 medium yellow peaches, cut into ¼-inch slices with skin on
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon rum, optional
- ¾ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
- Set the oven rack to the center position and preheat to 300ºF (149ºC).
- Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes.
- Spread the bread on a large sheet pan or two smaller pans. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through toasting. The bread should be lightly golden, dry and crisp. Cool on the tray for 10 minutes.
- Increase the oven temperature to 350ºF (177ºC).
- Grease a 3-quart or 9x13 baking dish with 1 tablespoon softened butter.
- In a large heavy-bottom saucepan bring milk, cream, and sugar to a low simmer over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, do not heat over 120ºF (49ºC). The milk should be warm and not hot when touched.
- Turn off the heat and stir in vanilla. Remove the pan from heat and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and salt. Very slowly, pour a ½ cup of the warm cream mixture into the eggs, whisking continuously. Add in another ½ cup, whisking between each addition until a total of 2 cups have been added. This is the tempered egg mixture.
- While whisking the milk mixture, pour the tempered eggs into the saucepan and whisk to thoroughly incorporate.
- In a large bowl add the toasted bread. Pour the custard over the bread, stir a few times to gently coat and allow to sit and absorb most of the liquid for 45 to 60 minutes. Stir the bread halfway through.
- Meanwhile, make the peach mixture. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the rum and stir to combine.
- Add peaches and cook 3 to 4 minutes to release juices and allow the sugar to become syrupy. Make sure the peaches are still tender and not overcooked.
- Stir the bread and custard mixture very gently to make sure the custard is absorbed.
- Gently stir in about half of the peaches, just enough to swirl in the peaches and syrup. Reserve the remainder for the topping on the pudding. Keep the bread intact and now break down the peaches.
- Pour the pudding into the baking dish and evenly spread out the mixture.
- Evenly scatter the remainder of the peach mixture on top, and then gently swirl to spread out some of the syrup.
- Add the blueberries and gently press down into the bread pudding.
- Place the baking dish in a large roasting pan. Place both pans in the oven and pour in enough hot water into the roasting pan to create a water bath, about halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
- Bake until the pudding just appears set in the center when the baking dish is gently shaken and the temperature reaches 170ºF (77ºC), about 40 to 60 minutes.
- Carefully, remove the roasting pan from the oven and then remove the casserole dish from the roasting pan.
- Allow the pudding to cool for 60 minutes before serving, so it’s easier to cut.
- Challah or French loaf can be subsittuted for brioche bread.
- If using frozen blueberries defrost and dry better paper towels to soak up any excess moisture on the surface.
- Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
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