Every fall (or is it late summer at this point?), pumpkin spice lattes reappear on coffeeshop chalkboard menus across the country, and we find ourselves descending down a rabbit hole of sampling every new pumpkin-flavored item that finds its way to Trader Joe’s shelves.
While I tend to steer clear of some of the more adventurous pumpkin mashups out there (FYI: Whoever thought pumpkin tortilla chips were a good idea was sorely mistaken), I do think there’s a time and a place for pumpkin to make its way into our baked goods during those cozy and delicious months of October and November. It’s that time of year when it seems that every occasion is an opportunity to bring friends together around nostalgic comfort foods.
When it comes to nostalgic comfort foods, bread pudding is always a crowd pleaser. While you can make it year round, it’s one of those traditional dishes that seems most at home once a chill has begun to set in. Bread pudding has its origins in medieval England, when stale, leftover bread would be combined with milk, eggs and sugar to create a pudding, but I always think of it as a quintessentially Southern potluck dish. It’s one of those “Don’t ask what’s in it or how much butter I used, and just assume the cream was heavy” dishes—in other words, comfort food through and through.
So, how does one improve upon bread pudding for fall? Well, this is where we circle back to the pumpkin mania that many of us fall spell to as soon as the leaves begin to change colors. We’re all familiar with pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, so why not pumpkin bread pudding?
Even better, take it a step further by swapping out your everyday stale white bread or baguette for day- (or two-) old challah, à la weekend French toast. After all, don’t we all know that challah bread always takes a recipe to the next level? Plus, doesn’t a mashup of the ultimate comfort-food bread and the ultimate comfort-food dessert sound almost too good to be true?
This recipe proves there’s almost nothing better than that timeless fall flavor that takes so many of us back to childhood fall memories combined with warm richness and cozy, carby challah. And for me, this is the Southern dish of my past made with the bread that is the most perfect representation of my Jewish present. Now that’s what I call comfort food.